Friday, January 23, 2015


Few issues have shown the real poor performance of the Township Committee more than the arrogant approach to the Maplewood Village post office redevelopment plan.

Since efforts were first launched more than a year ago to shut down the post office and replace it with a retail/housing mixed use complex, the TC has done little to seek broad input and much to force a weak project down the community's throat.

As you may recall, the Township gave notice to the U.S. Postal Service in 2013 that it would end its lease, in which the Township has been paid $75,000 annually for the site with no property taxes paid because the postal service is a public government entity.

But the decision about what would replace the post office was handled in a rushed fashion. Requests for proposals went out in mid 2014 and eight companies showed interest, with five submitting preliminary plans.

The first planner chosen through a non-competitive bidding process, was L & M Development. But it pulled out due to some personal reasons, perhaps also after Kings declined to become a tenant of the new facility.

We had disclosed back in 2013 that Kings had likely no interest in the project despite what Mayor Vic DeLuca led residents to believe.

Still, after L& M pulled out, the Township quickly went to another firm, JMF Properties, with essentially the same sort of plan. During this time, many residents raised objections that the project was being pushed through too quickly. 

Did the Village need such a major project with more housing units and stores?

Why not reduce the scope of the project? Or even make it a park of some sort. Whatever commercial entity would be put in it would bring in more revenue than the post office had provided.

But the Township would have none of it. JMF was quickly approved for 23 apartment units.

Then, just this past few weeks, a request from JMF was made to increase the height of the building, from 45 feet to 53 feet, and exempt the developers from the required 10% set aside of units for affordable housing. The company would instead contribute $100,000 to a housing fund.

The Planning Board has already made its objections to the change known in a letter to the TC, which also indicated it had been given insufficient information for its own review.

More recently, on Tuesday, the TC approved an ordinance to allow the firm and others in the Village to apply for and receive a property tax abatement. Mayor De Luca has hinted that such an abatement could allow JMF to pay no property taxes the first year, with an increase by 20% increments through 2020.


Why are we giving into these requests to a firm that will likely make big money off of our most coveted neighborhood. And when several others firms have shown interest?

As former TC member David Huemer noted in his remarks to the TC Tuesday, this is poor negotiating.

What's worse is the way the TC reacted to residents angered by these proposals on Tuesday. They seemed almost annoyed that some would disagree with their monstrous plan and its giveaway to the developers involved.

Maplewood Village is by far the gem of our township. It has been here longer than any of us and will hopefully be here after we are all gone. To allow such an ugly, oversized complex in a key place in our community is careless.

And to dismiss the concerns of residents is arrogant.

We already ruined the site of the former police station on Dunnell Road with the ugly apartment building placed there, while the similar project on Boyden Avenue has done more aesthetic damage.

There is no reason to allow such a project to hurt the charm and tradition of Maplewood Village, at least in such a forced fashion. Don't ruin the village.

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