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It seems that in Lakewood Town Hall, officials have a habit of avoiding dealing with concerns and scrutiny simply by passing along the blame to "someone else."

This habit reached an epic apex at the Township Committee's recent monthly meeting on Thursday afternoon.

The topic at hand is the Township's recently adopted Ordinance permitting 75 feet high buildings in a portion of the Township east of the Garden State Parkway.

As the news was very first broken here on FAA News, back in March, the Township Committee introduced Ordinance 2023-018 which was to permit 150 feet high rise buildings in a portion of the Township.

The Ordinance clearly states that it is being adopted "at the request of the Lakewood Industrial Commission who is seeking to facilitate the anticipated sale of property in accordance with certain standards."

At the Lakewood Industrial Commission's regular meeting after the Ordinance was introduced, members of the public submitted public comment emails opposing the proposed Ordinance, and urged them to "kill the deal before our taxes go sky high."

As previously reported here on FAA News, instead of taking this opposition to heart, or at the very least, denying the potential tax increase, 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."

As previously reported here on FAA News, 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."

The Planning Board rightfully went along with the information that was represented to them.

It is quite boggling, however, how the Township Attorney could have told this to the Planning Board Engineer as, as previously reported here on FAA News, Board of Fire Commissioners Vice Chairman Larry Loigman penned a letter to the Township Committee warning that the proposal would increase our property taxes $6 million due to the need to double the size of the career department.

Even the rest of the members of the Board of Fire Commissioners who did agree to, as previously reported here and here on FAA News, collude with Township officials and draft a letter saying that even without any high rise buildings, taxes will increase as "the career fire department will need to grow anyways based on the Township's growth and due to dwindling ranks of willing volunteers," they were also misled by Fire Chief Jonathan Yahr who asserted that the Township's ordinance would permit only "the construction of one of two high rise buildings."

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, and possibly more if the parking is built underground.

Clearly, Township officials also quietly misled the Board of Fire Commissioners as to the full scope of what the Ordinance would permit to be built.

The apex of this circular blame game came to light at the Township Committee's recent meeting.

A member of the public requested that the Township stop the sale of the land, because, as previously reported here on FAA News, the Township's 2017 Master Plan expressly recommends that the "the lands east of the Parkway adjoining the Township boundary with Brick Township" be conserved as Open Space!

Mayor Coles responded that he is mistaken as there was other land in that area that was conserved, however, this land was not conserved.

Mayor Coles added that "there is no reason to stop the sale of the land which is anyways going to be done by the LIC and not by the Committee."

So, to recap: The LIC asks the Committee to adopt an Ordinance changing the zoning of some land so they could sell it under the terms that the buyer prefers. The Committee obliges and duly introduces the Ordinance. The LIC is asked by the public to kill the deal. They respond that all they are doing is "selling property for ratables and businesses," whereas the zoning is being set by the Committee and Planning Board. The Planning Board goes along with the proposal after being advised by their professionals that the Township attorney stated that the fire officials did not have any concerns - something which is patently untrue. Then, when the Committee is asked to stop the sale, they waive their hands in the air and say "the LIC is the one doing the sale!"

Oh, and by the way, as previously reported here on FAA News, a good portion of this is earmarked to be dedicated to Tomchei Shabbos. Hardly the "ratables and businesses" that the LIC confidently assured us is their entire aim here.

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189 Pine said...

This is another example of the typical leadership in town, where everyone is scared to accept the blame for a deal that smells fishy.
They would all be happier if people just paid their taxes, buried their heads in the sand, and wouldn’t ask questions.

Anonymous said...

The standard operating procedure for our committeemen is to always blame the other guy for their dumb and very expensive decisions. This episode is just another instance of their not being upfront and transparent with the residents of the town they were elected to represent.

It’s still unbelievable that they tried sneaking in the insane 150 foot tall buildings, and especially in a zone that the Master Plan forbids any kind building whatsoever. Why can’t the rest of us get one of these very lucrative deals. Who is in fact this “mystery” buyer, which expected the residents to fork over millions in infrastructure upgrades so he can get what wants.

And let’s not forget that the moment they okay 150 for this guy, that will become precedent for every other shmoe developer to demand from the zoning board his own crazy height variance.,Now, that’ll really help our infrastructure problems, won’t it??

Tracht! said...

"It's only our job to sell ratables" so how do you explain giving away 200 acres and Giving a tax abatement To cedarbridge development how did that benefit the average Lakewood resident??.