To the editor,
The response from the Friends of Historic Flemington who are suing the Borough of Flemington over Courthouse Square, unfortunately, once again offers no compromise.
I continue to offer to sit down with the FOHF because I believe there remains a workable solution that meets everyone’s objectives and can eliminate the rising cost of legal fees borne by the good taxpayers of the Borough.
As presented at the public meeting on Sept. 23, we offered to save the three historical buildings on Main Street (Union Hotel, Hunterdon County Bank Building and Potting Shed) and significantly reduce the height of the buildings, which were the main concerns of the FOHF.
This was accomplished by reconfiguring Courthouse Square and eliminating the 45,0000-square-foot medical/education building. It is true additional residential units replaced the medical/education building; however, that allowed us to substantially decrease traffic and reduce parking by 250 vehicles which was an additional concern that we addressed.
These proposed plans can be seen here. While the economics of this development should be of no concern to the FOHF, there is no way to legitimately compare the costs of Courthouse Square to our other developments.
Our project costs in Raritan Township are $12 million less with 90 more residential units. Our land costs in Raritan pale in comparison to the more than $7 million we paid to acquire and assemble the Courthouse Square properties. We also agreed to contribute $2 million to Flemington for the new well that is needed despite our project, and also agreed to preserve the only three historical buildings in Courthouse Square at an additional estimated cost of $5 million.
Building to the Master Plan is a bankrupt scenario and a non-starter given the current cost scenarios required. It is also why a Payment in Lieu of taxes agreement is required.
The FOHF members know these arguments are moot because Redevelopment Areas are created to allow a developer to routinely deviate or exceed the Master Plan. This provides incentives to attract developers to invest and redevelop distressed areas of towns.
Hanging on to the argument of building to a Master Plan is an excuse that continues to hold our town hostage and depress property values.
There is a formal written response to the plaintiff’s proposal that was received on Sept. 12. We have intentionally delayed that response because we continue to be optimistic that Frank Banisch would be successful in his settlement efforts with the FOHF.
As I offered at the Sept. 23 meeting, I am again offering to meet with Gary Schotland, Lois Stewart, Joanne Braun, Chris Pickell and Kenneth Cummings to resolve this in an amicable manner as these lawsuits are benefiting no one.
I believe the FOHF have accomplished their objective and should accept our proposal that preserves and reinvigorates our town.
I can be reached at my office and will accommodate any request to meet.
Resolutions are best attained with face-to-face communication.
If my invitation is not accepted by Wednesday, Oct. 9, then in the interest of transparency to the public, we will provide our responses to the FOHF settlement letters in an open forum.