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30 SAVING VILLA MARIA Status Report – September 2008 Villa Maria

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30 SAVING VILLA MARIA Status Report – September 2008 Villa Maria Powered By Docstoc
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                                   SAVING VILLA MARIA

                           Status Report – September 2008




This document was prepared by Katherine Watt, co-founder of North Plainfield Citizens for Community Rights, and Blog Editor for Grassroots
Groundswell (www.npccr.org), based on information and documents gathered by NPCCR volunteers between May 2007 and September 2008.
Please send corrections, clarifications, additions, etc, to communityrights@gmail.com or call 814-237-0996.
                                                                                                                                             2




Villa Maria Fact Sheet: Last updated 9/18/08
Related Fact Sheets – Flooding, Environmental Issues

Table of Contents:

3           General Facts
4           Zoning
9           Property Taxation
10          Ecology
11          DEP - Bureau of Land Use Regulation Includes Stormwater Regulation
12          DEP – Dam Safety and Flood Control – National Flood Insurance Program
13          Other relevant agencies
13          DEP – Green Acres Program - Open Space Deficit
14          DEP Public Hearings
14          Possible Endangered Species
14          DEP – Hazardous Waste
15          Historic Preservation
18          Key Local Boards, Commissions and Officials
19          Applicable Local Ordinances and State Statutes
20          Community Impact
22          Self-Governance Ordinance
23          Local Self-Governance & Preemptive Municipal Gag Orders
25          Access to Public Records
25          Source Documents
26          Miscellaneous - Permit Extension Act
26          Contact Information




This document was prepared by Katherine Watt, co-founder of North Plainfield Citizens for Community Rights, and Blog Editor for Grassroots
Groundswell (www.npccr.org), based on information and documents gathered by NPCCR volunteers between May 2007 and September 2008.
Please send corrections, clarifications, additions, etc, to communityrights@gmail.com or call 814-237-0996.
                                                                                                                                             3



GENERAL FACTS

         Site Location – “Villa Maria,” Block 110 Lot 2, North Plainfield, Somerset County, NJ.
          Address – 641 Somerset Street. Borders municipalities Watchung and Green Brook. Falls
          within Metropolitan Planning Area 1 (“Areas for Growth”) in the NJ Division of
          Community Affairs Office of Smart Growth NJ State Development and Redevelopment
          Plan.

         Ownership - Prior owner – Congregation of the Servants of the Holy Child Jesus of the
          Third Order. Current owner/developer - Robert McNerney, CEO of Watchung Hills at
          North Plainfield, LLC. Owner as of 3/31/08; purchase price $3.93 million. Address PO
          Box 67, Glen Rock, NJ 07452

         Size – Approximately 17-acre property, heavily wooded in portions, home to Landmark
          Eastern White Pine, includes banks of Stony Brook.

         Geography & Topography – The parcel has a 30% slope; erosion could cause
          considerable damage to the surrounding brook and downstream areas. Stony Brook runs
          through part of the site, and feeds the Green Brook, which floods many North Plainfield
          properties; North Plainfield has a very flat topographical profile. The parcel is part of the
          Watchung Mountain fault zone.

         Flood Zone – The area is part of the Raritan River watershed and the Green Brook Flood
          Control Project area. Green Brook Flood Control Commission notified of the situation
          verbally and in writing Summer 2008. As of Sept. 2008, no response. FEMA (Federal
          Emergency Management Agency) Status - Half of North Plainfield is in a flood zone.
          Recently, the FEMA maps changed (expanded) due to intensified runoff from Watching
          Square Shopping Mall. All the building requirements for the mall were met, yet the
          FEMA maps changed drastically and many homes have been affected by flooding. A
          North Plainfield resident in the flood plain recently had his flood insurance rates double
          in cost due to this change. As of Sept. 2008, further resident investigations ongoing.

         Ecology/Biology - The parcel has about 500 large, mature trees with deep roots, some up
          to two centuries old. The parcel is the site of a state Champion Eastern White Pine (Pinus
          Strobus) The North Plainfield Shade Tree Advisory Board has information about other
          unique types of trees on that property e.g Bristlecone Pine (Pinus Aristata) and has done
          a cursory inventory of the plantings and native trees. Those trees help absorb stormwater
          and help prevent the brook from overflowing. [See below for more detail.]

         Borough Demographics – The parcel is the last parcel of open space in small, densely-
          populated borough, three square miles inhabited by more than 7,000 people per square
          mile. Rush hour commuter traffic on nearby Interhaven Avenue, Somerset Street and
          Watchung Avenue is heavy. School system is at or near capacity. Volunteer rescue squad
This document was prepared by Katherine Watt, co-founder of North Plainfield Citizens for Community Rights, and Blog Editor for Grassroots
Groundswell (www.npccr.org), based on information and documents gathered by NPCCR volunteers between May 2007 and September 2008.
Please send corrections, clarifications, additions, etc, to communityrights@gmail.com or call 814-237-0996.
                                                                                                                                             4



          is chronically underfunded and overstretched. Police enforcement of traffic laws and
          zoning enforcement of property maintenance, litter laws is lax.

         Tax Status – Property was tax-exempt through January 2007, although charitable activity
          ceased in 2001/2002. Clarifying documentation sought, not yet obtained. [See below for
          more detail.]

         McNerney’s development plans – Build 225 age-restricted condo (ARC) units
          (Planning Board approved this plan in August 2007. Trial court invalidated ARC
          ordinance Sept. 2007. Borough appealed trial court decision on behalf of developer.
          Appeal currently pending in NJ Appellate Division)…OR… Build up to 55 single family
          homes under regular R-2 zoning, current application before Planning Board, first hearing
          to be held Sept. 10 2008, second hearing to be held Sept. 24, 2008.

          Antoinette Rinehart reported (Summer 2008):

                     [At] Borough Hall, I viewed the new application of Watchung Hills at North
                     Plainfield. As best I can tell, they have designed 48 single-family stand-alone, 2-
                     1/2 story homes; each containing three bedrooms, an office (could be used as
                     another bedroom), two baths, one half-bath. Livable space averages 2,800 ft. on
                     lots 50 ft. wide (depth varies) with a 30 ft. "front yard". All these positioned on a
                     "horseshoe drive" entrancing and exiting onto Interhaven Avenue. No indication
                     if these are pre-fabs but I would make a guess. On the corner of Wilson and
                     Ridge Avenues there are two prefabs that have been built since March 2008 and
                     are described pretty much per the proposed home plan submitted by Watchung
                     Hills…on the market for $439,000 and $489,000 respectively. I anticipate the
                     houses on the Villa site will be similar and priced much the same.

         Public’s Interest - More than 600 people in North Plainfield do not want to see that
          property built on, are concerned about negative environmental, flood, school, tax, quality
          of life and traffic impacts, and believe this property should remain untouched or buildings
          should be renovated on interior for residential or commercial use. (Summer 2007 petition
          signatories).

ZONING

         1938/1939 – German nuns affiliated with the Franciscan Servants of the Holy Child Jesus
          purchase 17-acre property for $18,000. As religious organization, they paid no taxes for
          entire period of use as residential nursing facility (1938-2002) and thereafter (2003-
          2008).

         2002 – Villa Maria nursing home closed. Zoning at the time R-2 single-family residential
          development.
This document was prepared by Katherine Watt, co-founder of North Plainfield Citizens for Community Rights, and Blog Editor for Grassroots
Groundswell (www.npccr.org), based on information and documents gathered by NPCCR volunteers between May 2007 and September 2008.
Please send corrections, clarifications, additions, etc, to communityrights@gmail.com or call 814-237-0996.
                                                                                                                                             5



         April 2003 - Borough commissioned two appraisals of the property (assessed at
          $6,119,000). Dickenson & McCormick peg value at $4,250,000. FJB Co. Inc. pegs value
          at $7,950,000. Neither appraisal firm was granted access to interior of buildings.
          Findings/documents not made available to public until Summer/Fall 2007.

         May/June 2003 – Councilwoman Heather DeGeorge proposed that Borough Council
          add age-restriction to single-family zoning for parcel.

         Sept. 2003 – Attorneys for Villa Maria nuns draft ordinance to convert zoning from R-2
          single family residential (permitting 75 to 80 homes) to R-2/high-density, permitting up
          to 360 age restricted condominiums on properties at least 12 acres in size. Villa Maria is
          the only parcel in town that large and the last remaining parcel of open space. Residents
          argue town should buy the land for open space. Town Council members say “the property
          was never for sale to the borough.” The proposed ordinance fails to pass. Documents
          related to these legal negotiations for drafting of ordinance sought via OPRA May – Sept.
          2007. Requests denied. Government Records Council appeal filed. As of Sept. 2008,
          decision pending.

