Fort Lee GOP Starts Petition to Stop Acquisition of Main Street Property
United Republican Club of Fort Lee official says in this Op-Ed that the goal is to collect 2,000 signatures by Dec. 28 and either a referendum on the roughly $2 million acquisition or a reversal of the governing body’s decision.
The Fort Lee Republican organization has created an online petition opposing a decision by the Mayor and Council to appropriate more than $2 million to acquire land at 183 Main St., the current location of Woori Bank, for a park on the West parcel of Redevelopment Area 5.
“Fort Lee does not need more debt,” the wording of the petition begins. “If a private venture is interested in a property it should be purchased entirely by this entity. The municipality does not need to be in the speculative business of real estate.”
Essentially, the Borough of Fort Lee is guising the subsidizing of the acquisition of the property that housed Cosmos for approx. $1.5Million of our tax dollars and now a separate $2 million of our tax dollars towards the purchase of the property where the operating Woori bank building now stands.
The most recent Ordinance on the request for funds to acquire this bank will enable the developer of the larger portion of the location to buy out the present smaller proprietor with our tax dollars, thus making it a subjectively higher than market deal. Problem is the owner has the threat of eminent domain looming over him if he does not take the deal as reported in the North Jersey Article aforementioned in early December.
According to one resident in town, this new park will only serve as “a welcome mat" to the development. As I speak to people around town, we don't see people using it as a park: laying in the sun, throwing a ball around, having a picnic, allowing children to freely play, reading a book next to the busiest intersection on Main Street, etc.
A 'park' does not work on that corner. A welcome mat to a project does, even though I don't see people being dropped off on this welcome matt, for it would cause further traffic at that intersection.
Nonetheless, I don't believe we should be spending public funds on the bet that the project will go forward. We saw what happened with the failed Xanadau project that needs bailing out by the state or the Revel Casino in Atlantic City, the World Trade Center site and many others where public funds become tied in with private projects.
If the developer wants the property that bad, let private equity spend the $2 million. Fort Lee already kicked in $1.45M to push Cosmos out, and I wish I had caught that ordinance in time. Sadly, I have job where I travel often and few people in this town have the wherewithal to pay attention to day-to-day operations of our elected governing body.
Enough with taking out loans on the backs of the taxpayer as if we don't have enough problem paying our other bills.
What if this property was yours, and you wanted to hand it to your family? The money taken now in a sale will likely not be what it is worth later. It may in fact be worth 10 times that after the development is completed. Nonetheless, any asset should not be taken by the government.
Why is the Mayor and Council pressing so hard for this to happen? What happens after we purchase the property and then the overall developer happens to walk away for any number of reasons? Then, Fort Lee is left without these properties: Cosmos and Woori bank adding to the community not just as a business, but also as a taxpayer. Ultimately, we will be left with these new $3.5 million loans, our taxes will go up and we’ll be further burdened to pay for the pensions that the public employees are still in threat of receiving because we are already in so much debt.
Presently, the public is just starting to become aware of the situation due to a door-to-door non-partisan awareness drive.
We need to obtain 2,000 signatures by the Dec. 28. This goal is to double what is actually needed by law for a question to be put to referendum unless the mayor decides to veto the Council.
Essentially, by signing the [petition], it will notify the Mayor and Council that buying a private property and handing it over to a major developer is the decision of the people. Because the Mayor and Council are speculating on our borrowed money and making a decision on a broken promise recorded during the process of reviewing the proposed four initial development plans.
Encouraging a landlord to sell his property funded in part with public money and not taking eminent domain off the table is a unique method of negotiating by our Mayor and Council; unfairly akin to putting a gun to the landlord and asking him to make a decision between the two options, but in either case to sell. You will see this is what happened with Cosmos and the writing in their deal was “… in lieu of condemnation.”
Consequently, our taxes are to go up, and the town will go in further debt.
In order to force a referendum so the public can decide ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to adding more debt to help a private developer, we need the signatures to make this happen as per the following formula:
The number of voters in the last Assembly race, the ordinance in contention and published articles are attached to reference this formula as per njsa 40:49-27 and njsa 40:49-9:
- Number of ballots cast in Ft. Lee: 5,903
- By mail: 348
- Provisional: 26
- Sum total: 6,277
- Of which needed is 15 percent = 942 legitimate signatures
- Submitted by Dec 28, because that is 20 days after the Ordinance was published.
Let me be clear, I am for this project. I just do not want to see a single dollar of the Fort Lee taxpayer of state funding to possibly launch this especially when this developer is not giving back to the community by way of additional funding to the schools, the fire department or overall public works, which these properties will put extreme demands on an already stressed community.
To make this all simple, the Council can extend by 60 days, which would cover a normal period of the year, for the necessary 942 signatures to be obtained, or more symbolically, Mayor Sokolich could stop the drive to get these signatures and further bring awareness to this issue with his veto of Ordinance 2012-43. By doing so, he will demonstrate integrity to the Borough by honoring his original word that public funds will not be used for this property, thus stopping the Borough Council from increasing our taxes with this $2 Million property loan they just passed.
The petition can be found by clicking here.