The 500-unit luxury rental development planned for 100 Park Place Drive by Hartz Mountain Industries has raised concerns among residents about overpopulation, crowded schools, overdevelopment, and the fact that certain developments in town seem isolated.
The proposed development will be constructed on a 13.64 acre tract of land located in Harmon Meadow across from Sam’s Club and Walmart. The current property is occupied by ORICA Rug, a commercial business.
The new development – which needs approval from the state Meadowlands Commission – would be built in phases over the next five to seven years.
It comes on the heels of Roseland Properties’ new 116-unit Osprey Cove development on Meadowlands Parkway, which opened in June. And it will compete with rental units available at Xchange Place by Secaucus Junction as the developer opens its fourth phase of units, including hundreds of apartments. Xchange Place is currently renting out the 317 new units that became available in April.
“You are assuming that people are coming to one-bedrooms without any children.” – Mary Ann Weiner
The new developments also continue to change the face of Secaucus as the developments attract working professionals who commute to New York City and haven’t necessarily spent years in the town, like some of the proud natives.
The newest development proposal was made public two weeks ago when the local school board and mayor and council approved developer impact fees that will help build a new middle school and purchase two buses.
Local officials had negotiated a deal with Hartz Mountain securing approximately $1.4 million in impact fees. The developer will provide $3,200 per market-rate unit to the municipality upon the issuance of a certificate of occupancy. The money will be split three ways between the county, municipality, and the school district.
The deal helps the developer assure support from the town when they seek approvals from the Meadowlands Commission.
But residents recently voiced their concerns on an online blog esecaucus.com, to which the mayor responded with an extensive written statement.
A commenter on the blog under the alias of Sabrina said, “Let’s not over populate this town…..please think of quality of life for current residents and not just money.”
Another commenter, “Itsjustme,” wrote, “How can you more or less maintain continuity as a town and community when there are relatively isolated condo developments in what is not even a residential zone?”
Gonnelli responded on the same site: “Rather than spending untold amounts of taxpayer’s money on lawyers to fight a fight that in all probability we would lose, much like when the Town lost the fight against Allied Junction, we instead tried to negotiate the best outcome for this project.”
Gonnelli said he believes the project will get Meadowlands Commission approval, with or without the town’s help.
The four-phase project will include approximately 120 units per building including a number of affordable housing units in compliance with the state Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) regulations. The developer projects that the residential development will generate approximately 17 children from the market-rate units and 46 children from the affordable units for a total of 63 children.
Hartz Mountain had asked the town for a decision at their June caucus meeting. The town would not proceed in approving the impact fees without meeting with the school board members first. The mayor and council asked for a week delay to meet with the school board and get their approval.
“We told Hartz that our number one concern was children,” said Gonnelli to the school board during a special meeting held July 3. “Absolutely no three-bedroom market rate units.”
The developer agreed to limit the number of two and three bedroom units, guaranteeing that 55 percent of the units will be studio and one-bedroom units, and approximately 45 percent will be two bedroom units exclusive of the bedroom distributions required by COAH. The proposed breakdown includes 244 studio/one-bedroom units, 236 two-bedroom units, and 20 three-bedroom units.
“You are assuming that people are coming to one-bedrooms without any children, but it would be discriminatory on our part and kind of naïve that in today’s market people aren’t going to come in there like a mother and a daughter,” said school board member Mary Ann Weiner during the meeting.
Gonnelli responded by referencing the impact study, which indicates a total of 63 children.
Hartz Mountain was not available for comment last week to discuss the details in the impact study.
School board member Dora Marra said she wanted to know more about the project and what kind of impact it would have on traffic. She left the meeting because she said she did not have enough information to make an informed decision.
“When things are rushed, mistakes happen,” said Marra.
In an effort to include all board members in the discussion, the school board had member Robert Anderson phone in from a golf course and Gary Riebesell phone in from work. Superintendent of Schools Cynthia Randina was not included in the meeting.
The eight board members present all voted in support of the agreement.
Adriana Rambay Fernández may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.