Bloomfield Mayor, Council Members Clash Over Lion Gate Property

council10.15.13Councilman Nick Joanow, who has long opposed a planned townhouse development on Lion Gate Drive on the site of the former Scientific Glass property, announced at Monday night’s council meeting that “there are individuals” who are interested in purchasing the property in partnership with the town.

He requested that the approval of a $560k contract to construct the Butterfly Park planned for the adjacent property now owned by the township be deferred, pending negotiations with the developer of the townhouse project. He said if the township is able to procure the adjacent property that the plan for the park could be expanded.

Mayor McCarthy countered that the development, which was originally approved by the Planning Board in 2007, would provide a million dollars in ratables to the township.

Joanow said that the council needed to look at “the flip side,” and take into account the additional school-age children that could result from the building of the 104 townhome project. “With 52 3-bedroom apartments, it’s inconceivable” that there won’t be children, Joanow said. He pointed out that these children would attend Brookdale Elementary School, which is already overcrowded.

The current developer of the former Scientific Glass property, Somerset Development, LLC, had bought the property from the previous developer, and has secured all the necessary permits to begin construction. Mayor McCarthy said that work had already started on the sewer lines. Township Engineer Paul Lasek confirmed that the materials for that work were already in place.

Councilman Bernard Hamilton, who sits on the Planning Board, said that the Board is a quasi-judicial body, and cautioned Joanow that if the township reneged on the development, it could have far-reaching ramifications.

Joanow said that the township “has no amenities” and reiterated his support for a soccer field on the disputed site. McCarthy retorted that the field would benefit Joanow, since it would be “in your back yard.” “I don’t think you can even vote on it,” he said to Joanow.

The discussion became heated, with the Mayor and Joanow disputing the timing and circumstances surrounding the sale of the property to the current developer. McCarthy told Joanow, “You knew about it. I had no interest. You’re the advocate.” He stated Joanow had not come to the council when the land was in foreclosure to request that the township purchase it. Joanow said he had contacted the previous Township Administrator about it.

Councilwoman Dunigan asked whether Joanow was looking forward to leaving a legacy, possibly a soccer field named after him. Joanow emphatically denied any such motive.

After the discussion, Joanow stated he would reach out to the principals who are interested in purchasing the property and request that they attend the next conference meeting.

Later in the meeting, Councilman Carlos Bernard brought up the flooding near the Lion Gate site, questioning whether the townhome development will make the situation worse.

Township Engineer Paul Lasek and Councilman Bernard Hamilton both spoke in response. Hamilton said that at the time the development was approved, the Planning Board had made numerous amendments to the project to ensure that flooding was mitigated and that no additional water would accumulate. The project has received all required DEP approvals, and the flood storage capacity would be at least equal to what it is now, according to Lasek.

Councilman Bernard asked if the township could inquire whether the developer would be open to selling the property to the town. Mayor McCarthy pointed out that Township Administrator Ted Ehrenburg had already called the developer with that question. Ehrenburg confirmed the developer had said he was not interested in selling the property. Bernard persisted and asked if there was any harm in asking again. Ehrenburg agreed to reach out to the developer and said he would try to set up a meeting between the developer and the councilman to discuss it.

Bloomfield Animal Shelter

Ehrenburg also provided an update on the Bloomfield Animal Shelter. He said he had met with several former volunteers who would like to come back to the shelter, and had a telephone conversation with former volunteer/shelter employee, Jerry Blasi, regarding operations at the shelter.

He said right now they do not have a shelter manager, and he does not want to bring in a full volunteer program until one is hired. The current acting manager, Mike Spinelli, is also an ACO. Ehrenburg said to ask him to take on a volunteer program on top of his other responsibilities “is a recipe for disaster.”

However, he said that in their conversation, Jerry Blasi had made some suggestions that he does intend to pursue. He said he would try to bring in volunteers for the cat side as a preliminary step. He also said he would look into fencing in the open area behind the shelter to provide the dogs with an exercise area.