         May 2, 2005 – Rezoning issue brought up again, with a proposal to change all areas in
          the borough zoned residential R-2 to R-2/age restricted, allowing age-restricted housing
          to be built on tracts of at least 12 acres, including about 250 units at Villa Maria. (“Spot
          zoning” in developers’ favor, since Villa Maria is the only parcel that size.) Public
          hearing attended by 150-200 residents, mostly opposed to development. Borough
          Attorney Eric Bernstein seen conducting private meeting in the hall with Villa Maria
          developer counsel. Hearing & vote then postponed due to inadequate notice to Green
          Brook residents.

         May 8, 2005 – Resident Antoinette Rinehart reports rumor that developers offered $14-
          $17 million for the site.

         May 18, 2005 – Paul. S. Kueter (Green Brook resident within 200’ of proposed
          development) sends letter to Courier-News, refers to Villa Maria as “an enclave of repose
          and grace in a town not noted for such attributes” and highlights a 1974 project by
          Summit citizens to preserve 12.5 acres there, now known as the Arboretum.

         July 18, 2005 – Courier-News article on overall plans for town, including Villa Maria,
          reports that owners have been denied rezoning, notes resident desire that it be open space.
          Open space “not feasible,” according to Mayor Janice Allen. Council Chair Nathan
          Rudy notes that the nuns insist on working only with Town & Country Developers of
          Woodcliff Lake, C.E.O. James J. Bovino.

         Oct. 8, 2005 – Courier-News announces a public hearing Oct. 17 at West End Elementary
          School where officials will discuss the latest rezoning plan for the 17-acre senior-care
          center site. Article reports the zoning plan is the third in recent years, and would create a
This document was prepared by Katherine Watt, co-founder of North Plainfield Citizens for Community Rights, and Blog Editor for Grassroots
Groundswell (www.npccr.org), based on information and documents gathered by NPCCR volunteers between May 2007 and September 2008.
Please send corrections, clarifications, additions, etc, to communityrights@gmail.com or call 814-237-0996.
                                                                                                                                             6



          new R-9 zoning designation to permit construction of up to 285 age-restricted residential
          units on the site. Even supporters of the zoning change seem reluctant, describing it as the
          best option available to limit schoolchildren, traffic, ecological damage, since nuns do not
          want to help the town use the land for open space or community purposes. Opponents
          continue to argue that impact studies for traffic and flooding have been inadequate, and
          see no reason for the town to change ordinances to benefit the nun’s profit margin.

         Oct. 17, 2005 – Proposed R-9 zoning change fails at Borough Council. More than 100
          residents attend; all but one speaker express either disbelief or anger about the zoning
          change. After the vote, opponents of development are hopeful that vote will spur
          exploration of open space option. Supporters of the ordinance are worried about
          uncontrolled single-family development, adding 140-160 children to the school rosters,
          and argue that the age-restricted condo community could bring nearly $1 million in tax
          revenue. The vote on the six-member council (reduced from usual seven members by a
          resignation) was 4-2, and because of a technical quirk requiring a two-thirds majority, the
          plan fell short by one vote.

         Oct. 21, 2005 - Courier-News reports the 4-2 vote on the Borough Council may have
          been a 2/3 majority or “yes” vote after all. Matthew O’Donnell, attorney for the Servants
          of the Holy Child Jesus, states that if the measure failed, he would take the matter to
          court. Borough Attorney Eric Bernstein says issue is “open” and four votes may have
          been sufficient, even though there are two unusual factors at play. A state land-use law
          requires that when at least 20 percent of the people who own property within 200 feet of
          an area to be rezoned oppose the change, a two-thirds majority is needed for approval. A
          resident petition was presented to the borough Monday morning, and officials were
          checking to see whether it had the required number of valid signatures. The second issue
          is what constitutes a two-thirds majority on a seven-member council with only six
          members due to a vacancy. Several people, including Republican Council Member
          Margaret Mary Jones, have suggested that the value of the land is less than $1 million,
          putting it within reach of a public purchase. But O’Donnell said the property was
          appraised at $8 million to $10 million several years ago, and is worth even more today.

         Nov. 14, 2005 – Borough Council accepts the opinion of Borough Attorney Eric
          Bernstein that the 4-2 vote constituted a 2/3 majority sufficient to override a valid
          citizens’ petition against the zoning change, and that the zoning ordinance had therefore
          passed October 17.

         Jan. 9, 2006 - Borough Council forced to table a proposal to scale back potential
          development to a maximum of 225 units, when officials from neighboring Green Brook
          point out they haven’t been properly notified of the plan because of a clerical error- they
          were sent copies of the earlier zoning ordinance. About 60 residents attend this public
          hearing, again, mostly opposed to development. Bill Campbell, a Green Brook resident
          who lives near Villa Maria, reports he’s filed a challenge in NJ Superior Court (Docket
          No. SOM-L-1784-05). Council will have to renotify all Villa Maria’s neighbors, begin
This document was prepared by Katherine Watt, co-founder of North Plainfield Citizens for Community Rights, and Blog Editor for Grassroots
Groundswell (www.npccr.org), based on information and documents gathered by NPCCR volunteers between May 2007 and September 2008.
Please send corrections, clarifications, additions, etc, to communityrights@gmail.com or call 814-237-0996.
                                                                                                                                             7



          the amendment process anew and schedule a new public hearing on a scaled-back
          development plan.

         March 13, 2006 – Borough Council members vote 6-0 to pass amendments to zoning
          change to reduce the scope of the potential development on the site from 280 to 225
          units. Amendments also include increases in building setbacks and a height cap of 45 feet
          for structures, and allow access to the property from Somerset Street. More than 60
          residents attend the meeting, all who speak criticize the development, and castigate the
          council for not curbing the size further; for not responding directly to their questions; and
          for not demonstrating how the new development will benefit the borough. (Source:
          Transcript of Hearing)

         April 11, 2006 – Courier-News reports four Democrats enter primary for Borough
          Council to challenge the official Democratic Party slate. All four live near Villa Maria
          and oppose development.

         June 2006 - Incumbents defeat challengers in the primary.

         April 2007 – Somerset County trial court releases decision in William M. Campbell v.
          Borough of North Plainfield, Docket No SOM-L-1784-05. The Court said 4-2 does not
          constitute a supermajority. Other court cases are pending. Judge Victor Ashrafi writes:

                     “This decision addresses only the precise legal issue that defendants have raised
                     in support of their motion for summary judgment – whether a 4-2 vote constitutes
                     a 2/3 enhanced majority when there is a vacancy on a seven-member municipal
                     council. The answer to that question is no, five votes are needed. What a
                     governing body cannot do when it is full, that is, make a zoning change with only
                     four votes, it cannot do because of a fortuitous vacancy. The defendants’ motion
                     as to adequacy of four affirmative votes is denied.”

         May 9, 2007 - Attorney and civil engineer for McNerney, land developer under contract
          with nuns to purchase Villa Maria land, appear before North Plainfield Planning Board
          (Chair Tom Fagan) to present architectural plans for The Watchung Hills at North
          Plainfield, a complex containing nine condominium buildings, seeking preliminary and
          final approval to build. Planning Board calls for additional hearings on June 13 and June
          27 to continue plan review.

         May 29, 2007 – North Plainfield resident Katherine Watt prepares and presents
          alternative proposal for Villa Maria to Borough Council and Planning Board, verbally
          and in writing. Within a few weeks, founders of the future North Plainfield Citizens for
          Community Rights establish general framework for organizing strategy. (See Self
          Governance Ordinance section, below.) To date, no response from Borough Council or
          Planning Board.

This document was prepared by Katherine Watt, co-founder of North Plainfield Citizens for Community Rights, and Blog Editor for Grassroots
Groundswell (www.npccr.org), based on information and documents gathered by NPCCR volunteers between May 2007 and September 2008.
Please send corrections, clarifications, additions, etc, to communityrights@gmail.com or call 814-237-0996.
                                                                                                                                             8



         June 13, 2007 - Attorney and architect present Planning Board with drawings of proposed
          condominium buildings.

         June 27, 2007 - Planning Board postpones testimony of the developers’ traffic expert and
          the Planning Board’s consultant traffic expert until July 18 due to a miscommunication
          about the date of the June 27 hearing.

         July 18, 2007 - Planning Board hearing on traffic issues. Developer presents data, arguing
          that 225 condos will not significantly increase neighborhood traffic, and that since
          Interhaven/Somerset intersection already graded “F” by NJ Department of
          Transportation, no worsening of the situation is possible. Citizens publicly challenge
          accuracy of data and logic of arguments.

         July 25, 2007 – Dozens of residents publicly and passionately object to development
          plan. Planning Board unanimously approves developer’s application.

