West Orange Councilman Rejects Town Attorney's Counsel and Comments on Redevelopment at Town Council Meeting
Wednesday, September 12, 2012 • 1:14pm
WEST ORANGE, NJ - Against the advice of West Orange Township's counsel Kenneth Kayser, Councilman Joe Krakoviak spoke at length about his opposition to the Prism redevelopment plan, and also commented on his concerns about the Planning Board and the unanimous approval of the Amended Preliminary and Final Major Site Plan for the Edison Redevelopment project with Prism Green Urban Renewal Associates IV, LLC, PB-12-09. Certain conditions were negotiated between the developer and town attorneys. Mr. Kayser had advised town council members not to comment on redevelopment because redevelopment was not on the agenda; and secondly, a lawsuit filed against the township by Kevin Malanga and Michael Taylor, dismissed recently in Superior Court, is now under appeal. The Complaint, captioned “Kevin Malanga and E. Michael Taylor, Plaintiffs, v. The Township Council of the Township of West Orange, defendant,” disputed the legality of the redevelopment project’s payment-in-lieu-of-tax (PILOT) agreement, which was approved by the town council in March. Mr. Malanga and another West Orange resident, John Schmidt, had previously challenged the same redevelopment project in a lawsuit filed in November 2006, which was dismissed by another Superior Court Judge in January, 2008.
The councilman prefaced his comments by acknowledging that he understood the legal implications for the town but felt the matter was important to discuss. Mr. Krakoviak questioned the integrity of the developers when it came to light that Prism still owed this quarter's property taxes and had also filed a property tax appeal. Mr. Krakoviak said that he was 'deeply troubled' by Prism, and expressed concern over potential Planning Board legal violations as well. Krakoviak then said that the redevelopment issue and how it was being addressed by the administration raised deeper concerns of "how our government (in West Orange) is operating." Members of the public that were not in support of redevelopment, as well as plaintiffs in former and current lawsuits with the township, were also present and expressed negativity towards the township and Prism. Accusations of 'preferential treatment' towards Prism, their decision to wait on determining the need for jitney services, and garage parking were again brought up in public comments that lasted nearly an hour.
The other council members chose to comply with counsel's advice and limited their responses. Councilman Guarino asked if the town council could request current financial documents from Prism (according to the 2006 agreement, they could); and Council President Cirilo told residents that all town council members were involved and proactive in looking out for the best interests of the township while ensuring legal protection of the municipality. He also said that the town council has been asking the same questions, were in discussions with all parties and thanked everyone for their concerns.
In other public comment, residents of Watchung Avenue and Liberty Street informed the town council of traffic, parking and nuisance concerns; Anthony Puglisi from the Essex County Executive's office reminded residents of this weekend's 'Dinosaurs Rock!' exhibit at Turtleback Zoo; and residents asked about providing a venue for teenagers in town. Town Council President Cirilo also advised residents that the township was reviewing the 1.7 million federal grant recently awarded to hire new firemen to ascertain its financial impact, benefits, and feasibility.
Town council members reminded the public of the 9/16 Walk for Nikhil at West Orange High School; The West Orange Chamber of Commerce Meet and Greet BBQ on Thursday, September 20; The Berry Good Pancake Breakfast at Toby Katz Center from 10-12 and the Jazz Fest at OSPAC 9/22; The Mayor's 5K Run for Ovarian Cancer on the 23; and the Town Picnic on the 30th, from 12-3 at WOHS on the Conforti Lawn; and a 10/15 Open Space meeting at the Rock. The Rec Department encouraged residents to check out their website for ongoing Rec activities. More information about these and other events will be posted as they become available.
Various resolutions and second readings were passed relating to town properties and town operations. A highlight of the evening was the presentation of award to resident Sam Sicoli of Marion Drive, who assisted his neighbor after an accident with the neighbor's vehicle caused a gas leak. Mr. Sicoli helped evacuate his neighbor and shut off the car so that the fire department could attend to the gas leak. West Orange Fire Chief Smeraldo and Captain McGee presented the award, along with Mayor Parisi. The council also called for a moment of silence to recognize the victims of 9/11.
For more information on the Pancake Breakfast, Rec Activities, Jazz Fest, and the town picnic, please visit http://www.westorange.org
For more information on the Dinosaurs Rock! exhibit, please see http://thealternativepress.com/towns/west-orange/articles/west-orange-turtleback-zoo-to-host-dinosaurs-rock
For more information on the Stop for Nikhil event, please see: http://thealternativepress.com/towns/west-orange/articles/west-orange-high-school-to-host-second-annual-sto
For more information on the Chamber of Commerce BBQ, please see http://thealternativepress.com/towns/west-orange/articles/susan-mccartney-chairman-invites-community-vol
For more information on the Mayor's 5K Run/Walk, please see http://thealternativepress.com/towns/west-orange/articles/mayors-5k-walk-to-end-the-silence-of-ovarian-can