Ehrenburg also said that he had been in contact with local trainer Jeff Coltenback, who has offered to assess the dogs currently at the shelter.

During the public comment period, several people spoke regarding the shelter. Maria Probst pointed out that the shelter’s website still called for volunteers and had obviously not been updated. She also questioned whether the Petfinder site has been kept current.

Ehrenburg explained that he had the responsibility given to him in March and that the shelter manager resigned on Good Friday, leaving him with the full responsibility. He said that he did not have time to update the websites and manage all of the other responsibilities of his job. Ehrenburg said that he is working on a job description for an RFP for a shelter manager “as we speak.”

Pat Gilleran cited information she had obtained through an Open Public Records Act request regarding the status of volunteers at the shelter. She said she was told there are no volunteers working in the shelter, but that some come and go, taking out cats in cages to fundraising or adoption events. She questioned how the fundraising funds are being collected and distributed and asked about the status of the Neighbor-to-Neighbor Network and its relationship to the shelter.

Ehrenburg said that the NTNN is no longer involved in the fundraising, and that there is a separate group working toward attaining nonprofit status to raise money for the shelter. He agreed to get back to her about the disposition of the funds obtained at the fundraising events.

He was also asked by Greg Sabol if there is currently a foster program at the shelter and Ehrenburg said he would find out and report back at the next meeting.

“Crash Tax”

Ehrenburg asked that the council consider rescinding the Motor Vehicle Response Ordinance (also known as a “crash tax”) that has been in effect since last year. The ordinance requires out-of-towners involved in an accident in Bloomfield to pay a $100 fee to cover the expenses incurred by the township in responding to the accident. Ehrenburg said that given the township’s efforts to revitalize the downtown area and become a destination, it would be more welcoming to eliminate that ordinance. He said the ordinance, at his direction, had not been enforced in the last month or so, pending discussion by the council.

The council was ready to vote in favor of the elimination of the ordinance, but Councilman Hamilton asked that the administrator provide facts and figures to further understand the ramifications. Ehrenburg agreed and the motion was tabled until the next conference meeting.

ABC Violations at Clancy’s Bar

The owner of Clancy’s Bar (Broughton Avenue) and his attorney appeared before the mayor and council for a brief hearing in reference to ABC violations that were found at the bar on August 17 in conjunction with the report of a “criminal sexual complaint” that originated outside the bar.

The attorney, John Williams, assured the council that the incident was a one-time event. He explained that the woman who had made the complaint was a dancer who apparently had had a “manic episode” and filed a false report. She only worked at the club for one day and did not return after the incident. He also stated that the report of two employees being intoxicated was incorrect; one was the woman who had called in the false report, and her erratic behavior was not due to alcohol. He also stated the second report was also questionable, as the person who was allegedly intoxicated was another dancer who had only just arrived for work at that time.

The next meeting of the council will be a regular meeting to be held on Monday, October 21, at 7 p.m. in the council chambers.

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  1. Ehrenburg states he’s had no time in the last 6 months to update the shelter’s website nor petfinder adoption page, nor does he want to bring back the volunteers that maintained these resources for years until the Health Department demanded control of them and then neglected them. Well at least he’s finally talking to some of the dismissed volunteers who have years of experience at the shelter about how to improve the current situation.

  2. I’d love to know which of the “former volunteers” he spoke to. Oh, let me guess: Taboadella (new), D’Auria (new), Caputo (new) and all members of Karen Lore’s chosen few sycophants. Then there’s possibly Laurie Heeb, wife of BoH pres Joel Elkins, and possibly Lauren Vallier, an on-again-off-again-come-again when it suits me volunteer. Except for Jerry Blasi, a 4+ yr 5-7/day week vol for all of that time, none of them have the longevity, dedication and commitment of the fired core veteran volunteers. When Ted talks to any of them, I’ll pay attention.