         September 10, 2007 - In Campbell case, Judge Ashrafi denies defendant’s argument that
          a March 2006 vote on a new ARC-amending ordinance (06-01) constituted a complete
          readoption: Ashrafi writes:

                     “No one on the Borough Council indicated a belief that the Council was voting
                     again on the entirety of the zoning change. The court cannot allow ordinance 06-
                     01 to stand and effect the re-zoning of the Villa Maria property because five
                     members of the Borough Council have never voted in favor of the re-zoning
                     provisions…Because ordinance 06-01 is dependent on the validity of ordinance
                     05-22, it too must be nullified until the proper number of Borough Council
                     members vote in favor of the zoning change.”

         September 24, 2007 - Mayor and Council place the identical ARC ordinance back on the
          agenda for readoption. Borough residents show up again to publicly object. Borough
          Council removes item from agenda and offers to meet with NPCCR reps to discuss Villa
          Maria planning. Meeting never takes place, because Borough officials demand a closed
          meeting with no more than four NPCCR reps, and NPCCR insists on a public meeting
          open to all residents interested in participating and/or witnessing the discussion.

         October 1, 2007 - Borough Attorney Eric Bernstein, at Mayor Janice Allen’s direction,
          files appeal in Campbell case, seeking to have Judge Ashrafi’s decisions overturned by
          Appellate Division. Case still pending as of September 2008.

         April 2008 - Robert McNerney, real estate developer, purchases the Villa Maria from
          the nuns for $3.93 million and begins filing paperwork with the Department of
          Environmental Protection for Letter of Interpretation (LOI) seeking DEP consent to
          demolition, deforestation and building on the site.

This document was prepared by Katherine Watt, co-founder of North Plainfield Citizens for Community Rights, and Blog Editor for Grassroots
Groundswell (www.npccr.org), based on information and documents gathered by NPCCR volunteers between May 2007 and September 2008.
Please send corrections, clarifications, additions, etc, to communityrights@gmail.com or call 814-237-0996.
                                                                                                                                             9



         July 23, 2008 – McNerney’s attorney makes preliminary presentation for plan to build up
          to 55 single-family homes at the site. Planning Board schedules first hearing for
          September 10, 2008. Public forbidden to speak at July 23 meeting. Public will have right
          to cross-examine developers’ witnesses at Sept. 10 meeting. Next hearing scheduled for
          Sept. 24.

         HYPOTHESIS - Attorneys for real estate developers drafted the 2005 Age-Restricted
          Condominium ordinance with Borough officials, behind closed doors without proper
          citizen oversight or input, to pave the way for Villa Maria development. Since October
          2007, Borough officials have been fighting to keep documents and records surrounding
          the drafting of the ARC ordinance away from members of the public seeking to review
          those materials.

PROPERTY TAXATION

         2001/2002 – Nuns close facility and move to Yardville PA, leaving property vacant
          except for caretaker in house on corner of Grove and Interhaven.

         FY 2003 and FY 2003 – Nuns fail to file proper nonprofit annual report paperwork with
          NJ Department of Revenue. (Last annual report filed for FY2002 on January 2, 2003).

         Jan. 16, 2005 – Department of Revenue revokes Villa Maria’s nonprofit status.

         FY-2006 – In federal filings with the Internal Revenue Service for FY 2006, nuns claim
          that the principle activities at the site (by then, long since vacant) was “special school for
          the blind, handicapped, etc.” followed by “hospital,” followed by “publishing activities?”
          In same filing, nuns claim that their assets totalled $28,977, at a time when the buildings
          and land were assessed at $6,119,500. In the same filing, nuns claim income of $208,378,
          source unknown.

         Case for placing a lien on the property for five years of tax delinquency, estimated as
          follows (assuming that, like the rest of local properties, Villa Maria has not been
          reassessed in recent years and the land and improvements have been assessed at
          $6,119,500 for all five years):

                     2003 - Tax rate 3.920. Tax: $239,884.40
                     2004 - Tax rate 4.30. Tax: $263,138.50
                     2005 - Tax rate 4.820 Tax: $294,959.90
                     2006 - Tax rate 5.170 Tax: $316,378.15
                     2007 - Tax rate 5.520. Tax: $337,796.40
                     GRAND TOTAL:                        $1,452,157.40

         June 2007 – McCutchen Home – the Borough’s other nursing home, closes its doors.
          Unconfirmed rumor is that property taxes were assessed starting within a few days of the
This document was prepared by Katherine Watt, co-founder of North Plainfield Citizens for Community Rights, and Blog Editor for Grassroots
Groundswell (www.npccr.org), based on information and documents gathered by NPCCR volunteers between May 2007 and September 2008.
Please send corrections, clarifications, additions, etc, to communityrights@gmail.com or call 814-237-0996.
                                                                                                                                        10



          last patient vacating the last bed in the facility. Documents needed to support or refute;
          requested, not provided by Tax Collector’s Office.

         Sept./Oct. 2007 – Borough attempts to collect approximately $337,800 (taxes for 2007).
          Borough Tax Collector Catherine Park repeatedly sends bill to nuns at Villa Maria
          address, knowing that nuns live in Yardville and are represented by attorneys in
          Morristown. Bills repeatedly sent back as “undeliverable.” Document requests under
          OPRA denied by Borough Clerk on behalf of Tax Collector.

         Nov./Dec. 2007 – Tax bills finally sent to appropriate address. Nuns’ attorney Matthew
          O’Donnell appeals to Somerset County Board of Taxation, alleging “charitable”
          exemption still in force. Somerset County Board of Taxation rules in favor of nuns,
          against Borough.

         Jan./Feb. 2008 - Borough appeals ruling to Somerset County Superior Court - Tax
          Division. As of Sept. 2008, no Tax Division ruling yet. Copies of Borough appeal sought,
          not yet obtained.

         As of Sept. 2008, no Borough official has spoken publicly about this issue, despite
          numerous public requests for information and status updates.

         HYPOTHESIS - Borough officials made improper, possibly unlawful deal with
          developer to waive taxes to facilitate development, applying laws differently to VM and
          McCutchen, costing Borough millions in tax revenue.

ECOLOGY

         Geography & Topography – The parcel has a 30% slope; erosion could cause
          considerable damage to the surrounding brook and downstream areas. Stony Brook runs
          through part of the site, and feeds the Green Brook, which floods many North Plainfield
          properties; North Plainfield has a very flat topographical profile. The parcel is part of the
          Watchung Mountain fault zone.

         Ecology/Biology - The parcel has about 500 large, mature trees with deep roots, some up
          to two centuries old. The parcel is the site of a state Champion Eastern White Pine (Pinus
          Strobus) The North Plainfield Shade Tree Advisory Board has information about other
          unique types of trees on that property e.g Bristlecone Pine (Pinus Aristata) and has done
          a cursory inventory of the plantings and native trees. Those trees help absorb stormwater
          and help prevent the brook from overflowing.


         Parcel falls under Department of Environmental Protection jurisdiction in several
          divisions: Bureau of Land Use Regulation, including subdivisions dedicated to
This document was prepared by Katherine Watt, co-founder of North Plainfield Citizens for Community Rights, and Blog Editor for Grassroots
Groundswell (www.npccr.org), based on information and documents gathered by NPCCR volunteers between May 2007 and September 2008.
Please send corrections, clarifications, additions, etc, to communityrights@gmail.com or call 814-237-0996.
                                                                                                                                        11



          stormwater management and/or stream encroachment; Dam Safety and Flood Prevention
          Office/National Flood Insurance Program; Green Acres/open space deficit; Hazardous
          Waste; possibly endangered plant and animal species.

DEP – Bureau of Land Use Regulation (Letter of Interpretaion)

         LOI - Letter of Interpretation from NJ Department of Environmental Protection –
          McNerney’s prior LOI expired 7/14/08 and he has applied for an extension. DEP LOI
          File number 1814-03-0003.1, FWW030001.

         Understanding Letters of Interpretation (Dwight Torlay of DEP explains):

                     “An LOI is not a permit, and doesn't give anyone permission to do any sort of
                     work on a property. It only gives information about the wetlands (or lack thereof)
                     on a site. It basically lets someone know if they need to get a [DEP] permit,
                     and/or what type of permit to apply for.” (Source: Dwight Torlay, DEP)

                     “An actual [DEP] permit application would be the real cause for concern in a
                     situation like this, should one be applied for…There are no permit applications
                     [for this site] in our database. The LOI is still under review--no recent progress.”
                     (Source: Dwight Torlay of DEP, as of July 22, 2008)

                     “No new updates in the database.” (Source: Dwight Torlay, August 12, 2008).

                     “No recent updates.” (Source: Dwight Torlay, Sept. 10, 2008)

         Numerous North Plainfield residents wrote letters in Summer 2008, urging DEP to deny
          LOI extension; conduct further environmental studies of fragile riparian site,
          comprehensive studies of this parcel, its ecosystems; consider the health and welfare of
          the citizens of North Plainfield. Residents noted that FEMA maps recently expanded due
          to increased flooding from Watchung Square Mall development; property borders Stony
          Brook (within Green Brook Flood Control Project area); property groundwater is within
          TCE-contamination plume from Watchung Square Mall project (former Lockheed
          Martin site; buildings likely contain asbestos; and several other relevant factors.

