Steel dismantled at The Savoy site

The steel beams for The Savoy sometimes pointed to as symbols of overly-ambitious redevelopment efforts, were finally dismantled last week.

The beams were installed in summer 2008 and by the fall, the project at the corner of Main and Monroe streets already had come to a standstill.

The original plan proposed by Dornoch Holdings called for 36 two-bedroom, two-bath units in a four-story structure, with 7,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor. The units had starting asking prices of $315,000 in pre-construction, in early 2008.

The city has been in discussions with Capodagli Property Company about developing the site, but it would be upward of 100 units rather than the original 36 proposed. The Pompton Plains-based developer is working with Wells Fargo to acquire the property and complete the foreclosure process, according to city officials.

The Capodagli firm is scheduled to appear before the Planning Board Tuesday for its proposed 108-unit project behind the library, Meridia Water’s Edge. The company recently was selected as developer for 240 units on the former Bolmer Motor Car property in downtown Bound Brook.

New poll: Should the mayor’s salary be reduced?

Since it’s a slow, holiday week, and it’s been too long since we had a poll up on the blog, what better time to unveil a new poll question? Completely unscientific, of course.

The City Council introduced a salary ordinance this month that would reduce the mayor’s salary from $65,000 to less than $21,000, a cut of 68 percent. City Council members are paid $8,043, with the Council President earning slightly more, at $9,676. Both are considered part-time positions.

Should the City Council reduce the mayor’s salary?
* Yes.
* Yes, but they should all be cut, including Council members.
* Not only cut, but salaries for all elected officials, and then some, should be cut.
* Times are tough, make cuts wherever you can.
* No; you get what you pay for; they should be paid something to attract worthy candidates.
* No.

PILOT considered for Water’s Edge project

The City Council will consider a 10-year Payment in Lieu Of Taxes (PILOT) for Meridia Water’s Edge, a 108-unit rental project proposed on land adjacent to Rahway Public Library and The Center Circle.

The PILOT would set a $2,000 per year tax for each of the 108 units, generating $216,000 annually for the city and county, but not the schools, according to City Administrator and Redevelopment Director Peter Pelissier. After 10 years, the full taxes on the property would becomes effective, with the proportional breakdown for city, county and school taxes. How much the rental units would pay in property taxes normally, without a PILOT, is unclear. The property currently pays no taxes as it’s owned by the Redevelopment Agency.

Fifth Ward Councilwoman Jennifer Wenson-Maier explained that she could not vote for the resolution because she is liaison to the Environmental Commission, which last year wrote a sustainability element to the city’s master plan that requires energy-efficient design for all new redevelopment projects. “This project does not meet that,” she said.

The ordinance (O-29-11) will come up for a public hearing and final adoption at the City Council’s Dec. 12 regular meeting. The Planning Board is scheduled take up the Water’s Edge application at its Nov. 29 meeting.

The Redevelopment Agency this summer designated Capodagli Property Company of Pompton Plains as redeveloper, agreeing to sell the 0.75-acre parcel for $1 million. The developer will be responsible for the cost of removing soil that’s been on the site from library construction earlier in the decade.

City Council moves to slash mayor’s salary

The City Council introduced a salary ordinance Monday night that would slash the mayor’s salary by 68 percent, drawing a 5-minute rebuke from Mayor Rick Proctor in which he called the move an abuse of legislative power and political retribution.

The ordinance (O-38-11), which will be up for a final vote and public hearing at the Dec. 12 meeting, would set an annual salary for the mayor’s position of $20,809 — a 68-percent reduction from $65,000. The salary ordinance passed 8-0 (one absent) and would take effect Jan. 1. City Council members, who received a roughly 2 percent increase in the previous salary ordinance adopted in September, would remain at the same pay level of $8,043 in the new ordinance ($9,676 for the council president).

“This isn’t about Rahway. This is about a political falling out and an abuse of legislative power. This is a personal vendetta, not public policy. This is not about Rahway, this is about vindictiveness. Am I bitter? Yeah, I am. I’m human,” said Proctor, adding that he took a $50,000 pay cut to run for mayor.

Proctor said $50,000 could be saved if City Council members cut their salary by 68 percent. He rattled off figures indicating that from 2005 to 2011, certain department heads saw their salaries rise as much as 30 to 40 percent. During the same six-year period, the mayor said City Council increased its own salary by 18 percent. “That’s preposterous, and sends a very clear message to the public that you’re either going to sleep through this recession or feel entitled to inflict economic pain to insulate yourself from sacrifices,” said Proctor. “I’m certain that the public will recognize that this ordinance stinks of retribution,” he said.

