West Orange Residents Raise Questions About Proposed Bond to Create Park at Ridgeway Property in St. Cloud Area

Plans for the passive walkway were shown at a June 19, 2012 meeting attended by the Mayor and several Council persons, including Victor Cirilo, Sue McCartney and Joe Krakoviak. Credits: Cynthia Cumming

WEST ORANGE, NJ - Councilman Joe Krakoviak raised issues in personal blog posts regarding  Resolution 2375-13: "Bond Ordinance Authorizing the Development of a Park at Ridgeway Avenue in and For theTownship of West Orange, in the County of Essex, New Jersey, Appropriating $500,000 therefore and Authorizing the Issuance of $475,000 Bonds or Notes to Finance Part of the Cost Thereof"  passed on first reading during the town council meeting of May 7.

Additionally, Resolution 94-13: "Resolution of Intent Declaring That Any Future Revenue Derived From Any Undeveloped Portion of Block 158, Lot 39 and Known as 55-57 Ridgeway Avenue Be Used to Reimburse the Open Space Trust Fund for the Development of a Park on the Remainder of the Parcel and 97-13 99-13;" and Resolution Authorizing an Additional Appropriation of $3,000 to Barreto/Dowd for Reimbursable Expenses Associated with Completing their Professional Services Contract for Ridgeway Park" were passed on first reading, 

The $500,00 bond and subsequent debt would be repaid by the town Open Space Trust Fund, which is funded by town property owners at about $150,000 annually. Councilman Krakoviak noted in his blog that "the Open Space Commission, where I’m the council liaison, voted to recommend the plan at a special meeting last week. I voted against the proposal because we may not have to borrow all or part of the money given the substantial balance in the trust fund – which should amount to about $400,000 once the 2013 tax funding is made in the next few months."

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Krakoviak went on to note "Another proposed resolution would allocate any revenue from the undeveloped portion of the Ridgeway property to replenish the Open Space Trust Fund. Yet another resolution would pay an additional $3,000 to the project architect, Dowd/Baretto, over its $35,000 contract. The resolution indicates printing costs exceeded the $2,208 allowed expenses in the original contract, so that another $2,941 is required."

Sue Freivald wrote on a local email group called the West Orange Watercooler: "Since we paid over $35,000 just for the plans for the park, it would be nice to see them (especially since there must be many pretty copies, since according to the agenda documents from Tuesday the printing costs totaled over $5K.) How does one get a copy of those plans?"  The mayor and administration have received requests for the plans to be posted on the town website and more information provided.

The Ridgeway property has been of issue for several months, and Mayor Parisi and St. Cloud residents have had several meetings to discuss what to do with the property.  The Life Christian Church gave the property to the township in exchange for property in front ofo Vizcaya on Northfield Avenue where they have built the first component of their new church. In 2006, at the time of the trade, TLCC had planned to build the church on the Ridgeway Property.  Initial planning problems (including the number of parking spaces required) and neighborhood concerns cast doubt that the project could be accomplished.  It was at that time that the developer of Vizcaya, Larry Pantirer, and Pastor Terry Smith of the Life Christian Church discussed the possibility of trading with the township for the property on Northfield.  (Pantirer had originally donated the Northfield property to the town.)

The current proposal excludes the two buildings on the property but will affect the grounds nearby, which have fallen into disrepair over the past several years.  Repairs will be made the the wall around the property and the creation of passive walkways which are acceptable to the neighborhood. It remains to be seen what will happen with the buildings, which also require repairs.  Neighbors seem hesitant to allow any business to purchase because they do not want increased traffic on Ridgeway Avenue.

The West Orange Alternative Press will update this article as more information becomes available.

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