To the editor:
The hotel-area redevelopment project has become a central focus in our Borough Council election races. When a project of such significance to the town is so egregiously misrepresented to the public, as is being done by some of the campaigns, it is incumbent on me as the mayor and leader of the redevelopment committee to once again clarify some key elements of the project. This project is too important to our future to be sabotaged by misrepresentation.
This message is not intended as support of specific candidates. Rather, it is intended to right the wrong that is being done by having residents become frightened of a project by statements that are blatantly false and misleading.
Size of the project
Some think the project is out of character with the size of other buildings in Flemington; others think we need this size and mass to successfully get Main Street going again. “Too big” is in the eye of the beholder, and each person is entitled to his or her own opinion. Any statement about the size of the project is the speaker’s personal opinion, as opposed to objective standards.
The $33 million sewer myth
A long time ago it was estimated that running a new main sewer line all the way from our former sewer plant (now known as the Wet Weather Facility) to the current sewer plant could cost as much as (approximately) $33 million. No such line is being proposed now. This old estimate had nothing to do with any redevelopment project, nor do we expect to ever have to run such a line.
Our arrangement with Raritan Township Municipal Utility Authority, which operates the sewer plant, includes reserve capacity at the plant that easily accommodates this project and others in the future. To get the additional sewage from the hotel area to the plant, we expect to increase the size of a sewer line between the project area and the Route 31 main line. This is the developer’s responsibility to pay, not the borough’s responsibility, as specified in the redevelopment agreement.
The cost of any additional or expanded water lines, either within the project area or connecting the project area to the system (e.g., a block away), is the developer’s responsibility to pay, not the borough’s responsibility, as specified in the redevelopment agreement. Normally the town provides the water and sewer systems and charges connection fees to new users. In this case the developer will provide the systems and will get a credit up to the amount of the normal connection fees he otherwise would have paid. These credits do not apply toward construction of a new well.
The project will use up our current water reserves, so we will build a new well to maintain our reserve capacity. The developer will pay up to $2 million for the new well. Again, the water/sewer infrastructure credits mentioned above do not affect or reduce the payment for the well.
Water tank repair
Council recently adopted a bond ordinance to pay up to $4.5 million to empty and repair the current water tank and build and connect a second, smaller tank to facilitate the repairs. This has nothing to do with water capacity or any development project. The water tank is simply a necessary buffer between the pumps at the various wells and the homes and businesses that ultimately consume the water. A bigger tank, or even the second tank, does not add capacity to the system. Additional wells are what add capacity. The tank provides constant water pressure without having to micromanage the pumps every time someone turns a water spigot on or off at their home. Without the tank, pumps would build up too much pressure in the system if left running, and turning on a garden hose would reduce water pressure if the pumps were not running. Refurbishing the tank is necessary maintenance that has nothing to do with any development project.
Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT)
When the project is fully built out, we expect the developer will make annual payments to the borough, in lieu of taxes, that will reduce the municipal tax burden on residences and businesses by about 10 percent. The nuances of a PILOT do not fit easily into a one-paragraph description like this one, so, months ago, we posted a paper describing how PILOTs work on our web site at http://www.historicflemington.com/_Content/pdf/Using-PILOT-for-hotel-Redevelopment.pdf. Please see this article if you have further questions, including questions about school taxes.
Traffic and parking
The borough’s and developer’s traffic engineers met during preparation of the redevelopment plan that was introduced at the Oct. 23 council meeting. We are confident, based on these meetings, that the project will not cause traffic problems for the borough and that the project will adequately provide its own parking.
For more information about the project, please visit the Union Hotel web page on our borough’s official web site: http://www.historicflemington.com/Boards/Union-Hotel. You will find many documents on this page, such as redevelopment plans, a summary of past redevelopment efforts, and some general information about PILOTs (payment in lieu of taxes).
Phil Greiner, Mayor
Borough of Flemington
Editor's note: This article has been updated to correct an editing error.