         Mark Harris of DEP Bureau of Land Use Regulation, regarding citizen requests that the
          DEP deny Robert McNerney’s application for an extension of the DEP LOI (Summer
          2008): “The LOI extension for Robert McNerney has not been issued yet. This
          application was received by our Division on April 9, 2008 and is currently under
          technical review. I am the Environmental Specialist within our Division who will be
          conducting this review. [Concerned residents] are welcome to submit a comment letter
          expressing…concerns to the following address:

This document was prepared by Katherine Watt, co-founder of North Plainfield Citizens for Community Rights, and Blog Editor for Grassroots
Groundswell (www.npccr.org), based on information and documents gathered by NPCCR volunteers between May 2007 and September 2008.
Please send corrections, clarifications, additions, etc, to communityrights@gmail.com or call 814-237-0996.
                                                                                                                                        12



                     Mark.Harris@dep.state.nj.us.
                     NJDEP, Division of Land Use Regulation
                     Attention: Somerset County Section Chief
                     P.O. Box 439
                     Trenton, New Jersey 08625

         A couple of DEP permits came up at Summer 2007 Planning Board hearings about the
          ARC development. One had to do with the bridge over Stony Brook, off of Somerset
          Street. If the traffic load were greater than what the little entry bridge can handle, and the
          developer had to remove the bridge and put up a new, bigger, stronger one (very
          expensive) then they’d need DEP permits to do that bridge replacement. Demolition and
          asbestos containment removal may also require DEP permits. There were oil tanks under
          the site, but those were apparently removed back in the 1980s and 90s. McNerney’s
          attorney Brian Chewkaskie and engineer Calisto Bertin were clearly trying to avoid the
          DEP review processes, insisting, for example, that demolition of one particular
          outbuilding was not within the flood zone, and therefore did not require DEP permits. But
          it wasn’t clear that they ever provided DEP letters to the Planning Board to confirm that
          claim. There were a lot of written letters that were listed in the Planning Board's approval
          resolution that were not yet in the PB's hands, but were required before construction
          could begin. Green Brook Borough Attorney Robert Rosignola told the Planning Board
          during the hearings that they were opening the Borough up to liability issues by not
          conducting proper oversight before granting the project approval.

DEP – Dam Safety and Flood Prevention Office - National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)
Coordinator for NJ; Green Brook Flood Control Commission; North Plainfield Flood Prevention
Ordinance.

         Flood Zone – (See “Flooding” Fact Sheet for more detail) The area is part of the
          Raritan River watershed and the Green Brook Flood Control Project area.

         FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) Status - Half of North Plainfield is in
          a flood zone. Recently, the FEMA maps changed (expanded) due to intensified runoff
          from Watching Square Shopping Mall. All the building requirements for the mall were
          met, yet the FEMA maps changed drastically and many homes have been affected by
          flooding. Tom Mullen, North Plainfield resident in the flood plain, recently had his flood
          insurance rates double in cost due to this change. FEMA flood map Community Panel
          345307 0001 B of the Borough of North Plainfield dated March 1, 1984. [Updated flood
          maps at FEMA website, current as of Sept. 28, 2007.]

         Borough residents learned in Sept. 2008 from Richard Einhorn (FEMA Mitigation
          Division) that FEMA and NFIP delegate flood prevention authority to municipality via
          the local Flood Prevention Ordinance (NPRGO Chapter 20), to be implemented by the
          Local Floodplain Administrator (Zoning Officer James Rodino)
This document was prepared by Katherine Watt, co-founder of North Plainfield Citizens for Community Rights, and Blog Editor for Grassroots
Groundswell (www.npccr.org), based on information and documents gathered by NPCCR volunteers between May 2007 and September 2008.
Please send corrections, clarifications, additions, etc, to communityrights@gmail.com or call 814-237-0996.
                                                                                                                                        13



         Mr. Rodino’s documented record of ordinance enforcement is atrocious, and he has not
          yet intervened in the Villa Maria development debates in any public forum.
OTHER RELEVANT AGENCIES

         Green Brook Flood Control Commission was notified of the situation verbally and in
          writing Summer 2008. Chair is Joe Debler. As of Sept. 2008, no response.

         DEP Liaison to Green Brook Flood Control Commission Charles Defendorf notified
          verbally and in writing of the situation, Summer 2008. Referred concerned citizens to
          Richard Reilly at DEP Bureau of Land Use Regulation. As of Sept. 2008, no further
          response.

         Somerset County Soils Conservation District Ernest Thurlow notified of the situation in
          writing, Summer 2008. As of Sept. 2008, no response.

         Somerset County Planning Director Robert Bzik notified of the situation in writing,
          Summer 2008. As of Sept. 2008, no response.


DEP-GREEN ACRES PROGRAM - OPEN SPACE DEFICIT

         Barbara Habeeb contacted Lisa Stern, Northeast Team Leader - NJ DEP Green Acres
          Program; (July 2008) to find out if there is an official "open space deficit" in the
          Borough of North Plainfield in Somerset County, and ask follow-up questions. If there is,
          what does that mean as far as North Plainfield meeting its quota? Does the state mandate
          that a borough maintain a certain % of open space? If we DO have an "open space
          deficit" will this give us any leverage?

          Lisa Stern response – “I am forwarding your inquiry to our Planning Bureau for
          response.” No further information received to date (Sept. 2008).

         Barbara Habeeb contacted ANJEC’s Michele Gaynor – regarding open space set-
          asides, North Plainfield’s ANJEC membership, and Environmental Resource Inventories.
          Michele Gaynor response: “You cannot require the developer to set aside land for open
          space. The recent court case, NJ Shore Builders Assoc. vs. Township of Jackson, struck
          down Jackson's ordinance requiring the builder to set aside a % of open space. You
          should try to negotiate with the developer first and persuade him to do some or all of
          what you are requesting. I will mail to you the open space plan and environmental
          resource inventory papers to use as reference once you start on your own. Our records
          show that North Plainfield was a member of ANJEC a few years ago but your
          commission is not currently a member. We can send out information so that you will be
          aware of our workshops and training courses in the future. Please call us with any
          questions.”
This document was prepared by Katherine Watt, co-founder of North Plainfield Citizens for Community Rights, and Blog Editor for Grassroots
Groundswell (www.npccr.org), based on information and documents gathered by NPCCR volunteers between May 2007 and September 2008.
Please send corrections, clarifications, additions, etc, to communityrights@gmail.com or call 814-237-0996.
                                                                                                                                        14




DEP – PUBLIC HEARINGS - Contact Jeff Alpert, freshwater wetlands specialist, to find out
how to schedule one. His e-mail address is jeff.alpert@dep.state.nj.us and his phone number is
(609) 777-0454 (option 1 on the menu).

POSSIBLE ENDANGERED SPECIES

         No comprehensive ecological study of the Villa Maria parcel has been done, by either
          North Plainfield Environmental Commission or DEP (See Key Local Boards and
          Commissions for more detail.)

         Barbara Habeeb contacted Conservation NJ (info@conservationnj.org) – requesting
          information about whether there are bog turtles at Villa Maria and noting that building on
          the lot could be regulated according to NJDEP, if there are bog turtles there. There are
          bog turtle populations in Watchung, just upstream from Villa Maria. Bog turtles are an
          endangered species. http://www.njfishandwildlife.com/ensp/pdf/cw4-02.pdf
          http://www.state.nj.us/dep/landuse/forms/fwwattd.pdf. No response to date.

         Barbara Habeeb contacted The Nature Conservancy – (newjersey@tnc.org) requesting
          help and information to protect Villa Maria. No response received to date.
DEP – HAZARDOUS WASTE

         Barbara Habeeb contacted Mark Souders – DEP Case Manager for TCE
          Contamination in North Plainfield (July 28) noting documented trichloroethylene
          contamination of groundwater under Villa Maria from former Lockheed Martin site
          (currently Watchung Square Mall) as described to Borough Council by Environmental
          Commission Chair Harry Allen. Ms. Habeeb asked Mr. Souders: “Will the TCE situation
          and any other hazardous conditions (i.e., asbestos in buildings) at Villa Maria adversely
          affect the people of North Plainfield if this ground is dug up and the buildings are
          demolished? What remediation will the builder be responsible for? Will the builder need
          to file for a permit from NJDEP in order to build? Would someone from NJDEP be able
          to investigate this property before the North Plainfield Planning Board makes any
          decisions? Will building on that flood plain create "run off" of the groundwater and carry
          the TCE further? Please keep me informed of your investigation of the Villa Maria
          property and how this will affect the builder’s application to do major construction.”

