MILLBURN, NJ - Millburn Township officials have not dropped their opposition to a proposed housing development at the intersection of South Orange Avenue and White Oak Ridge Road, Mayor Thomas McDermott said Tuesday night during the Township Committee meeting.
The child care center Tutor Time is now located at the 4.2 acre site, which lies in Livingston. TMB Partners own the property and is proposing to build two buildings with 50 market rate units and another with 12 rental units reserved for residents of low and moderate income.
Livingston was sued by TMB Partners under a builder's remedy known as Mt. Laurel to allow a greater density of development so that low and moderate income housing could be developed. Millburn has opposed the development, commissioning environmental and traffic studies of the site, and has a friend of the court status in the suit.
After more than two years of negotiation, Livingston and the principals of TMB Partners signed an agreement earlier this month.
"Millburn has not committed to withdraw from any case," McDermott said, adding the Township Committee would go into conference following the open session to discuss its next move.
McDermott's statement was at odds with comments made by Livingston's mayor at that community's Township Council meeting in early August. According to published accounts, Mayor Arlene Johnson had announced that the Millburn governing body had recently decided to withdraw and not pursue opposition to the development.
When audience members questioned McDermott about those reports on Tuesday night, he said, "The mayor [Mayor Johnson] misspoke."
Resident Peter Humphries, who is a Democratic candidate for the Township Committee, asked if the Millburn Township Committee's discussion about the matter could take place then and there at Tuesday night's meeting.
"It's appropriate this discussion be held openly," he argued.
Township attorney Christopher Falcon rejected the idea, saying meeting in private would allow the governing body to safeguard its position.
McDermott promised to report back to the public at next month's Committee meeting.
Millburn residents who live adjacent to the site urged the Committee to continue its opposition to the development. Rosalie Rubin of Rippling Brook Drive, said, "I do not see what practical advantages there are to formally cease opposition to the TMB proposals and to acquiesce to the agreement between Livingston and TMB. We've been told that the prime reason for surrender is husbandry of funds. You can easily curtail legal activities without renouncing opposition.
"The details of the Livingston/TMB settlement are known to you. They are egregious and harmful to Millburn and will not become less harmful to Millburn if you withdraw," she continued.
Fred Polakoff, also of Rippling Brook Drive, said with chagrin he was spending his 52nd anniversary at the Township Committee meeting to express his opinion.
"If Millburn agrees to this overreaching development, then any developer can use your settlement agreement as precedent for high-density development on the Township's borders and, indeed, within the Township of Millburn," he cautioned.
In other business, the Committee adopted this year's municipal budget by a 3 to 1 vote. Committee member James Suell cast the 'no' vote but did not comment. At the introduction of the budget, Suell had expressed dissatisfaction with high legal costs the township has been paying.
The more than $48 million budget calls for nearly $37 million to be raised in taxes.
Also at the session, the Committee passed an ordinance adopting sustainable building standards for construction in the township.
In new business, several speakers addressed the Committee's deer management program for this year and expressed opposition to bow hunting.
Phil Kirsch of Cedar Street referred to a bill now in the New Jersey legislature that would reduce the distance from a residence a bow hunter must be in order to shoot. The requirement would go from 450 feet to 150 feet.
"Have we really thought about just what 150 feet—or 50 yards—really is? The bill would allow bow hunters to shoot from as close as half a football field," Kirsch pointed out.
"Even at the current distance—150 yards or about the length of the high school field from end to end—the arrow would reach in less than two seconds," he added.
His wife, Carol, showed a visual aid she had made to illustrate how arrows could potentially harm people and pets in neighborhoods.