WEST ORANGE, NJ — A resolution authorizing the retention of Heyer, Gruel and Associates to prepare and present a redevelopment plan for the Essex Green and Executive Drive properties, which have been deemed by the West Orange Planning Board to be a redevelopment area, stirred controversy among the members of the West Orange Township Council on Tuesday. The council voted 4-1 to adopt the resolution, and the designation is currently being reviewed in a court case.
Councilman Joe Krakoviak, who was the only council member to vote against the resolution, asked Mayor Robert Parisi why the initial planner for this project, Paul Grygiel, is being replaced by Heyer, Gruel and Associates. He also questioned why the plan is proceeding without the final verdict of the court as to whether this is an area in need of redevelopment.
“We are spending money on a thing that doesn’t exist by law,” said Krakoviak.
Parisi said he is recommending this new planner based on the input he received from “a lot of members of the public” who thought this change should be made. The mayor said that Grygiel did a good job, but that he still felt Heyer, Gruel and Associates should take over the planning at this point.
Assistant township attorney Kenneth Kayser noted that the chair of the planning board requested a different planner to review the Essex Green redevelopment.
“We don’t pick the experts,” said Kayser.
In his remarks to the council, resident Gary Van Wyk urged the members to vote against the resolution.
“We have a legal case against designating Essex Green an area of redevelopment,” he said. “Until this is legally determined, we should not have a planner.”
A resolution to adopt the 2018 municipal budget as presented on Tuesday was also passed by a 4-1 vote. Read more about budget deliberations HERE.
The council also recognized Tourette Syndrome Awareness Day by presenting a proclamation to Jaiden Mendez, a young West Orange resident with Tourette Syndrome. She is pictured above with council president Susan McCartney.