         Mark Souders responded, saying the TCE is a non-issue and would not affect digging
          and building on the property because the contaminated water is so deep underground. He
          said that three surrounding dry cleaners could potentially cause a problem (The 4 Seasons
          Dry Cleaner, GO Keller Inc., Any Garment Cleaners) He suggested suggest that since the
          Villa Maria was a sanitarium, we might be able to get it on the Historic Registry and
          referred Villa Maria preservation advocates to Bob Craig at the DEP Historic
          Preservation Office for more information..
This document was prepared by Katherine Watt, co-founder of North Plainfield Citizens for Community Rights, and Blog Editor for Grassroots
Groundswell (www.npccr.org), based on information and documents gathered by NPCCR volunteers between May 2007 and September 2008.
Please send corrections, clarifications, additions, etc, to communityrights@gmail.com or call 814-237-0996.
                                                                                                                                        15



HISTORIC PRESERVATION

               History - Lenape Indians once resided on the Villa Maria site prior to the building
                there. The buildings date back to the 1860s. Complex first operated as a tuberculosis
                sanitarium by Dr. Justus Cooley. NJ has been preserving a lot of the old sanitariums.
                Property is located near the old Watumpka Falls. The surrounding grounds are
                absolutely beautiful. The original central building has its own chapel and entry.
                Adjoining it was the nuns’ residence and a medical facility.

               Barbara contacted Bob Craig at DEP Historic Preservation Office
                (Bob.Craig@dep.state.nj.us ) requesting information about whether Villa Maria
                Sanitarium would be considered for the NJ Historic Registry. Mr. Craig responded
                said that the state could not declare Villa Maria a Historic Site because they would
                need permission from the owner. However, he said, since North Plainfield already has
                a historic preservation ordinance on the books, North Plainfield Historic Commission
                and Borough Council, in cooperation with each other, could make an addendum to
                the historic ordinance on the North Plainfield books for Washington Park, and add
                Villa Maria as an historic site. If the buildings were declared historic, it would be
                more difficult for the builder to get permission to demolish, although he could still
                utilize the building as long as he maintains the historic façade (i.e. converted to
                apartments or senior housing.) Antoinette Rinehart sent Bob Craig a DVD
                documentary on this property.

               At the Council meeting August 11, 2008, Barbara raised the subject of adding Villa
                Maria as an historic site to our existing Washington Park Historic Presrvation
                Ordinance.

               Following the meeting, Councilwoman Mary Forbes advised Councilwoman
                Barbara Habeeb as follows:
                Have you read our Historic Preservation Ordinance 22-122.34, Procedures for
                Designation of a Landmark and Additional Historic Districts?

                It specifies that the process starts with a request to the Historic Preservation
                Commission not the Council. In your presentation you gave the impression that
                property owners had no say. I am sorry if I misunderstood you but that was the real
                source of my confusion. In the ordinance (22-122.34 b) it states: "In case of district
                nomination, the interested parties shall send notice of intent to designate the historic
                district to all property owners within the district....The interested parties shall submit
                to the Planning Board a complete list of notified property owners in the district. In
                the even that fifty-one (51%) percent of the property owners object to the proposed
                district, it shall not be designated."


This document was prepared by Katherine Watt, co-founder of North Plainfield Citizens for Community Rights, and Blog Editor for Grassroots
Groundswell (www.npccr.org), based on information and documents gathered by NPCCR volunteers between May 2007 and September 2008.
Please send corrections, clarifications, additions, etc, to communityrights@gmail.com or call 814-237-0996.
                                                                                                                                        16



                Quick rundown of the process outlined (Steps that need to accomplish this according
                to 22-122.34)

                             1. Nomination of site to HPC
                             2. Review by HPC to determine if it meets National Register Standards
                             3. Approval by HPC
                             4. Referral to Planning Board
                             a. All property owners within district must be notified.
                             b. In the event that 51% of the property owners object to the proposed
                             district, it shall not be designated.
                             5. If approved by Planning Board, to Borough Council to amend and
                             supplement
                             the Borough Zoning Ordinance.

                     …It does require time to determine if the property meets the standards of the
                     National Register -- the people in Friends of Vermeule Mansion can tell you this
                     is not an easy process. It does require documentation. Not everything that is old is
                     historic.

                     One final note: 22-122.16, 22-122.17, and 22-122.18 deal with the possibility of
                     demolition. You cannot say for a fact that a building in a historic district cannot
                     be demolished.

                     Finally, in "Historic Preservaton Law" by Jerome G. Ross, distributed by the
                     Historic Preservation Office, on page 196 it states.

                     "Generally, historic preservation statutes take either of two forms: (1) regulation
                     by a historic preservation commission with the power to designate historic places
                     and prevent alteration and demolition or (2) regulation through the zoning
                     ordinance that designates and regulates historic places as part of the system of
                     land use regulation." A third hybrid form creates an advisory historic
                     preservation commission mentioned. However, according to the author this
                     involves ambiguities that (at time of writing) had to be dealt with.

                     All this may show why we need a lawyer to interpret.

         In late August, Barbara Habeeb wrote to Historic Commmission Chair CB Bowman
          outlining the status of the Villa Maria, noting her recent suggestion to the Borough
          Council that the Council add Villa Maria to our already existing Historic Ordinance, as
          suggested by Bob Craig from the NJ Historic Preservation Office at the DEP, concluding
          that the Borough Council would have to make a resolution and vote on this, and then the
          NP Historic Commission would take the next steps. Ms. Habeeb asked Ms. Bowman:
          “Would you and the NP Historic Commission be on board with this? What is the next
This document was prepared by Katherine Watt, co-founder of North Plainfield Citizens for Community Rights, and Blog Editor for Grassroots
Groundswell (www.npccr.org), based on information and documents gathered by NPCCR volunteers between May 2007 and September 2008.
Please send corrections, clarifications, additions, etc, to communityrights@gmail.com or call 814-237-0996.
                                                                                                                                        17



          step that the NP Historic Commission must take? What formal paperwork would be
          involved? Please let me know. I would love it if you could support me on this. Maybe
          you and some of the Historic Commission could even come to the next Council meeting
          … and speak about it. To date, no response received.

         Barbara Habeeb also contacted George Childley of the DEP Historic Preservation
          Office, referred by Bob Craig, asking for further assistance.

         On Sept. 13, 2008, Mr. Chidley conducted a seminar in North Plainfield for the Historic
          Commission and other interested residents (including Barbara Habeeb and Antoinette
          Rinehart). Participants learned:

                 North Plainfield’s governing body can select any property in North Plainfield
                  deemed historic – including Villa Maria – and include it in the town’s Master
                  Plan, with or without the owner’s permission;

                 the Historic Preservation section of the Master Plan needs to be written by a
                  professional planner chosen via competitive bid;

                 the current (2002) Master Plan has no comprehensive Historic Preservation
                  component;

                 once a historic site is included in our Master Plan, the governing body can include
                  it in the historic preservation ordinance along with the Washington Park
                  ordinance;

                 this will not guarantee that the buildings cannot be destroyed but it will make it
                  more difficult for the owner to demolish because he will have to go through all
                  the proper channels to get permission to do alterations or knock down; and

                 once a site is listed on the Master Plan and in the local historic preservation
                  ordinance (sometimes before) it can be considered for historic preservation grants.

    Friends of Vermeule Mansion Parallels - Early in 1995, it was announced that the
     Borough was looking into razing the Vermuele Mansion on Greenbrook Road. Throughout
     1995, there's nary a peep about ANY "concerned citizens" group related to the mansion.
     Then, early in 1996, "Friends of Vermuele" or "Save Vermuele" appeared on the scene with
     Janice Allen at the helm. What happened after that has been difficult to track down, but the
     Vermeule Mansion was spared from destruction, and Friends of Vermeule Mansion (FOVM)
     remains as a functional civic and historic preservation organization today. Its founders,
     including Mayor Janice Allen, and its members, including Councilman Robert Hitchcock,
     have thus far failed to use their experiences with Vermeule to provide public leadership on
     Villa Maria preservation.

This document was prepared by Katherine Watt, co-founder of North Plainfield Citizens for Community Rights, and Blog Editor for Grassroots
Groundswell (www.npccr.org), based on information and documents gathered by NPCCR volunteers between May 2007 and September 2008.
Please send corrections, clarifications, additions, etc, to communityrights@gmail.com or call 814-237-0996.
                                                                                                                                        18



KEY LOCAL BOARDS, COMMISSIONS, OFFICIALS

         Mayor and Borough Council have not conducted a single cost-benefit analysis to
          establish the facts about the relative taxpayer costs that will be accrued by preserving
          Villa Maria as open space or developing it into residential housing. Although they have
          made public statements suggesting “tax rateable” justify the new construction in the
          densely populated Borough, Mayor and Council have no numerical data to support their
          arguments that adding residential properties will lower or stabilize property taxes; no
          numerical data on projected local demand for senior housing, by type and quantity and no
          numerical data on projected demand for affordable housing, by type and quantity. (A
          2003 COAH lawsuit was settled, a written settlement document exists, has been
          requested and has not been produced for public review. It’s unclear what, if any,
          affordable housing COAH rules (June 2008) require the Borough to provide; past round
          rules projected a net decrease in housing in the currently overpopulated Borough over the
          next 10 to 20 years, and required only rehabilitation of existing affordable housing.)

