FLEMINGTON, NJ –What Mayor Phil Greiner calls an “independent third party review” of the proposed financial agreement between the borough and the redeveloper of the Union Hotel is expected to be part of Borough Council’s next meeting on Aug. 13.
The presentation will be by Christopher Otteau of the Matawan-based Otteau Group of the so-called PILOT plan - or Payment In Lieu Of Taxes - and faces objections from some Council members.
That includes Councilperson Susan Peterson, who complained at a heated and contentious Council meeting on July 23 that she had yet to be provided with even a draft of the document.
The public hasn’t seen it either, although officials have promised it will be posted to the borough website in advance of the meeting.
Peterson has called the failure to discuss the plans openly a reflection of a “complete communications breakdown on this Council.” She wants the entire Council to meet with the Cust team, whose Flemington Center Urban Renewal, LLC is the borough’s designated redeveloper for the Union Hotel and surrounding properties.
“I think we’re selling ourselves short by not doing that as a group collectively,” Peterson said. “As time goes on, we’re all going to be part of whatever happens here, and I think that we all need to have our voices heard together, collectively.”
Meanwhile, Councilperson Michael Harris continues to press for an independent review of the borough’s redevelopment agreement with Cust. Harris has insisted it’s “very important that the redevelopment agreement protects the borough.”
The mayor has resisted such a proposal. Borough attorney Barry Goodman limited Harris’ plea at the Council meeting, stating the request was a “non-agenda item” and not open for discussion.
“Mr. Mayor I have to ask why you are so concerned that (after) bringing in an independent counsel ... our RDA would not survive their review,” Harris said. “I don’t see the harm in having another firm look at the RDA, and get an opinion as to whether it is in the best interest of the town.”
Councilperson Betsy Driver argued that the Otteau presentation should be delayed until after Council holds a public discussion on the redevelopment plan and the PILOT. Failure to have held the discussion after first promising or suggesting it would happen, “breaks down all levels of trust going forward,” she said.
Greiner said he doesn’t oppose the discussion and that Monday would be the first time all Council members would be available for such a review.
Greiner said Otteau will review financial data, market conditions and “suitability of the project for Flemington as well as the projected financial returns to the borough as well as the developer, and an assessment of the relative fairness of the agreement for both the developer and the borough.”
The mayor said he expects the project can now proceed through the Historic Commission and the Planning Board, with a “current target” that a formal application will be submitted this month, with hearings to begin in September.
Councilperson Brooke Warden said borough CFO Bill Hance has been asked to put the financial information into a spreadsheet so that everyone can “figure out what the financial repercussions would be to the borough if we do change the height” of the buildings in the plan. Warden asked that it be made available to the public and Council before Monday’s meeting.