An Open Letter to the Planning Board with cc to the Village Council and others:
Dear Mr. Joel, Planning Board Members, and Planning Board Professional Staff:
First let me state that I am not an attorney, let alone one with expertise in municipal law. And so, the views and opinions I express in this email are those of a layman. But a layman who has lived in Ridgewood for 48 years and one who cares deeply about our community. I should also state that I am a big supporter of building a garage on the Hudson St. site.
I understand that the Village Planner has been directed by the Village Council “to conduct a study for Redevelopment of the Hudson Street Municipal Parking Lot, allowing the Village more options moving forward with garage construction plans that could potentially save significant taxpayer dollars and build time.” I find the rationale for the directive to be misleading and incomplete.
According to an email I received from Mr. Matt Rogers, Village attorney, “The Local Redevelopment and Housing Law permits municipalities to consider property(ies) within its borders for redevelopment if the property meets certain criteria. The Statute was designed to promote the rehabilitation and/or the reconstruction of properties that have long gone without attention, particularly in commercial locations or areas. There is a process prescribed by the Statute that must be followed in order to take advantage of the statute’s benefits, which allows the municipality to avoid the public bidding process and negotiate directly with one or any entities that the municipality wants to consider for the project in mind. The Council can start the process by requesting the a (sic) study be performed by the Planner to determine if the property, in this case the Hudson Street parking lot, meets the criteria of the Statute. If it does and the process is completed, then the Village can negotiate directly with any contractor it so wishes. As you know, there has already been a presentation from PIKE at a Council meeting, where it became apparent that they can both provide a design and build the garage. The thought is that by utilizing the statute, the Village can avoid the time it takes to bid out design and then bid out to find a contractor to build the design. Additionally, it is the hope that by directly negotiating with the a (sic) contractor, the Village can also save money on the cost for several reasons. It will hopefully work and provide those benefits. If not, then the bidding process can always be utilized.”
There is no way the Hudson St. parking lot can be considered “long gone without attention.” It is obvious to me that this approach is being used by the Mayor to allow her to short circuit the process for her to be able to use Pike Construction, her chosen option. I don’t believe the Planning Board should allow itself to serve as an enabler.
As I mentioned earlier I am a big believer in the need to build a garage on the Hudson St. site. I supported the thorough, detailed, and transparent work the previous Council had undertaken in that regard, and was most disappointed when their plans were thwarted.
In contrast, for the past year the current Village Council has been totally opaque in its activities re the garage, excepting for a snippet here or there by the Mayor. I listened to the Village Council Meeting of 2017AUG02 and I was shocked to see that Councilmen Voigt and Walsh were totally out of the loop. My understanding is that the Mayor has limited her deliberations to Councilmen Hache and Sedon, and two Village Staff Members, the Village Manager and the CFO.
I personally do not like the Pike design. I find their design to be esthetically unattractive, and frankly insulting to the beautiful architecture we value in Ridgewood. As I mentioned in a Village Council meeting, the only thing lacking from the design is a neon sign that says “Welcome to Newark Airport.”
Before you expend any energy, resources, and public funds in carrying out the Mayor’s directive, I believe you should ask the Mayor to first undertake a transparent process that would fully and openly inform the Ridgewood Residents of her plans.
FYI, I understand the Mayor has recently written the Council concerning Parking Garage Options. I tried to OPRA a copy but was refused on account of its being “deliberative.” I will do all that I can to obtain a copy. We live in America not Soviet Russia!