To the Editor:

As you all have certainly heard, on Tuesday Governor Murphy proclaimed that “effective immediately” indoor gatherings of as many as 50 people and outdoor gatherings of up to 100 people generally, or of unlimited size if the gathering is “political” in nature, are now permitted anywhere in New Jersey.  Nonetheless, Mute Button Mike Kelly and his trusted deputy Tracy Ness continue to plow forward at dizzying speed with their ridiculously impractical and imperiously controlled “telephonic” Township Committee meetings, despite that matters of critical – and permanent – importance are being decided.

Indeed, that is precisely WHY these so-called “meetings” – during which concerned Township residents are forced to hold the line for hours awaiting their precious one-time-only audience with Mayor Kelly and his mute button – continue. So that real dissent to the disastrous Kelly-Ness affordable housing agenda can continue to be stifled. Instead of discussion, what those few Township residents who can bear to watch hours of blurry and difficult to hear television get is well-meaning – and intelligent – residents being rushed through thoughts against the mute button clock, followed by demeaning and dismissive discourses of unlimited length from Kelly and Ness wherein the actual words of the residents are twisted, distorted, and ignored after they have been muted and have no opportunity to respond. Then they vote exactly how they had decided to vote, and agreed with developers and affordable housing activists to vote, long before the sham “meeting” even began. 

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Despite that indoor gatherings of considerable size are now allowed, and that in the middle of June it would be quite easy for an industrious, creative, or truly engaged committee to propose an outdoor setting where a virtually unlimited number of Township residents could gather and be heard, this whole mute button spectacle will be going down yet again tonight. After it is over, the landscape of Chatham Township, and the rights of the Township’s residents, may be irreversibly altered.

Tonight, Mayor Kelly and his committee will be further advancing not one, two, three, or even four, but FIVE separate actions, through which vast sums of your taxpayer money will be spent on multiple properties that then, along with significant other properties that we already own, will be given – that is correct, GIVEN – to for-profit developers, and irresponsible decisions regarding zoning that will have far-reaching negative consequences will be made; all in the name of high-density affordable housing.

While you were busy taking care of your family, and struggling through a lockdown situation (that Tracy Ness is apparently not aware of), Mayor Kelly & Co. have already raised municipal property taxes by 12.6%. If you care about the future of this community, the rights of property owners, and the fiscal stability of government that is necessary to maintain reasonable property taxes, we urge you to endure the hassle of calling in to tonight’s meeting and speaking out (for whatever amount of time Mayor Kelly shall deem to allow you). 

Our beautiful small town is packed with impressive residents full of creative thought and intellectual prowess of the highest degree.  You can’t throw a rock around here without hitting an attorney, finance professional, industry leader or even professional developer or real estate investor, each of whom possesses a depth of business acumen that creates a collective wisdom fully capable of finding a solution to affordable housing mandates that actually makes sense – for the Township AND for the people who will live in that housing – rather than rushing forward with ill-conceived, reckless, and just plain stupid plans (like giving away the municipal building or installing a high-density affordable housing complex directly adjacent to single-family homes on the steep slopes flanking the Passaic River where there is no public sewer or access to necessary businesses and the property has been deemed in need of preservation for environmental purposes), in a desperate rush to placate affordable housing activists.

Indeed, if you have tuned into (or even, back in olden times attended) any recent Township Committee meeting, you certainly will have noticed that just about every person who comes to the microphone is an impressive professional.  Business people, legal, financial, and insurance specialists as well as developers, general contractors and engineers have all stepped up and pleaded with the Committee to consider their suggestions and input on this issue.  Help has been offered behind the scenes as well. Other viable sites have been suggested, including sites that make sense as they are outside of single-family neighborhoods, sufficient to address all current affordable housing obligations (without the need to spend unreasonable amounts to pick off a few “beds” here and there with group homes), and adjacent to shopping and services that will make for better quality of life for the ultimate residents. But all suggestions have either been ignored or simply dismissed as un-workable without any real analysis, we know this to be true because we were some of the residents that suggested them and received these exact responses. 

Amazingly, when it was even suggested that a business proposition might be explored with current commercial tenants of potentially appropriate sites, this hypothetical BUSINESS TRANSACTION (i.e., a deal negotiated between highly sophisticated business and governmental entities which result in each obtains something of value to it) was simplistically rejected (after the proponent had been muted of course) as “preying on small businesses.” That literally makes no sense. Particularly coming from a Committee that has no problem changing zoning to plop a high-density apartment complex adjacent to single-family homeowners who purchased their homes “knowing” that zoning would not allow that and have been paying taxes based on that zoning for decades.  Why the sudden concern for unidentified, and out of town, holders of business leases or owners of commercial property (who very likely would welcome a deal with open arms rather than view the suggestion as “predatory”), where there is apparently Zero concern for the actual Chathamites residing in the vicinity of Mountain View, Meyersville, and River Roads (not to mention Huron Drive and all the other streets nearby wherever Kelly and Ness’ latest harebrained affordable housing scheme may pop up).  

The bottom line is that instead of listening to, working with, and advocating for, the residents of the Township who they were elected to represent, Mayor Kelly and the Committee ignore all in service to advancing their – and NJ Fair Share Housing’s – detrimental agenda.  We say enough is enough, call into tonight’s Township Committee meeting, and let your voice be heard. And if you are eligible to vote in the Republican primary, we ask for your support in taking the first step to getting the Township moving back in the right direction.

To be clear you are “eligible” if you are a registered Republican or an unaffiliated voter who elects to affiliate with the Republicans for the purpose of this election only. Vote for the people who have had your back at every Committee meeting since Mayor Kelly was sworn in, and many before that.  We will bring back representation that puts the interests of the Township’s residents first. You will be receiving a ballot in the mail next week and will not be able to vote in person on Election Day. Make sure to return your ballot immediately. There is no need to wait.  Put an end to the disastrous leadership of Mayor Kelly.  

Ashley Felice & Mark Hamilton

Candidates for Chatham Township Committee