WEST ORANGE, NJ — The ongoing debate on whether Essex Green and its adjoining Executive Drive should be declared an “area in need of redevelopment” became a major focus of the West Orange Township Council meeting on Tuesday when residents came to speak out on the subject.
If approved by the West Orange Planning Board and Township Council, this declaration would make the area eligible for tax abatements and other incentives that could cost the township money.
“This is a massive real estate scheme that lacks credibility in the law,” said West Orange resident Sally Malanga. “If the planning board votes yes to calling Essex Green an area in need of redevelopment, I think it will be an abuse of a law geared for blighted areas.”
Resident Robert Daniel said he was “deeply distressed that the town council allowed the possibility of giving tax abatements to redevelop Essex Green.”
Referring to a possible plan to move the West Orange Animal Shelter to the newly renovated Essex Green if abatements are allowed, Daniel said, “The need for a new animal shelter should not drive what is happening in Essex Green.”
Resident Lewis Dorf said that the owners of Essex Green put out a comprehensive marketing plan months ago that showed Essex Green getting more high-end stores. He said they would not have put out such a document online if they felt the area was blighted.
In response to these concerns, Councilwoman Susan McCartney said the council only authorized the planning board to consider how the Essex Green site can be better used.
“There was no talk of funds,” she said. “In no way will we short-change the taxpayer.”
Councilwoman Michelle Casalino said the council must be proactive in looking into this issue since office complexes are now out of fashion.
“We will only support a plan that is advantageous to West Orange,” said Casalino, who added that the properties are obsolete—not blighted.
“I am concerned about opening up a Pandora box by certifying Essex Green as an area of redevelopment,” said Joe Krakoviak. “It opens up the possibility of tax abatements, which could cost West Orange millions of dollars in lost taxes.”
Earlier in the meeting, it was announced that McCartney will replace Krakoviak as council president in 2018. Read the story on her appointment HERE.
The next council meeting will be held on Jan. 9.