         Borough Council illegally “rezoned” parcel for Age-Restricted Condos in October 2005.

         Over strong, well-founded and public objections of North Plainfield and nearby Green
          Brook residents, Planning Board unanimously approved developers’ age-restricted
          condominium development application July 2007.

         Application process halted by Somerset County Superior Court Judge Victor Ashrafi’s
          rulings nullifying the ARC ordinance in April and September 2007.

         Mayor ordered Borough Attorney to appeal Ashrafi ruling to Appellate Division in
          October 2007. Case pending as of Sept. 2008.

         Planning Board/Environmental Commission relationships – Municipal Land Use Law
          (NJSA 40:55D-23 and 40:56A-1) requires that a member of the Environmental
          Commission also serve as a voting member of the Planning Board. This Planning Board
          seat is vacant. When questioned, Mayor Allen stated that she serves as the EC
          representative to the Planning Board, although she is not a member of the Environmental
          Commission. When urged to appoint someone to that dual seat, Mayor Allen said she
          doesn’t appoint the Planning Board member who serves simultaneously on the
          Environmental Commission, the Planning Board does.

         Environmental Commission - Mayor’s husband (Harry Allen) chairs the Environmental
          Commission, a potential conflict of interest because the Mayor supports building on Villa
          Maria. Dr. Allen has been urged to recuse himself from Villa Maria discussions and
          decision-making, and has given no response. As of Sept. 2008, the Environmental
          Commission has never formally addressed the ecological impacts of development at Villa
          Maria. Environmental Commission has been repeatedly urged to conduct an
          Environmental Resource Inventory, which can be used to bring state laws to bear on
This document was prepared by Katherine Watt, co-founder of North Plainfield Citizens for Community Rights, and Blog Editor for Grassroots
Groundswell (www.npccr.org), based on information and documents gathered by NPCCR volunteers between May 2007 and September 2008.
Please send corrections, clarifications, additions, etc, to communityrights@gmail.com or call 814-237-0996.
                                                                                                                                        19



          conservation of fragile ecosystems, and to intervene in Villa Maria proceedings to protect
          a fragile and valuable ecosystem. Environmental Commission members have done
          neither. Mayor informed Councilwoman Barbara Habeeb that "we applied for a grant
          from ANJEC and were turned down, so we can't do an ERI." False statement – ANJEC
          provides guidance for volunteer citizens to gather, compile and document ERI properly.
          Environmental Commission has provided no leadership on this issue.

         Borough Planner Marta Lefsky – Drafted 2002 Master Plan – favorable to Villa Maria
          developers - under questionable circumstances. Unlike the 1974 Master Plan (revised
          1975, 1982, 1988 and 1996), the 2002 Master Plan which superceded entire previous plan
          set contained no data, no table of contents, no page numbers and was drafted with
          minimal (if any) public notice and input. Suggestion from Cheryl Reardon at ANJECT
          that Save Villa Maria people may want to discuss ideas with the Borough Planner,
          because in many development situations, municipal planners are speaking with the
          applicants between meetings.

         Local Floodplain Adminstrator James Rodino (Zoning Officer) has not intervened in
          any Villa Maria proceedings to assert the Borough’s flood prevention authority under the
          National Flood Insurance Program.

         School Board representatives have not intervened in any Villa Maria proceedings to
          provide information on the Borough’s capacity to absorb additional schoolchildren.

         Historic Commission representatives have not intervened in any Villa Maria
          proceedings to provide information on the historic nature and value of the Villa Maria
          site, and its historic importance to the local community.

         Hypothesis - Mayor, Council and Planning Board have attempted to circumvent citizen
          opposition because members have been given and/or promised kickbacks from developer.

APPLICABLE LOCAL ORDINANCES and STATUTES

         Land Development Ordinance

          NPRGO 22-17(g)(1) says a builder does have to have an escrow account for studies at the
          Borough’s request. (Dawn Gaeble, Planning Board Secretary, falsely informed Barbara
          Habeeb that there is no ordinance for escrow for the builder.)

         Flood Prevention Ordinance
         Historic Preservation Ordinance
         New Jersey Municipal Land Use Law (MLUL)
         New Jersey Stormwater Management Act


This document was prepared by Katherine Watt, co-founder of North Plainfield Citizens for Community Rights, and Blog Editor for Grassroots
Groundswell (www.npccr.org), based on information and documents gathered by NPCCR volunteers between May 2007 and September 2008.
Please send corrections, clarifications, additions, etc, to communityrights@gmail.com or call 814-237-0996.
                                                                                                                                        20



COMMUNITY IMPACT

         Barbara Habeeb contacted Gary Szelc, a past President and current Trustee of the
          Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions. Among other suggestions, Mr.
          Szelc responded that:

                     “…a project of this size would undoubtedly have some community impacts, which
                     should be determined in advance by an independent, unbiased study. (There are
                     provisions under the law for a town to have the developer put money into an
                     escrow account to pay for an independent study by a person, organization, or
                     consultant not paid for directly by the developer.)

                     Statistically, condos generate fewer school-age children than single family
                     housing would, but there would undoubtedly be some children coming out of this
                     project with an impact on the school system. However, just as important, but often
                     ignored, is that a project of this size could push the community to a point where
                     additional public services might be required in the form of another police officer
                     or firefighter, pubic works personnel, road maintenance etc.–all items that would
                     have a significant impact on any tax revenue generated by this project.

                     A “community impact study” by an independent party would help determine how
                     viable this project is.

                     An interesting note, although a parcel of “open space” does not generate any
                     direct tax revenue, it likewise does not place any demand on municipal
                     services…”

         Traffic Impact – Summer 2007 – Traffic Study of Interhaven Road, Somerset Street and
          Watchung Avenue intersections yields the finding that the traffic in the area is graded "F"
          for failure under NJ Department of Transportation standards. Rush hour delays to and
          from I-78 already burdensome. McNerney’s attorney’s explain to Planning Board that
          since traffic can’t get a grade worse than F, impacts from development are insignificant
          to Planning Board decisions, and further, that developers are not responsible for “off site”
          impacts from development. Residents object to this framing of the issues. Planning Board
          approves the development application.

         Traffic Impact - Summer 2008. During discussion of new application (for up to 55 single
          family homes) Planning Board Attorney Brian Schwartz suggests that another traffic
          study be done by the same firm that did the study for the builders’ application for 225
          condos.

         School Impact- North Plainfield School District is already at or over capacity.
          (Anecdotal. Confirming documents from School District officials sought, not yet
          obtained.)
This document was prepared by Katherine Watt, co-founder of North Plainfield Citizens for Community Rights, and Blog Editor for Grassroots
Groundswell (www.npccr.org), based on information and documents gathered by NPCCR volunteers between May 2007 and September 2008.
Please send corrections, clarifications, additions, etc, to communityrights@gmail.com or call 814-237-0996.
                                                                                                                                        21



         Summer 2008 – Barbara Habeeb communicates with Planning Board Chair Tom
          Fagan, Borough Administrator and Planning Board Member David Hollod and Borough
          Attorney Eric Bernstein to suggest adding community impact study, environment
          assessments/impact statements to subdivision ordinance escrow requirements. Planning
          Board Chair apparently rejected the community impact study idea and refused to place it
          on the Planning Board agenda for full board discussion and vote, but agreed to add
          environmental impact study (Results of Barbara’s effort unclear; confirmation needed.)

         North Plainfield resident Jerry Jacala, researching on the Internet, finds free book –
          “How to Win Land Development Issues” from Community and Environment Defense
          Services - http://www.ceds.org/publications.html Jerry reviews information books,
          reports to Villa Maria preservation advocates:

                     I like the idea of Impact Fees (p100) to offset the additional burden on town
                     services should the Villa Maria property succumb to development. And also p.
                     110 talks about Adequate Public Facility Ordinances which prohibits the issuance
                     of building permits when the affected schools are at or near capacity.

                     I think the Community Impact Study should also include how much additional
                     taxes the new development will generate and, in turn, how much additional
                     burden on town services it will bring, over certain periods of time, just like how
                     corporations calculate Return of Investment. This will determine the true cost (or
                     benefit) of having it. However, this may have to be done after the developer
                     presents their final plan….

