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Following exposure on FAA News regarding the topic, and the troubling issues therefrom, Lakewood's Township Committee today put the brakes on a proposal that they, along with Industrial Commission have been quietly pushing forward, which would permit construction of 150 feet high rise buildings in a portion in the Township.

As previously highlighted here on FAA News, Township fire officials have warned the Township Committee that the proposal would increase our property taxes $6 million due to the need to double the size of the career department and to purchase additional equipment.

Fire Commissioner Larry Loigman so eloquently wrote, "the additional tax revenue which the Fire District would receive from a large office building would contribute only a negligible amount to that budget."

It is troubling that, as previously reported here on FAA News, Board of Fire Commissioners Chairman Yaakov Steinberg worked hard against a letter being sent to the Committee regarding this projects fiscal impact by saying that they were requested to make recommendations only regarding safety concerns, and they were not asked to a financial impact study.

It is more troubling that when the Planning Board reviewed the introduced Ordinance for consistency with the Township's Master Plan, Board Member Bruce Stern specifically asked if the fire department had any concerns with the proposal. In response, Board Engineer Terry Vogt advised him that he was told by Township Attorney Harold Hensel that he reached out to the Fire District and that they did not have any concerns at all with the proposal!

It is even more troubling that Mayor Ray Coles, who has discussed the specifics of the proposal with Township fire officials and therefore obviously has firsthand knowledge of the proposal, has tried hard to downplay the proposal to the Lakewood News Network, first claiming that the zoning amendment will match the permitted height to "match the Cedarbridge Corporate Campus," and then that "there are no plans to build high-rise buildings on the site."

It is also troubling that instead of selling this property to the highest bidder at public auction, the Township is giving the land to Lakewood Industrial Commission which permits the LIC to resell it directly with no public auction (which will result in a final sale price at a lower cost).

And it is even more troubling that Township officials are already under negotiations to sell this entire property to one, as of yet unnamed, developer. It is concerning to see Township officials doing all the leg work of rezoning the property before the sale, all so that this unnamed developer should not need to seek any variances from the land use boards! Seems like an unnamed someone is getting special treatment...

And yet again, as previously reported here on FAA News, this Wednesday morning, when urged during their public comment portion to kill the deal before our taxes go sky high, as high as the high buildings, LIC Executive Director Steven Reinman simply waived his hands up in the air, saying "the zoning has nothing to do with us. That lies with the Committee and Planning Board. Our job is simply to sell land for ratables and businesses."

At Thursday's Township Committee meeting a number of local residents submitted email comments urging the Committee to kill the deal, citing the numerous issues highlighted here on FAA News over the past few weeks.

In response, Mayor Ray Coles stated that while he originally thought that the Township's fire officials did not have any concerns regarding the proposal, now that their budget increases have been brought to his attention, he now does understand their  concerns. As such, Coles asked the Committee to table the Ordinance until at least May 18, after they have another opportunity to hear a more complete picture from the Board of Fire Commissioners.

Mayor Coles added that at their next meeting, he will ask the Committee to abide by whatever suggestions the Board of Fire Commissioners gives them.

As previously reported here on FAA News, a precursory review of tax maps indicates that the entire area to be rezoned is over 1.3 million sq feet. At a Minimum Lot Area of 3 acres, it appears that over 10 buildings could be built here. (Taking into account roadways and drainage basins the net product will likely be less than that).

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Chaim said...

Wow, thank you FAA!!

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately the deal was tabled not canceled in a few months they will quietly approve it