To the editor:
Flemington’s Main Street Development Plan has been revised to maintain the front and two sides of the Union Hotel. It wasn’t “saved” as first published, but I attended the Flemington Borough Council Meeting on May 22 and commended the new, limited consideration for preservation of Flemington’s streetscape as a welcomed reversal. I also noted that the developer and politicians have not been listening. It's not just about the Union Hotel.
As usual, only limited information has been released by Borough Council. I noted that the plan:
- still obligates Borough taxpayers to fund multi-million dollar water and sewer infrastructure improvements that should be borne by the redeveloper, Jack Cust.
- still includes a huge parking garage and 8-story buildings that will clog our narrow streets with traffic, and destroy our quality of life.
After the meeting, our Mayor was interviewed by TAPinto:
“We tell you in black and white that it’s seven stories, and everybody passes around that it’s eight,” [Mayor] Greiner said. “We tell you in black and white ... that the developer is paying for the cost for sewer and water and yet people still come in here and talk about how the taxpayers are going to pay for it. Whether we put it in black and white or not, people are saying what they want to say.”
The Developer’s Agreement, as approved by the Mayor and Council on March 13, specifies:
“The Redeveloper shall be responsible for up to Two Million Dollars ($2,000,000.00) of the cost to increase the amount of available water by the amount required for the Project ... Redeveloper shall receive a dollar for dollar credit for all Public Improvements to the water distribution system and sewer collection systems undertaken, installed and/or constructed against all water and sewer connection fees.”
It seems clear that water and sewer infrastructure improvements are capped at “Two Million Dollars” for the developer, and that the payment then gets fully credited against the developer’s payment-in-lieu of taxes (PILOT) made to Flemington. We have not been told by Council what the actual infrastructure cost is, however, one estimate by a qualified expert discussed on March 13 placed the cost at more than sixteen times higher ($33 million) than the payment to be made by the developer. Whatever the cost to Flemington would be, the Developer’s Agreement protects the developer and Flemington foots the bill.
Regarding height, Council posted images of the current project proposal on Borough’s website, less the Spring Street view. They acknowledged that they had this image, and would post it in the future. Councilwoman Kim Tilly reaffirmed her approval for the project, noting that development on Spring Street would now be all residential. Mayor Greiner then argued with a resident that the seven stories of residential building proposed for Spring Street plus one level for parking did not constitute eight stories. Does seven plus one not equal eight? Incidentally, the 2015 Master Plan Update calls for two story residential homes along Spring Street. To date, the Borough’s website still omits an image for Spring Street.
At the same Council meeting I also asked, “What are the developer’s claims of cost, expense and funding to validate height, density and tax breaks, and when will this come under critical, transparent review?
What will the undisclosed tax abatements cost county taxpayers and for how long?
These questions remain unanswered.
Michael Harris, Flemington