FLEMINGTON, NJ – The man behind the Courthouse Square redevelopment project and a former Borough Mayor have both come out with criticisms of the recently released economic analysis of the plan, which includes the Union Hotel and surrounding properties.
The report by Beacon Planning and Consulting was presented at Monday’s Borough Council meeting. It was publicly released Nov. 14, after Borough Council withheld it during the election season with the explanation that it was only a draft document.
On Monday, Mayor Betsy Driver said officials made no changes to Beacon’s draft.
Jack Cust, whose Flemington Urban Renewal LLC already has Planning Board approval for the project, credited the report in a letter to the editor for agreeing that the project would generate about $600,000 in annual revenue and recognizing that it would also yield financial and other benefits that were beyond the scope of the report.
But Cust – who is a Certified Public Accountant – challenged the report’s claim that Courthouse Square would result in a net annual loss to the Borough of more than $250,000. He noted that the study omitted the 3 percent tax revenue that would be generated by hotel room rentals, which he estimates at about $113,880 a year, and also overlooked the $2 million payment Cust would make towards a new well, which officials agree will be needed regardless of whether the Courthouse Square plan is ever built.
In his letter to the editor, Former Mayor Phil Greiner called Beacon’s analysis “deeply flawed.” The report included costs that Greiner said will not “necessarily be incurred,” leading those attending Monday’s presentation with the “feeling they had been misled about the project’s cost.”
Greiner’s letter breaks down the project’s costs associated with schools, a new police headquarters, and the need for additional police personnel and equipment. Like Cust, Greiner challenged some of the assumptions made in the report, and said he believes the $600,000 annual payment that the Borough would receive under the plan’s Payment in Lieu of taxes agreement “should be disposable income for the borough to use as it sees fit.”
Cust said that he believes the “differences in assumptions” can be resolved and asked that the Beacon Report “be revised” accordingly.
“We continue to look forward to working with the Mayor and Council to find solutions for the mutual benefit of all,” Cust wrote.