                     We should definitely ask about what can be included in the escrow account. I
                     heard it is in the state's Municipal Land Use Laws but have not had the time to
                     verify. A Planning Board member from another town told me we should have all
                     our demands on the development backed up by funds in the escrow funding. There
                     should be money there for street paving and curbs, school expansion, and other
                     things that would otherwise fall on the town to provide if the developer decides to
                     fold before completion.

                     We should also be in dialogue with Fire, Police, School District, Health, and
                     other departments in order to better frame our position on these demands.

         Summer 2008 – Villa Maria preservation advocates arrange conference call with CEDS
          President Richard Klein to gather further information about sewers, curbs FEMA maps,
          trees.

         Conclusion: North Plainfield Planning Board should delay hearings on latest
          development application until all questions of flood risk, toxic contamination, tax status,
          etc., have been fully answered by independent third parties who provide verifiable
          documentation of their findings.
This document was prepared by Katherine Watt, co-founder of North Plainfield Citizens for Community Rights, and Blog Editor for Grassroots
Groundswell (www.npccr.org), based on information and documents gathered by NPCCR volunteers between May 2007 and September 2008.
Please send corrections, clarifications, additions, etc, to communityrights@gmail.com or call 814-237-0996.
                                                                                                                                        22




SELF-GOVERNANCE ORDINANCE FACTS

         July 4, 2007 – NPCCR Committee of Petitioners begins campaign at Independence Day
          Parade to publicize and gather signatures on the Corporate Land Development and Local
          Self-Governance Ordinance initiative petition, to place citizen-drafted local ordinance
          designed to protect local decision-making authority from corporate usurpation (via
          preemptive state laws such as the Municipal Land Use Law), on the ballot under initiative
          provisions of Faulkner Act.

         September 19, 2007 - Committee of Petitioners for Corporate Land Development and
          Local Self-Governance Ordinance files petitions containing approximately 650 signatures
          for certification by Borough Clerk.

         October 9, 2007 - Borough Clerk Gloria Pflueger, at Borough Attorney Eric
          Bernstein’s direction, stops counting initiative petition signatures at 515, issues rejection
          letter alleging, among other things, that the proposed ordinance was a zoning ordinance,
          preempted by the Municipal Land Use Law (NJSA 40:55D-63(b) and that the proposed
          ordinance “contains an unlawful proposition over which the Borough Council does not
          have the power to act.” Neither Borough Clerk nor Borough Attorney take steps to obtain
          judicial review of the proposed ordinance, as required by law.

         October 12, 2007 - KW writes letter to Borough Clerk and Borough Attorney, demanding
          rejection letter be rescinded on grounds that denial violates the self-governance rights of
          people of North Plainfield. No response from Borough.

         Oct. 2007 – Jan. 2008 – KW files case in Somerset County Superior Court, Borough
          responds, etc.

         Jan. 7, 2008 - Oral argument before Judge Yolanda Ciccone. Case dismissed with no
          legal conclusions offered other than Judge deems proposed ordinance “discriminatory.”
          Signed Order issued January 15, 2008.

         Jan. 11, 2008 - Defense Attorney Philip George issues letter of intent to file for Court
          sanctions for “frivolous” lawsuit, accuses Plaintiff and NPCCR members of advocating
          treason and “preaching sedition.” KW files grievance with Office of Attorney Ethics
          District Secretary Donna Legband, Esq., but grievance is declined on grounds that
          litigation is “pending.” As of Sept. 2008, no further action taken by either party.




This document was prepared by Katherine Watt, co-founder of North Plainfield Citizens for Community Rights, and Blog Editor for Grassroots
Groundswell (www.npccr.org), based on information and documents gathered by NPCCR volunteers between May 2007 and September 2008.
Please send corrections, clarifications, additions, etc, to communityrights@gmail.com or call 814-237-0996.
                                                                                                                                        23



LOCAL SELF-GOVERNANCE & PREEMPTIVE MUNICIPAL GAG ORDERS

         Cheryl Reardon at ANJEC/Concerned Pilesgrove Residents to Katherine Watt (June
          2008):

          Barbara told me that she was appointed to fill a term on Council. What great news!
          Barbara now has to be careful as a Council member to not ever state that she is
          AGAINST this proposed development in any way. That could open her and your Town up
          to a lawsuit from the developer. It's fine for Barbara to state her concern for certain
          issues based on possibility of environmental/water/community impacts, but NEVER
          should she use the word AGAINST or OPPOSED. It's ok for a resident to say that, but
          when an elected official says it, the developers are quick to file lawsuits…Our Town
          currently has a lawsuit against it because our Mayor made a statement something to the
          affect of he would prefer not to ever see another house built here. Also, a Judge ruled
          against our Town in another lawsuit and part of her ruling was that our Township was
          prejudiced against developers and therefore made it difficult for their applications to
          move foward in a reasonable manner.

         Katherine Watt reply to Cheryl Reardon (also requesting details on the developer
          lawsuits against Pilesgrove), copy of question sent to Ben Price and Richard Grossman of
          Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund.

          Why do citizens lose their free speech rights when they become elected officials?

         Cheryl Reardon response:

          The one court case where the developer sued because of the statement made by our
          Mayor is still in the Courts. The other case was 1 of 3 lawsuits filed against Pilesgrove by
          one developer on one project..... he just kept repeatedly suing us. This was in the Salem
          County Court (don't have a copy of ruling). She (the judge) went on to make a
          recommendation to the developer that he might consider going further and suing
          Pilesgrove for damages (millions). Sometimes several developers will go in together on
          this type of lawsuit (cuts their expenses). It was on one of the lawsuits that the Judge
          ruled against the Township and as part of her ruling stated that it was her finding that
          Pilesgrove Twp was prejudiced against developers...and made unreasonable requests.

          One of the unreasonable requests she was referring to was for an LOI prior to approval.
          Can you imagine! Since then (partly because of this lawsuit) the DEP has changed its
          language to me more clear.

          For awhile, the Builders League had the lawsuits -- and cited this one as a big victory --
          on their website - and actually were encouraging developers to contact them if they
          would like to join in a lawsuit against Pilesgrove Township. FYI - in one year, Pilesgrove
This document was prepared by Katherine Watt, co-founder of North Plainfield Citizens for Community Rights, and Blog Editor for Grassroots
Groundswell (www.npccr.org), based on information and documents gathered by NPCCR volunteers between May 2007 and September 2008.
Please send corrections, clarifications, additions, etc, to communityrights@gmail.com or call 814-237-0996.
                                                                                                                                        24



          had 14 lawsuits filed by developers. Very, very costly to a small Township (we have a
          population of under 4,000) and takes up so much time that the Township spends most of
          its time, energy and money fighting lawsuits rather than working on proactive planning
          measures. Plus, then the developer friendly candidates use the amount of money being
          spent on lawsuits against the candidates working to curb the development in their
          literature. Many people are too busy to attend meetings and don't know what's going on
          and can be easily swayed when they get a letter making such a statement.

         Richard Grossman of CELDF (Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund)
          response:

          Barbara is getting sound advice. We experienced the fall out of a town supervisor in PA
          who ran openly and clearly against a corporate quarry: Once he had taken his oath of
          office, the quarry corporation’s lawyer sent a letter to the Board of Supervisors, subtly
          threatening to sue if he did not recuse himself from any quarry-related work and votes.
          Outrageous...but it happens...and clearly, corporate strategists are not reluctant to go
          down this path.

          The corporate threat, according to the courts, was "merely a letter." And, it was
          protected by the First Amendment, right? The reality that Barbara is now heading into is
          upside-down, but it's the reality of today's legal culture and climate.

          Your final line is telling: yes, I guess: We the People lose our free speech when, as
          candidates, we announce clear positions. This only seems to be happening in local
          government. After all, candidates for governor, Congress, state legislatures, president,
          etc., declare a zillion positions all the time, and no one asks them to recuse themselves
          after they are elected. One more aspect of rights denial within the realm of the neutered
          municipal corporation.

          No doubt Barbara can be careful, and subtle, about what she says...& still operate --
          behind the scenes, and in public -- effectively.

         Ben Price of CELDF response:

          I agree with Richard. The corporations have succeeded in silencing elected opposition if,
          as candidates, they took positions against the corporations.

          But Barbara will be able to make her position known and, at the same time, lambaste the
          threat hanging over her head. She could make the case by speaking openly about the
          denial of local self-government, the power of state-chartered organizations to threaten
          law suits against her if she dares publicly state the corporations are the problem.


