NUTLEY, NJ - Eugene Diaz, principal, Prism Capital Partners, LLC is ready to sit down and talk with the Nutley Board of Commissioners about their concerns about Clifton’s development plans for the Marriott Hotel and medical office building on their side of the On3 property, formerly Hoffmann-La Roche.
The Nutley BOC has appealed the application to build the hotel during Clifton’s Oct. 24 planning board meeting. During the Nov. 18 Nutley BOC meeting, Township Attorney Alan Genitempo said they were happy to meet with Prism and Clifton to discuss development.
According to Diaz, Prism sent the township a memo on Nov. 21 to set a date to articulate their concerns about the hotel. He is still waiting for them to reach out to him. “Let’s have a conversation before we start challenging what the other township is doing,” said Diaz.
Diaz was upset with the comments made by Public Affairs Commissioner Steven L. Rogers at the Nov. 18 meeting. Rogers said Diaz’s request for the BOC to drop the appeal was outrageous. At that meeting Rogers also said the BOC always keeps the best interest of the taxpayers in mind. “How can you spend tax payer money on legal battles before anything is done,” Diaz asked.
Diaz said they most likely can settle the differences in a meeting. “We are more than happy to solve it but they haven’t come to us yet,” he said. According to Diaz, Prism has paid Nutley over $12 million in taxes since it purchased the property more than three years ago. “We are Nutley, we are part of the community. We are the largest tax payer in town […] we matter like everyone else,” he said.
Diaz was also not happy that Prism was not invited to the Nov. 6 Community Meeting when Topology held a PowerPoint presentation in the Nutley High School auditorium requesting the residents’ input on redevelopment of the On3 property. “They didn’t involve us, the property owner, think of how that feels,” he said.
According to Diaz, Prism has a wonderful vision for this campus and it reflects a lot of great things they have done. “It’s a fair and balanced plan between two municipalities and everyone will be happy. Nutley feels they are unique, where Nutley will be given traffic and Clifton redevelopment. Nutley has all the office buildings and that traffic impacts traffic in Clifton,” he said.
Diaz feels the traffic study is not warranted yet. “You don’t build a city in a day. To have a study today before you build out makes no sense, to do that we would have to predict exactly what this campus is going to be. I don’t think the traffic study is going to be worth anything. They are done in connection with development applications. You have to determine what you are building before you can do a traffic study,” said Diaz.
Mayor Joseph P. Scarpelli, speaking on behalf of the commissioners, said in a separate interview, the Board of Commissioners are concerned with how future development in both Clifton and Nutley will affect traffic, services, and infrastructure in Nutley.
The BOC have been asking Prism for a traffic study for over two years. In August, Nutley commissioned their own traffic study to predict how future development on the entire site will impact the roads and neighborhoods.
“As this is the first new construction on the ON3 site with a direct effect on the Kingsland [Street] and Bloomfield [Avenue] intersection we believe that traffic, flooding, and pedestrian safety have not been adequately addressed,” said Scarpelli. “Until such time that the Board of Commissioners understand the complete build out of the site, the ramification on quality of life issues, and the mitigation necessary to offset those concerns, we will continue to pursue all remedies to protect our township and its residents,” the Commissioners' statement added.
Scarpelli said the commissioners are in continued communication with Clifton. “The Board of Commissioners look forward to continuing to partner with both Clifton and Prism to further the goals of Clifton, Nutley, and Prism in the redevelopment of the former Hoffmann-La Roche site,” he said.
Nutley Revenue and Finance Commissioner Thomas J. Evans said in separate interview that Nutley is not disputing the use of the land. “Our challenge is the fact of those uses, by necessity, will require of the use of the roadways of Nutley,” he said. “We are objecting to it because the roadways on campus are internal roadways not public, traffic would be coming in through Kingsland Street and route through Nutley,” he said.
According to Evans, since Nutley streets will be used to come and go to and fro from Nutley the BOC feel that the proposal for the building also has to go through the township’s zoning board of adjustment. “The impact could be litigated with improvements,” he said.
Evans said that Prism wants to take an implemental approach and the township wants to take a comprehensive approach to a buildup.
“The commissioners are very sensitive of residents’ concerns. We will not trade quality of life for tax dollars. We will not make decisions to make tax revenues to reflect poorly on the quality in life of the town. We will not add to infrastructure cost because those tax dollars are not worth it.
“Nutley received $25 million in transitional state aid to cut the burden, to take a deep breath and be smart about these decisions,” said Evans.
Clifton Mayor James Anzaldi and City Manager Dominick Villano could not comment since the application was being presented at the Clifton planning board hearing.
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