    Ted, you’ve been in charge of the shelter over 7 months and all you’ve done is tell everyone how busy you are and can’t be bothered with the shelter. The only time you comment is when people hold your feet to the fire. It only makes you tap dance faster, not make any progress!

    We had an excellent group of core volunteers who worked at that shelter for over a decade, some 5-7 days a week, every week, for years doing jobs most of the staff wouldn’t do and no one in HD cared enough to make sure they did them. It’s the volunteers who kept that place going, cleaned, shoveled, painted and landscaped while exercising and training dogs, socializing and grooming cats, meeting with prospective adopters outside their shelter hours, following up on adoptions, buying supplies and paying for them when vendors wouldn’t provide them BECAUSE THE TOWNSHIP HADN’T PAID THEIR BILLS! We also chipped in for veterinary care the town wouldn’t pay for and to get animals into sanctuaries who were scheduled to be killed when we all knew they were adoptable. It cost us money to volunteer and we didn’t care!

    We not only held fundraisers we provided gifts for tricky trays, then bought our own tickets for the events and donated MORE money during the event. We spent hours and hours taking pictures and writing bios for Petfinder. We spent countless hours calling and emailing sanctuaries and other rescues to take animals slated to be killed. We cried, we sweat, we bled…we were DEDICATED to that shelter and the animals and toiled for NO pay and even less respect.

    So, what do you do with a group like ours? Dedicated with a proven track record of over a decade? Why, you FIRE them, of course! Then you blame THEM for everything that was wrong at the shelter! Isn’t that the sign of great leaders? Blame the staff? The UNPAID staff at that? Karen Lore? F. Michael Fitzpatrick, the 4 incompetent, unqualified and inexperienced “managers” hired in place of two wonderful, seasoned ACOs? And now Ted is TOO busy to worry about those homeless animals. Hell, no one wants them and they’re expendable, right? WRONG!

  3. Ehrenburg admitted that although there is NO VOLUNTEER PROGRAM to socialize and assist the animals – that he has let Volunteers in to the shelter TO RAISE MONEY ~~ he does not know who they are (he says) ~~ he cannot provide a list (he says) ~~ he does NOT KNOW WHERE THE MONIES THEY ARE RAISING IS GOING- what is being done with it. He claims that these un-named people are forming a 501(c)3.

    No Volunteers at the shelter to care for the animals needs. 3-5 minutes “walks” for dogs and no playtime to socialize cats. AND we have reports that the shelter stinks- so it looks like NO TIME to clean CAT LITTER pans or to hose down the kennels and keep the dogs in sanitary condition.

    Bloomfield’s town council need to take an unannounced tour of the facility to see the conditions.

  4. Seriously? He expects us to believe he doesn’t know who’s working in the shelter when all along he’s been citing township liability as one of the reasons there are no vols at the shelter? Right. He must think we’re all idiots. “They” are Danise “Bonnie” Taboadella and her girl gang and he damned well knows it. What a yutz.

  5. 1-Does anyone know if Ray has a stake or relationship with the developer of the Scientific Glass property? He is a real estate appraiser by profession.
    2-Joanow is correct in commenting about the need to add spaces that are for community use and enjoyment. Under Ray’s charge we will go from approximately 97% developed to over 100%. There is no room for more parks, etc. due to his “vision.”
    3-Peggy O’Boyle has missed her share of meetings for one reason or another (legitimate or not), and is clueless about the needs of the township. Questioning Joanow about his desire for a legacy is ridiculous. It’s the O’Boyle name that is all over town, not Joanow.
    4-Bernard Hamilton will do whatever Ray says, he can’t think for himself.

    I wonder how long it will be until Ray puts his house on the market now that he is no longer in office.

  6. Regarding development in town – one large property still remains undeveloped: the former Westinghouse site. Perhaps it would be possible to put a community center/pool/soccer field complex there if it is approved for development. I believe the DEP still needs to OK it due to groundwater contamination if I am not mistaken.

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