With redevelopment projects happening throughout Bloomfield, I would like to point out how one town specifically is handling their redevelopment projects. That town is Secaucus and is a fine example for Bloomfield to follow.
Hartz Mountain is looking to building 500 housing units on a business site in Secaucus. The town council is working with the school board and will not sign any contracts until the school board is in complete agreement with the redevelopment financial plans.
Secaucus learned from its mistake when it agreed to the Xchange residential rental development that was built in 2008. The project completely left the school board out of negotiations. The results was the school board received zero dollars, has many more children attending the school district and the taxpayers have had to pay the difference.
This is exactly what is happening at the Bloomfield Center Redevelopment project. The Bloomfield school board has been left out of the process and will not receive any money from the tax revenue of this development. Taxpayers will have to foot the bill for any additional child attending the school district.
Secaucus officials are also working with the developer to make sure there are only a certain number of 1 and 2 bedroom units. 55% of the units will be studios and one bedroom units.
While the redevelopment plans for the Hartz Mountain location in Bloomfield have been changed to allowing only 1 and 2 bedroom units, what is the guarantee to Bloomfield residents that once it’s approved that amendments will not be made by the developer to include 3 bedroom units? We already saw this happen with the Bloomfield Downtown project. The plan changed, amendments were approved by the town council and now there are more three bedroom units than were originally approved.
The developer in Secaucus is also paying $3,200 per unit per year in property taxes. The Bloomfield Center Redevelopment project will only be paying $1,400 per unit per year in property taxes. That is less than half of what they should be paying for market-rate apartments.
Secaucus also negotiated that the developer must pay $1.1 million in impact fees due to adding more children to an already over-crowding school system and the need to hire more public safety personnel. The money will partially be used towards building a new middle school and purchasing two more school buses to handle the influx of new children into town.
Right now Bloomfield's schools are overflowing. There are trailers at Franklin School and Brookdale School has even had to retrofit a basement room as a classroom.
The residents of Bloomfield would like to know what our Mayor and Town Council will be negotiating on behalf of Bloomfield residents. Will the needs of the residents be put before the needs of the developer? If the developer believes in the ability of the project to succeed in Bloomfield, that its location is unique, apartments will be easy to rent and that they can make a profit, they should be more than willing to negotiate for what is right for Bloomfield.
After bonding $21 million for redevelopment through the Parking Authority, residents do not have much faith in the Mayor and Town Council to fight for us to make sure redevelopment works for everyone and not just the developers.
It is even more important to get answers to these questions since an email that was acquired through the Open Public Records Act reveals that “the Mayor made promises to the Developers of Hartz Mountain.”
While no one is suggesting that there are any improprieties, it certainly leaves us wonder whose back the Mayor will have and he should answer and tell us exactly what he promised. Bloomfield residents deserve transparency in this process. It’s our neighborhoods, our property values and our property taxes that will be affected.
Will the Mayor and Town Council act like the officials in Secaucus and make certain that the interests of Bloomfield residents are met before moving forward or will they side with the developers?