Official: Senior Center Occupancy Secured
Image: Seniors celebrate a one-day opening of the Senior Center on May 20, 2009.
When the City Council gathered for a special meeting Thursday, (Sept. 24, 2009), it turned out that the matter of a tax abatement for the 63-condo/senior center project known as "The Monarch" had been withdrawn. But officials told worried members of the public, including several seniors, that the proposed tax abatement had nothing to do with the opening of the senior center.
In fact, Corporation Counsel Dan Williamson said Thursday, the building had received its certificate of occupancy for the center just that day.
Image: July 2007 groundbreaking ceremony.
No move-in date was firm, Williamson said, citing unspecified parking issues.
The seniors are still meeting in leased space at 305 East Front Street, about a block away from The Monarch at 400 East Front Street.
Among speakers Thursday, real estate agency owner John Campbell was given extended time to explain his views on a tax abatement for the condo project, which officials say is a bellwether for future downtown development. The developer is seeking a five-year deal in which condo buyers will pay only 40 percent of city taxes.
Campbell complained that he saw few Plainfield residents involved in constructing the four-story building. and also doubted the validity of the sales price for the two-bedroom condos. Set at $300,000 early on, the price is now about $279,000, but Campbell said in a "broker's opinion of value" requested by the developer, his staff found the price too high. Perhaps there was "some happy ground in the middle," he suggested.
A public notice for the meeting listed five topics, including introduction of the State Fiscal Year 2010 budget. But on Thursday only three were listed, and withdrawal of the tax abatement reduced the voting items to two. Councilman Adrian Mapp seemed to take umbrage at the imposition of a City Council vote on his request to attend the Black Issues Convention in October and asked for other council expenses to be made public. Council President Rashid Burney said it was the first such request this year put to a vote. Previously, the city council president signed off on such requests.
Councilwoman Annie McWilliams asked for a written copy of city policy on granting council expense requests.
The only other item up for a vote was an ordinance to exceed budget limits for the 2010 municipal budget and establishing a cap bank. As explained by City Administrator Marc Dashield, the measure would allow the city to exceed a 2 1/2 percent state limit on a budget increase for SFY 2010 and would permit use of any past savings on the cap limit to be applied to future budgets.
Councilman Cory Storch objected to the plan, saying it gave flexibility to strike a budget higher than 2 1/2 percent, thus removing external pressure to stay within budget limits. Storch said calling it "fairly typical" was not a good reason to do it and urged the governing body to exert internal will to keep the budget tight. He voted "no" in the 6-1 approval on first reading.
In another matter, downtown merchant Freddy White complained that he did not receive notice of a two-day fiesta held last weekend in city parking lots 8 and 8-A. He alleged that only Latino business owners were included in the plans and said when he complained to Assemblyman Jerry Green, Green himself said he had no knowledge of the plans. Green has an office on Watchung Avenue and like White, uses the lots that were closed for two days from noon to 7 p.m. for the fiesta.
"No one else knew about it but them," White said, referring to the Latino merchants.
White's remarks contradict Green's claim on his blog that he was involved in planning the event for six months prior to the occasion.
Despite being pared down to two items, the meeting went on for nearly two hours with the added discussions.
The City Council will hold an agenda-fixing session Oct. 5 at Hubbard Middle School and its next regular meeting is Oct. 13 in Municipal Court. A special conference on economic growth is slated for 8 p.m. Oct. 19 at Municipal Court.