Thursday, August 23, 2007

Council Approves Planning Contracts

Planner Mark Munley sits in on weekly redevelopment meetings, helps find developers and works on identifying financing sources for projects, he told the City Council before a vote on his $25,000 contract.

The council had questions Monday on what his firm, Cityscape, does when the city is already using the Union County Improvement Authority to guide redevelopment. Munley appeared Wednesday night to explain. In the past year, he said, he helped Dornoch Plainfield LLC on a timetable that resulted in one of the quickest approval processes in New Jersey. Dornoch broke ground in July on a $15 million project that will include 63 condos, a new senior center and a veterans center at 400 East Front Street.

Munley said he is also helping AST Development of Lavallette, the designated developer for the Marino's tract on West Front Street. He said he introduced AST to the New Markets Tax Credit incentive, which should pay half the cost of that project.

In addition, he is helping on the North Avenue proposal of Landmark Development Corp. of Jersey City for condos, stores and an entertainment center by the main train station.

The council approved his contract, but other planning questions came up in connection with a $100,000 contract with another firm. Councilman Cory Storch said it was not always clear who a planner from Remington & Vernick was working for, the city or the UCIA. The planner is working on updating the master plan as well as on various redevelopment tasks.

Storch made a motion to table the matter until the contract could be revised, but the motion failed and the contract was approved.

A year ago, the council agreed to turn over all redevelopment to the UCIA, with city approvals required at each step. Dornoch did not follow the redevelopment process that involves a study, a plan and options such as use of eminent domain, but worked out the deal to build on city-owned land with private funding. Landmark and AST are among a half-dozen developers that are using the formal process and working through its steps with the UCIA. Costs for studies and plans are to be recouped from the developers, at no expense to the city.

Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs has called for four transit village clusters around two existing and two former train stops and the UCIA and planners are also working on that concept. An "in need of redevelopment" study arond the Netherwood train station is on the works, but recent court decisions on the use of eminent domain may cause the study area to be scaled back.

--Bernice Paglia


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