A resolution that passed Thursday changes ownership of the company designated for the city's largest project, but alters nothing about its design, scope or promised contribution to the community.
Sleepy Hollow Developers Urban Renewal LLC plans to acquire and clear 11 properties to make way for 212 apartments on South Avenue with many amenities, including a fitness center, indoor and outdoor fireplaces and a meditation room. The project is expected to create jobs for city residents and work for minority tradespeople. In addition, Sleepy Hollow Developers promise $10,000 annually for events in nearby Plainwood Square Park, as well as year-round maintenance of the park.
The City Council passed the resolution in a one-item special meeting held at the Senior Center. The resolution changes ownership to 25 percent for JMF Plainfield LLC, controlled by Joseph Forgione; 25 percent for Gladstone Plainfield LLC, controlled by Steve Kalafer; and 50 percent for Sleepy Hollow Fidelco LLC, controlled by Marc Berson.
The approval is subject to conditions that include JMF Properties LLC remaining as redeveloper manager and guarantor of the redevelopment agreement. In addition, each new owner will be asked to submit additional documentation and financial details.
In public comment, blogger Dan Damon asked why the resolution required a special meeting when the council will meet on Monday. Carlos Sanchez, the city's deputy city administrator for economic development, said the redeveloper expects to be closing May 13 on the 11 properties that make up the site. The item could not be added to Monday's meeting packet and the council will not meet again until mid-June.
Sanchez said the approval will allow the developer to begin closing on the properties and move on to the demolition stage to clear the site.
See details of the South Avenue project here.
The special meeting Thursday had been advertised only on Tuesday. Initially the council was scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. for another special meeting to adopt the 2016 budget that had been amended in a special meeting Monday.
Chairwoman of the Whole Gloria Taylor was absent Thursday, which meant the council had to choose a temporary chair. Barry Goode was nominated, but the vote failed 3-1-1, with Goode, Rebecca Williams and Council President Cory Storch voting "yes," Bridget Rivers voting "no" on speakerphone and Diane Toliver abstaining. Next, Toliver was nominated to be temporary chair and Rivers quickly seconded the motion, but Toliver declined. Williams was then chosen 4-1, with Rivers voting "no." Tracey Brown arrived in time for the budget vote.
The $79.4 million budget passed unanimously, with amendments that included increasing the seven-member council's salary line from $63,000, or $9,000 yearly per person, to $69,200. Each member formerly received $10,000 per year until the council voluntarily took a cut during hard times about eight years ago. (More later on the budget.)
The council had to wait about 20 minutes to start the special meeting on changing the redeveloper ownership, because that meeting had been advertised to start at 7:30 p.m. It was over in about 10 minutes.
The council next meets at 8 p.m. Monday in Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave. The agenda includes second reading and final passage of amendments to the dog-tethering ordinance that was passed in March 2015.