“Every day the people of Rahway suffering from economic hardship and the only solution you can come up with is to pick my pocket,” said Proctor. “That is inspired leadership.”

The mayor has been at odds with the City Council, as well as City Administrator and Redevelopment Director Peter Pelissier, since at least the summer, when the governing body rejected his bid to add staff within his office, and claimed he tried to have his wife hired as health officer.

Restriction likely to be lifted for jazz site

The requirement that only a jazz club/restaurant can be developed at the former Kelly’s Pub property looks like it will be lifted by the Redevelopment Agency, allowing other options to be pursued for the site.

Continue reading Restriction likely to be lifted for jazz site

City Council gives OK for Water’s Edge

The City Council last month approved the proposed Meridia Water’s Edge project for inclusion in the Lower Main Street Redevelopment Plan, paving the way for an application to be heard by the Planning Board later this month.

Fifth Ward Councilwoman Jennifer Wenson-Maier was the lone dissenter during a special meeting Oct. 24 when the council adopted the ordinance (O-26-11) by an 8-1 vote. An ordinance (O-29-11) regarding a Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) for the Water’s Edge project is scheduled to be introduced at Monday’s regular meeting of the City Council.

Capodagli Property Company has proposed 108 units adjacent to the city library and The Center Circle. The Planning Board is scheduled to take up the application at its Nov. 29 meeting and a redevelopment agreement is expected before the Redevelopment Agency at its Dec. 7 meeting.

(File photo)

Wenson-Maier was among the council members who raised concerns in September about density and size of units, pushing to have the ordinance tabled. While there may be a trend for smaller units in new developments, she said she didn’t like the room sizes but understood the concept. The proximity of Water’s Edge to the library, recreation center and downtown restaurants could address locally some of the amenities offered at similar projects around the country, such as lounges, pools and party rooms, she said.

“What was unacceptable for me as a registered architect and liaison to the Environmental Commission was that the developer refused to obtain a silver LEED rating,” which she said is very attainable. “LEED eventually will become a requirement of the international building code,” Wenson-Mailer, who sites on the Environmental Commission, said via email. The sustainablilty element of the city’s master plan, adopted by the Planning Board in spring 2010, encourages LEED building elements.

Redevelopment Agency attorney Frank Regan said the developer has a loan commitment and is trying to close by the end of the year. “Weather permitting, he’s anxious to get into the ground,” Regan said. The Redevelopment Agency last month extended its memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Water’s Edge project.

Steel, foundation to be removed at Savoy site

More than three years after it was installed, the steel and foundation at the site of the stalled Savoy development could be coming out soon.

Continue reading Steel, foundation to be removed at Savoy site

Council adopts transitional budget

The City Council last month adopted a transition year municipal budget, covering July to December 2011, as the city moves from a fiscal year (July-June) to a calendar year (January-December).

The increase in the municipal portion of the tax bill for the two quarters ending in August and November are expected to be about $18 compared with the same two quarters in the previous year, Chief Financial Officer Frank Ruggiero told council members at the Oct. 11 meeting. The upcoming February and May quarters likely will see an $18 increase from the previous year as well, he said.

The average home in Rahway, assessed at $133,000, will pay approximately $1,522 in municipal taxes for the half-year, according to Ruggiero. In the last full year budget (July 2010-June 2011), municipal taxes for the average home were about $2,416 (Remember, municipal taxes make up about a quarter of your overall property bill, with county taxes comprising about another quarter and school taxes making up about half). The transitional year budget totals $23.396 million, with a tax levy of $16.326 million. The total state Fiscal Year 2011 budget is $44.91 million, with a tax levy of $31.166 million.

Some line-items in the budget show jumps of 50 percent, Ruggiero said, as a result of some departments being more seasonal. For example, the Recreation Department has more expenses during July and August while the Department of Public Works might have more expenses during the fall relate to leaf pickup. Ruggiero said he expects the city to go for an accelerated tax sale sometime in the late spring of 2012, as the state doesn’t allow a tax sale for a transitional year.

The City Council voted 8-0-1 to adopt the budget, which included the Special Improvement District (SID) budget and SID properties. The lone abstention was by 6th Ward Councilman Samson Steinman, who said he abstained to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest since he’s executive director of the Union County Performing Arts Center (UCPAC) and sits on the board of the Arts District, which now receives SID funds.