UNION, NJ - In a continued effort to find a workable solution to the ongoing tug of war for Union’s Merck Property, Township Attorney Daniel Antonelli appeared Thursday at a status conference meeting in Superior Court.
According to a press release from Union’s Public Information Office, despite previous reports of negotiations for Kean to acquire a portion of the property, township officials report that they, representatives of Russo Development, and representatives from Kean University have never sat down at the same time, in the same room and conducted negotiations. This is an issue that officials believe is leading to an incorrect understanding of the township’s position on the matter.
“The Township of Union’s position has not changed,” said Ronald Manzella, business administrator for the Township of Union. “The concerns that are still present are ratables and the exorbitantly high traffic in and around the University.”
As a state institution, Kean’s acquisition of the property would make it exempt from taxes, drying up a potential $4 million in property taxes, and ultimately disenfranchising the residents of the town. According to the press release, the township expressed opposition to being held hostage to a demand of land ownership by the university that the court has already ruled upon.
“One of the alternatives to these negotiations would be to simply allow this case to finish working its way through the court system. In order for any settlement to be considered, further information needs to be factored into this equation,” Manzella said.
The Township’s press release continued that the Comptroller of the State of New Jersey has undertaken a very serious study as to the financial stability of Kean University, noting their high debt and low enrollment. Before coming to any sort of agreement, the Township would like to review the report and get a determination as to whether or not Kean University can move forward with their plans to build, and whether or not they have a realistic chance at living up to what they have proposed.
Representatives from the Township state that they will continue to advocate in the interests of their residents and hope that a true negotiation can take place so that all parties can be on equal footing, and traction can be made towards an amicable resolution.