Bloomfield Council Questions Parking Authority on Finances

Bloomfield Parking Authority attorney Joe Baumann addressed questions pertaining to the Authority’s finances at last night’s conference meeting, including how long it would take the township to break even on the new parking deck.

At last week’s regular council meeting, an ordinance was passed on first reading that increased the township’s guaranty to cover the Parking Authority’s debt by $3 million. At that time, Mayor McCarthy had assured council representatives Joanow and Bernard that they would have time to discuss the financial implications and ask questions at the June 25 conference meeting before finalizing the ordinance on second reading at the next regular council meeting.

At last night’s meeting, Councilman Joanow asked Baumann how long it would be before the township would break even on the parking deck. Baumann said that it would be about three years before the project would be completely built and stabilized. At that point, the parking deck would be able to generate excess revenue, he said.

Baumann also explained that the township had previously passed an ordinance that would enable guaranties of up to $25 million to build the parking deck; the amended ordinance would reduce that amount to $22 million, while taking the other $3 million from existing bonds that had already been authorized. He said in the end the transaction would be a “credit positive solution.”

He was also asked how much per space the parking deck costs, and responded that it was about $20,600 per space, which is fairly standard.

Councilman Venezia asked how many of the parking spaces in the deck would be used by residents, and how much revenue they would generate. Baumann stated there were 265 resident spaces that would generate $65 each per month.

Baumann pointed out that the redevelopment has always been about “dramatic, sustained improvements” in the entire area. As an example, he said New Jersey Transit will be renovating the portion of the train station that faces the new development and opening the tunnel underneath that leads to the other side of the tracks, making access to the trains more convenient.

Prior to the meeting, Russell Mollica, who also spoke against the additional $3 million guaranty last week, called the parking deck “a losing proposition before it’s even built.” He also said he had attended the June 19 Parking Authority meeting and was disappointed to learn that after waiting 12 years for the downtown redevelopment, the development would include a Foodtown as the anchoring grocery store, rather than a more upscale chain.

Baumann later confirmed that Foodtown had signed a letter of intent, but that nothing has been finalized yet.

Later in the meeting, Councilman Joanow reintroduced a proposal to change the sewer ordinance, Chapter 454, Article I, to absolve residents of responsibility for the sewer lines between the curb and the sewer main in the middle of the street. The ordinance had been changed in January of this year to make the residents responsible for all sewer problems up to the main. Joanow said the costs were prohibitive for individual homeowners to pay to dig up the street, and that the current law created a hardship. When his proposal was brought to a vote previously, it had failed to move. However, last night it passed, 4-2, with Council representatives Dunigan and Hamilton voting no. Mayor McCarthy was absent.

Joanow also moved to support a town-wide study that would evaluate the impact of all of the new development on the township’s finances, services, and school system. He said that the Planning Board had such a study on their agenda for Tuesday’s special meeting for the redevelopment of 225 Belleville Avenue, and asked the council to vote to support the proposal.

Councilman Bernard Hamilton, who was acting mayor for the evening, said the study only pertained to 225 Belleville Avenue, although the agenda for the meeting refers to a “Proposal from Richard B. Reading Associates for an evaluation of proposed residential development throughout town.”

Joanow then made the motion to support an expansion of the study to encompass the whole town. He said the current Master Plan is “obsolete,”and urged the council to bring in a neutral third party to design a plan for all of the planned and current development. Council representatives Dunigan and Chalet expressed concern that such a study should not pertain to already-approved projects. Joanow explained it would be used for guidance; it would not be legislation. The council voted 4-2 to support a town-wide study, with Dunigan and Hamilton voting no.

The next council meeting will not be held until Monday, July 16 due to the summer meeting schedule. It will take place in the council chambers at 7 p.m.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. If a parking space costs on average $20,600 and generates $65 a month or $780 a year in revenue, that is a return of 3.79%. That hardly seems worth the risk to the township and ultimately, the tax payers.

  2. UPDATE: I’ve been informed the agenda for the Planning Board has since been revised: the proposed study will only pertain to 221-225 Belleville Avenue, not to the whole town. It now reads:

    “Proposal from Richard B. Reading Associates for an evaluation of proposed residential development for 221-225 Belleville Avenue.”

  3. The study really should be done for the entire town, if only to give the schools, police department, fire department, local hospitals, etc. a heads up on how to meet the increases in population. Someone else can clarify, but haven’t I read somewhere that Bloomfield is adding 1,600 or so residential units? Every developer and the municipality will tell you there will be no children in any of those units…an independent study will allow the schools, now (so I’ve been told) at 107% capacity, to prepare. It’s good planning.

  4. Yes, agree, and that is what Councilman Joanow proposed, which passed last night. I hope it comes to fruition before too many of these developments are completed. Hartz Mountain is next on the list and of course Westinghouse is still a potential development site.

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