The Bloomfield mayor and council passed an ordinance Monday evening appropriating $10.5 million, including $9.975m in bonds, to fund the purchase of the former Scientific Glass site on Lion Gate Drive.
The township had previously passed the bond ordinance in August of 2014, allowing the town to move forward with the purchase of the land in order to preserve it as open space. The purchase was completed in February of 2015. The site had originally been owned by a developer who intended to build 104 town houses on the property.
Shortly after the 2014 vote, four Bloomfield residents (former Mayor Raymond McCarthy, former mayoral candidate Russell Mollica, James Wollner and Chris Stanziale) filed a lawsuit alleging that Councilman Nick Joanow, whose property borders the Scientific Glass site, had a conflict of interest by participating in the vote on the bond ordinance.
The Superior Court sided with the township, ruling on November 3, 2014 that there was no conflict of interest. However, on appeal, a three-judge panel reversed the original decision on October 17, 2016, ruling that Joanow did have a conflict of interest, given that the disposition of the land bordering his property could affect his property values. The Appellate Court’s decision indicated that “…in the event the Council seeks to reintroduce the Ordinance, it must do so in a manner that comports with the OPMA [Open Public Meetings Act] and does not involve Council member Joanow in the deliberative or voting process.”
To address the conflict of interest, the mayor and council moved ahead to repeat the vote on the bond ordinance. Monday night was the second reading of the ordinance, which passed on first reading at the last regular council meeting. Township Attorney Michael Parlavecchio stated for the record that Councilman Joanow left the room prior to the discussion of the ordinance.
Before the vote, Russell Mollica spoke briefly, congratulating the mayor and two of the council members on their recent re-election. He then went on to say that the lawsuit regarding the Lion Gate purchase was “a matter of ethics and honesty,” adding, “That’s what it was all about.” Several others spoke in support of the township’s acquisition of the Lion Gate property. Susan Hebert discussed the 16-year effort to preserve the open space at Lion Gate Drive in order to prevent flooding throughout the area. Ann Hardy stated, “It is a fundamental tenet of urban planning that for every development there should be a corresponding open space component.” Heather Nolen also stated her support for environmental goals such as the purchase of open space.
The ordinance passed unanimously by a vote of 5-0, to applause from the audience. Councilman Joseph Lopez was absent.
The council passed a resolution designating a joint venture of KRE Group and JMF Property Group as the conditional redeveloper for Block 227, Block 26, which fronts on Bloomfield Avenue and extends back to Farrand Street.
They also voted to appoint a Treasurer (John Ditinyak) and a Comptroller (Carmine Sarno), reporting to Finance Director Robert Renna. Both are Bloomfield residents. Township Administrator Matt Watkins spoke about the appointments, thanking the mayor and council for recognizing the need for additional staff to assist the Finance Director. He stated that financial record-keeping would be improved as a result.
The council voted to approve the promotion of two police sergeants to the level of lieutenant (Sergeant Edward Proskey and Sergeant Nicholas Polidoro) and ten police officers to the level of sergeants (Police Officers Mark Moskal, Ian Brundage, Jannor Navarro, Michael Rooney, Devin Lopez, Luca Piscitelli, Anthony Cruz, Michael Menzel, Anthony Litterio and Daniel Niekrasz).
They also voted to renew the township’s membership in the Garden State Municipal Joint Insurance Fund.
Suburban Disposal, Inc. was awarded a contract for solid waste disposal.
During the conference meeting that preceded the regular council meeting, the council voted to fund a Trap-Neuter-Vaccinate-Release (TNVR) program for feral and community cats, which will begin in January.
The next meeting will be the 2017 Reorganization Meeting, to be held on January 5, 2017, at 6 p.m. at the Bloomfield Middle School.