Government

Letters to the Editor

A Sad Day for Berkeley Heights

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To the Editor: On April 21, 2015 the Township Council approved a resolution that authorized the Planning Board to conduct a study of whether the 3 properties consisting of a portion of a block near the sewer plant, the library property, and the upper church property of Little Flower (where the school is located) were an “area in need of redevelopment” according to NJSA 40A:12A-5, part of the Local Redevelopment and Housing law. All council members except Mr. Delia voted for this resolution. Under this law if the Planning Board recommends that the area is in need of redevelopment, then the Council can vote for a “determination” that the area is in need of redevelopment. That entitles them to issue bonds for the redevelopment without any binding referendum. This is all being done in connection with a land swap with the Church of the Little Flower. What is so sad about this is that the process completely reverses the relationship of the local government to the citizens. In the normal case, government proposes a capital project and citizens have an opportunity to reject the idea at the ballot box in the form a binding referendum. The citizens are the final deciders and not the government. Here we have a reversal of roles: the Council is proposing a land swap in conjunction with a redevelopment project, demanding that the people pay for it, and then denying those same people any chance to collectively say no. Government becomes the final decider, not the citizens. We learned in 2008, with the defeat of a referendum for a $10 million bond issue, that our local government cannot possibly know if a majority of citizens are willing to pay for a project even after a public hearing. But the lesson that some of the current council members took from that defeat seems to be that the public is not to be trusted on matters of spending capital and that therefore a referendum must be denied. Hence the current attitude of some council members is “we decide and you pay, but you do not get to vote.”

Thomas H. Foregger

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