Redevelopment Questions Continue to be a Focus at West Orange Town Council Meeting

Credits: Chris Harewood

WEST ORANGE, NJ - Concerns about a resolutions regarding roadway improvements and the downtown redevelopment were hot topics at Tuesday’s town council meeting in West Orange.

West Orange resident Claire Silvestri, wife of Councilman Joe Krakoviak, questioned Resolution (249-15) that would allot over $585,000 to improve the streets on Cherry Street and Belgrade Terrace Roadway. These improvements would include new driveway aprons, handicap ramps, driveway repairs, service walk changes, new sidewalks and more. 

Silvestri wondered how much of the money used for these repairs would be funded by the state and how much would come from the municipal budget. She also asked why sidewalks were being included in the repairs, something that she believed would lead to the higher than usual price of repairs. She said that in the past, 10 streets cost a total of $1 million dollars to repair compared to just two streets costing over $500,000.

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While acknowledging that an engineer would be a better person to ask to get to the bottom of these questions, Business Administrator Jack Sayers and Chief Financial Advisor John Goss explained that various factors go into deciding the degree of repairs to be done to streets including the need for draining, conditions of the sidewalk areas, and whether tree growth is the reason for sidewalk damage.

Later during the reviewing of this resolution, Councilwoman Susan McCartney contacted West Orange Municipal Engineer Leonard Lapore who explained that the sidewalks are being included because that is part of the NJ Department of Transportation grant.

Displeased with this explanation, Krakoviak chose to abstain from voting for the resolution that was passed on a 4-0 vote.

In addition, Silvestri and Krakoviak expressed displeasure with the redevelopment of the downtown area being spearheaded by Dune and Prism. While Silvestri said she saw someone clearing out vegetation when she drove by the area, she said she had yet to see any construction.

Krakoviak said he felt this violated their agreement.

“This is a situation where they agreed less than two months ago that they would start construction on September 30th, and I think we all agree they have not started,” he said.

Sayers disagree with this point of view and said, “Just because there’s no building there doesn’t mean they haven’t started doing things,” pointing out that PSEG has been on the scene and there has been sewer mark outs and the clearing of front properties. 

While default letters have been sent to the redevelopers due to them being late on their taxes, Krakoviak said he also wanted default letters sent out for them not starting development. He also requested that a legal representative and redevelopment representative be present at the next town council meeting.

Resolutions 248-15 and 251-15 were also pulled by Krakoviak, but passed 4-1 with Krakoviak voting no. 

Resolution 248-15 authorizes the execution of a sublease between the township and the West Orange Arts Council regarding 555 Valley Street, which is 1,300 rentable square feet of space in a building owned by Housing and Neighborhood Development Services, Inc. Pursuant to the sublease, WOAC will pay $300 in rent to the township, per month, for the duration of the sublease, which commences on September 1, 2015 and expires on August 31, 2019.

Resolution 251-15 amends Resolution 217-15 requesting the Planning Board to evaluate certain properties in the vicinity of Eagle Rock and Prospect Avenues to determine if they should be designated as an area in need of redevelopment or an area in need of rehabilitation.

The council also reviewed the 2016 public meeting dates and agreed on a schedule to follow.

Save the Dates

From Oct. 16 to the 19, the first Edison Concours d’Elegance will be held at the home of Thomas Edison. Some of the world’s finest vintage cars from all over the globe will be on display. Council President Jerry Guarino encouraged people to attend, adding that the money raised will go to the Edison National Park as well as toward scholarships.

The next town council meeting is scheduled for Oct. 27 at 6:30 p.m. The public is invited to attend.

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