The Rutherford Borough Council, in its recent meeting, navigated a raft of contentious topics but primarily focused on a sweeping redevelopment project presented by Native Development Urban Renewal.
The centerpiece of the redevelopment project is a seven-story structure set to host 80 residential units, with 12 dedicated to affordable housing. This decision dovetails with growing appeals for better access to affordable housing in the borough and across the nation.
Brian, a project manager, updated the council on multiple infrastructure projects, including the completion of Union Avenue’s resurfacing and the resolution of Riverside Towers’ water issue. The completion of Union Avenue’s resurfacing included the addition of several ramps near a local high school, affectionately referred to as “The Missing Link.”
The council engaged in lengthy discussions about the financial viability of the redevelopment project and a proposed Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) scheme. Daniel Banker of NW Financial Group outlined that, at just under $31 million, the project wouldn’t be feasible under conventional taxes. A 30-year PILOT was recommended, which is projected to provide a net benefit of $220,000 annually to the Borough, even after considering the estimated increase in population and the associated costs.
A point of contention was the developer’s proposal to use stackable parking, which some council members considered suboptimal despite being a cost-effective solution. A further concern revolved around the penalty for the developer if they fail to maintain a theater as part of the redevelopment project. The penalty, set at a million dollars, was deemed insufficient by some council members, who suggested that non-compliance should result in the property reverting back to the borough.
Public input provided an array of perspectives, ranging from the environmental impact of jet noise from Teterboro Airport to concerns about transparency in the redevelopment process. David Labruno expressed skepticism about the decision to reduce the number of parking spaces and criticized the low leasing rate. There was significant public discourse around affordable housing for veterans, with resident Patrick Doyle urging that low-income housing should be allocated to homeless veterans.
The council unanimously agreed upon resolution 144, designating Native Development Urban Renewal LLC as the redeveloper. It also discussed other local ordinances, including one amending the Theater District Redevelopment plan area and another approving a financial agreement with Native Development. The latter stirred public comment around tax abatements, property value assessments, and the fairness of the proposed financial agreement.
The council moved to approve various other resolutions and appointments, including acknowledging the resignation of Jason Wagner from Public Works and the introduction of two new police officer candidates, Patrick O’Keefe and Dylan Coy.