NUTLEY, NJ - Residents raised questions about developer fees and fines as well as the planning board’s recommendations for mixed use during the Tuesday, June 19 board of commissioner’s public meeting. Commissioner Mauro G. Tucci was absent excused.
Tammi Rossi of Nutley questioned Commissioner Thomas J. Evans on developer fees. She said she had asked previously and was told the township was not collecting developer fees. However Rossi said Evans stated amounts collected on fees about two meetings ago. Rossi wanted to know why there were numbers all of a sudden and claims when she filed an Open Public Records Act request she was told the township had no information on developer fees collected.
Evans said, “For each property that’s subject to a … development fee, the form, [an] actual bill is created by the tax assessor that is then given to the construction office who in order to actually issue a [certificate of occupancy] on that building has to collect that fee. That fee is then deposited in the COAH trust account.”
Evans said he is not sure why anyone in his department would make that statement. He believes someone in the department may have in error not realized the developer fee is a COAH fee.
Rossi also asked of the board was ready to accept or deny the recommendations of the definition of mixed use and density by the Planning Board. Mayor and Public Works Commissioner Joseph P. Scarpelli told Rossi that the Planning Board sub-committee came to the last meeting and that the board is considering what portion of that, or all of that, they are going to consider and will have to change the ordinance.
Rory Moore of Nutley also asked about the Planning Board’s recommendations, if the public will be able to voice their opinions about it before it is voted on. Moore also mentioned the talk of three-bedroom apartments raising overcrowding concerns. Evans reassured him the recommendations do not include three-bedroom apartments. Scarpelli said there will be an introduction and public hearing on the Planning Board’s recommendations.
Nutley resident Amy Celento also questioned the Planning Board’s recommendations. According to Celento what gets built and what gets rented out do not match the plans, such as the apartments for 184 Franklin Ave. She said they were to be built as one-bedroom apartments but are listed and advertised as two-bedroom apartments by the developer.
Celento said she had asked Township Attorney Alan Genitempo how to file an investigation for violations and he said there is one going on. Celento asked Evans to explain it.
Evans said because of potential litigation he could not tell her so much. According to Evans the person and others have violations in town. He said every property the person owns is subject to a full inspection. The zoning board and construction plans were also included in the inspection; and every room, even the parking spaces were compared for compliance with the approvals that were granted. The violations are being addressed with the township council and the individual’s council.
Evans said any one in violation will be found out and will be subject to a summons and taken to court. “No one is above the laws in Nutley. I don’t care who you are once we find out and when we find out. […] this board of commissioners will not tolerate that ever,” said Evans.
Celento asked who is paying the litigation costs. According to Evans the Township will not incur or absorb any costs on this matter. She also said that the violation fines are up to $500 a day and asked will the township receive that money? Evans said absolutely and he believes right now the numbers are into six figures.
Celento asked how this can be prevented. Evans said it can’t be but the township has an inspector look for physical changes that may signify a change to plans has been made such as an extra doorbell or more parking. He said the inspector now has level three certifications, the highest level.
She feels the developer should be banned from the town. Evans said that was not possible however according to the commissioner the people on the zoning and planning boards would give this individual a very had time if he wanted to present plans in Nutley again.
Celento questioned Mayor Scarpelli again about the high percentage of overtime in the water department. Scarpelli said the water department employees are a 24/7 job. He said a fire hydrant on Franklin Avenue was leaking and could not be repaired during the day because the avenue cannot be closed down.
She also questioned if the on call pay rate was time and half. Scarpelli replied they are paid at the regular per hour rate while they are on call. Genitempo said it is part of the collective bargaining agreement thus required.
Joan Rubino of Nutley also questioned the way this developer would be handled in the future and if the board of commissioners has an influence on the planning board. Scarpelli said he and Evans are only voting members. “… [Which] doesn’t mean you are influencing the board,” he said.
Nutley resident Michael Evangelista, member of the group NJ 11th For Change, raised a question why he was turned down by the township attorney for having the group set up a “get out the vote” effort at the Farmers’ Market because it had political affiliation. Evangelista said however the group has never endorsed a candidate or a party.
Genitempo responded asking where does the town draw the line and although the group is 501C3 that it was more political than he claims it to be now. He said you don’t have to endorse a candidate to be political. If one is allowed they are all going to be allowed.
Evangelista was not happy with the response and asked if he as a private citizen would be stopped at the Farmers’ Market if he handed out voting flyers from the government website. Genitempo said he would not receive space or support and that he should check with his attorney to see what his rights are and are not.
The board ended the public portion of the meeting and went back to closed executive session to discuss litigation and contracts.