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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Development: Plainfield taxpayers should read the fine print

There were two surprises buried in Mayor Robinson-Briggs' review of redevelopment projects in yesterday's Courier -- well, three, actually.

The two are that of the THREE true redevelopment projects (leaving aside the Senior Center/condos, which the Administration has yet to learn is NOT a redevelopment project) -- TWO are way down the road.

The North Avenue Historic District project -- hundreds of market-rate condos and 120,000 square feet of retail will be built in phases, STARTING "in about two years."

The planned supermarket at the Marino's site on West Front Street across from the Drake House is also off in the distance --
The project -- still years away -- would generate $190,000 in annual revenue for the city, officials estimate.
Years away!

And the $190,000 estimated annual revenue would just about make up for the revenue the city is losing in not getting the 'swing school' on West Front Street back on the tax rolls -- about which the current administration maintains complete silence.

The THIRD surprise is something NOT SAID. The Mayor did NOT discuss the Capodagli condo/retail project for West 3rd/Richmond/Cottage Place. At all. Does that mean this project is off the drawing boards? On life support?

And after putting the PMUA's planned development of a new headquarters complex into limbo?

Why, with all the cards stacked in its favor, is the Administration of Mayor Robinson-Briggs not movng ahead more quickly?

Could it be that market realities are having their effect and the developers are shying away from investments in an iffy climate?

Last Friday, the Ledger reported that the developer of a large age-restricted condo project in Flemington was asking to have the zoning changed to remove the age restrictions IN THE LIGHT OF CHANGED MARKET CONDITIONS.
Citing a downturn in the real estate market, the owner of a Fle mington property zoned for senior living is asking the borough for a change.
Residents worry that allowing younger people to buy will mean families with children that will further stress an overburdened school system.

Also on Friday, the Courier reported that Somerville was reworking its agreement with developer Jack Morris --
Municipal revenue from a redevelopment project at the Downtown Somerville Shopping Center -- touted as a way to ease the tax burden on residents -- will be tied to its financial success, under a new agreement between the borough and its developer.

During a special meeting Thursday, the Borough Council unanimously approved a "memorandum of understanding" with developer JSM spelling out several points as the two parties prepare to redraft a 2-year-old redevelopment agreement over the project to reflect what officials called a changed economic climate.
Basically, the terms of the PILOT are being renegotiated BECAUSE OF MARKET CONDITIONS. If you read closely, you may wonder who is giving up the most in the rejiggered bargain.

Is Plainfield's turn coming?

-- Dan Damon

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