FLEMINGTON, NJ – Borough Council has awarded a $10,000 contract to study the impact of the proposed Courthouse Square project that includes the Union Hotel.
Courthouse Square is a controversial plan by Jack Cust’s Flemington Center Urban Renewal LLC to redevelop the landmark hotel to include 100 rooms and build more than 200 multi-family units, along with about 45,000 square feet of educational/medical space and more than 32,000 square feet of retail space. It would also include parking for 760 vehicles.
Although the plan received final approval from the Planning Board in October, it remains central to pending lawsuits filed by Friends of Historic Flemington.
Resident Sandi Scott, an advocate of the plan who has filed to run for Borough Council, questioned the need for the contract, citing previous studies of the project and calling the additional study “blatant obstruction.”
“Are development lawyers aware of these previous studies?,” Scott asked. “If so, why are they recommending this study?”
“We need someone to look at the impact on the borough not only of the adopted and approved site plan for Courthouse Square project ... but also possible variations of that,” said Councilperson Jeff Doshna. “What’s the impact on our schools? ... What’s the impact on infrastructure in terms of water and sewer? ... What’s the impact on police costs?”
Doshna said the study will be done on behalf of the borough, although it would be paid for by the developer from its escrow account.
The contract is with Beacon Planning & Consulting Services, LLC of Colts Neck. According to its website, the company is a “construction risk management and due diligence firm specializing in the provision of technical support services aimed at defining and minimizing the concerns involved with the acquisition, development or financing of real estate based assets.”
The resolution authorizing the study says that officials seek “a review of projected expenses, revenue streams and project values relative to each component” of the project. They also want a “comparison of the fiscal impact of the current proposal” compared to one consistent with the borough’s Master Plan.
Councilperson Michael Harris said a previous study by the Otteau Group “was limited in scope ... to what would be the payout for the project.
“We’ve seen changes to the project,” Harris said. “So will that change the fiscal impact?”
Harris disagreed that the decision was one to obstruct the project. “Everyone is in favor of development,” he said. “We’re looking for settlement.”
Mayor Betsy Driver said that Cust is offering “additional compromises” on the project and that she’s “hopeful we can get to a turning point at the end of the month.”