This document was prepared by Katherine Watt, co-founder of North Plainfield Citizens for Community Rights, and Blog Editor for Grassroots
Groundswell (www.npccr.org), based on information and documents gathered by NPCCR volunteers between May 2007 and September 2008.
Please send corrections, clarifications, additions, etc, to communityrights@gmail.com or call 814-237-0996.
                                                                                                                                        25



          And she could then take "hypothetical" positions," saying essentially that "were political
          speech not subject to corporate punishment ...I might say that I am in absolute opposition
          to project X...but of course I am compelled to say instead that I could be persuaded by
          unjust laws and a threat of litigation -- to sell the community down the river. That is what
          I am supposed to tell you to avoid being neutralized later. If I take any other position,
          wealthy men with bulldozers could threaten to sue me for bias if, after the election, I fail
          to come to conclusions that favor them. For now, let me say that were the courts not
          biased in favor of the bulldozers, and if the People, rather than corporations governed in
          North Plainfield, I would promise to halt the project if elected. But as things are, I will
          take no position on the matter until after the election."

          In other words, I think the best way to handle it is to go on the offense (while immunizing
          against the "bias" charge) and ridicule is one of the best weapons…


ACCESS TO PUBLIC RECORDS

         Municipal Records Requests, May through September 2007 – Numerous Villa Maria-
          related documents, reports, etc., requested by Katherine Watt. Requests denied.
          Government Records Appeal filed October 2007. Pending as of Sept. 2008.

         DEP OPRA Request by Barbara Habeeb records.custodian@dep.state.nj.us– “Any
          documents pertaining to remediation of trichlorethylene, in the groundwater. Any
          document that says original well at Villa Maria was shut down, and ordered capped. Any
          document that requires remediation must be done before allowing permits to build on this
          property. Any document pertaining to oil tanks underground. Any document pertaining to
          asbestos in the buildings on that property. Copy of any permits issued by NJDEP to
          McNerney. OPRA Response was “mostly about the removal of the oil tanks. Nothing
          about TCE, or even the LOI which I also wanted.”

         Municipal Records Requests (Summer 2008) from Councilwoman Barbara Habeeb to
          Borough Clerk Gloria Pflueger - Requesting date of sale of Villa Maria; current
          assessment; has title changed hands; who is official owner; did Villa file a change of
          intent of use; copies of studies for that property. “With the exception of the studies, I will
          pick the info up…The studies I have to look at there.” [KW Note - This is much of the
          information withheld when I requested Villa-Maria-related documents, currently (as of
          Sept. 2008) in Government Records Council appeal process.]




This document was prepared by Katherine Watt, co-founder of North Plainfield Citizens for Community Rights, and Blog Editor for Grassroots
Groundswell (www.npccr.org), based on information and documents gathered by NPCCR volunteers between May 2007 and September 2008.
Please send corrections, clarifications, additions, etc, to communityrights@gmail.com or call 814-237-0996.
                                                                                                                                        26



SOURCE DOCUMENTS

See “Villa Maria” page at top of www.npccr.org for list.

SOURCE DOCUMENTS NEEDED (Partial List)

         Records revealing how, by whom and when Villa Maria as an ARC was inserted into the
          2002 Master Plan.
         Records revealing how, by whom and when ARC ordinance was drafted

MISCELLANEOUS - PERMIT EXTENSIONS ACT

Permit Extension Act. See Permit Extensions Act letter in Villa Maria Page at www.npccr.org

CONTACT INFORMATION

State, Regional, County and NGO Representatives

Reilly, Richard
Manager, DEP Bureau of Inland Regulation
Division of Land Use Regulation
P.O. Box 439
501 East State Street
Trenton, NJ 08625-0439
Phone: 609-292-0060
FAX: 609-292-8115

Harris, Mark
DEP Case Manager – Villa Maria Letter of Interpretation
NJDEP, Division of Land Use Regulation
Attention: Somerset County Section Chief
P.O. Box 439
Trenton, New Jersey 08625
Mark.Harris@dep.state.nj.us.

Torlay, Dwight
Dwight.Torlay@dep.state.nj.us )
NJDEP Division of Land Use Regulation
Technical Support Center
PO Box 439
501 E. State Street, Trenton, NJ 08625-0439
(609) 777-0454, option 5

This document was prepared by Katherine Watt, co-founder of North Plainfield Citizens for Community Rights, and Blog Editor for Grassroots
Groundswell (www.npccr.org), based on information and documents gathered by NPCCR volunteers between May 2007 and September 2008.
Please send corrections, clarifications, additions, etc, to communityrights@gmail.com or call 814-237-0996.
                                                                                                                                        27



Souders, Mark
DEP Case Manager for TCE Contamination at former Lockheed Martin site.
Mark.Souders@dep.state.nj.us

Stern, Lisa
Northeast Team Leader - NJ DEP Green Acres Program
PO Box 412
501 E State St - 1st Floor
Trenton, NJ 08625-0412
(609) 984-0597
Lisa.Stern@dep.state.nj.us
www.state.nj.us/dep/greenacres -

Alpert, Jeff
DEP Freshwater Wetlands
(Responsible for arranging DEP-sponsored public hearing in municipalities.)
jeff.alpert@dep.state.nj.us
(609) 777-0454 (option 1 on the menu).

Craig, Robert
DEP Historic Preservation Office
Bob.Craig@dep.state.nj.us,

Chidley, George
DEP Historic Preservation Office
George.Chidley@dep.state.nj.us

Klein, Richard
President of Community and Environmental Defense Services
Rklein@ceds.org

Einhorn, Richard
FEMA – Region II Natural Hazards Program Specialist
(212) 225-7036

Gaynor, Michele
Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions (ANJEC)
PO Box 157
Mendham, NJ 07945
973-539-7547

Reardon, Cheryl
ANJEC and Concerned Pilesgrove Residents
This document was prepared by Katherine Watt, co-founder of North Plainfield Citizens for Community Rights, and Blog Editor for Grassroots
Groundswell (www.npccr.org), based on information and documents gathered by NPCCR volunteers between May 2007 and September 2008.
Please send corrections, clarifications, additions, etc, to communityrights@gmail.com or call 814-237-0996.
                                                                                                                                        28



anjec.cheryl@mindspring.com

Szelc, Gary
ANJEC Trustee
gszelc@comcast.net

Debler, Joe
Chair, Green Brook Flood Control Commission
111 Green Brook Rd.
Green Brook NJ 08812
jjpd39@aol.com

Thurlow, Ernest
District Manager, Somerset County Soil Conservation District
308 Milltown Road,
Bridgewater, NJ 08807

Bzik, Robert
Somerset County Director of Planning
20 Grove Street
P.O. Box 3000
Somerville, NJ 08876
PlanningBd@co.somerset.nj.us

Roberts, Cindy and Tom Gravel
Trust for Public Land
New Jersey Office
20 Community Place, 2nd Floor
Morristown, NJ 07960

Emrich, Ron
Executive Director, Preservation New Jersey
30 S. Warren Street
Trenton, NJ 08608

Defendorf, Charles
DEP Liaison to Green Brook Flood Control Commission
charles.defendorf@dep.state.nj.us

North Plainfield Save Villa Maria Organizers

Williams, Mark, NPCCR Chair
npccr@yahoo.com
This document was prepared by Katherine Watt, co-founder of North Plainfield Citizens for Community Rights, and Blog Editor for Grassroots
Groundswell (www.npccr.org), based on information and documents gathered by NPCCR volunteers between May 2007 and September 2008.
Please send corrections, clarifications, additions, etc, to communityrights@gmail.com or call 814-237-0996.
                                                                                                                                        29




Rinehart, Antoinette, NPCCR Co-Chair
rinehart@verizon.net

Watt, Katherine
Editor, Grassroots Groundswell www.npccr.org
communityrights@gmail.com

Borough of North Plainfield Officials

263 Somerset St.
North PlainfieldNJ 07060
(908)-769-2900

Allen, Janice
North Plainfield Mayor

Hollod, David
North Plainfield Borough Administrator

Bernstein, Eric
Borough Attorney
Two North Road
P.O. Box 4922
Warren, NJ 07059
732.805.3360

Council President Skip Stabile
s_stabile@yahoo.com

Councilman Douglas Singleterry
dougsingle@aol.com

Councilman Frank Righetti (also Borough Representative on Green Brook Flood Control
Commission)
rocco97@hotmail.com

Councilman Michael Giordano
mgior59203@aol.com

Councilman Robert Hitchcock
bhitchco@aol.com

This document was prepared by Katherine Watt, co-founder of North Plainfield Citizens for Community Rights, and Blog Editor for Grassroots
Groundswell (www.npccr.org), based on information and documents gathered by NPCCR volunteers between May 2007 and September 2008.
Please send corrections, clarifications, additions, etc, to communityrights@gmail.com or call 814-237-0996.
                                                                                                                                        30



Councilwoman Barbara Habeeb
barhab@aol.com

Councilwoman Mary Forbes
maryhforbes@excite.com

Pflueger, Gloria
North Plainfield Borough Clerk

Fagan, Tom
Chair, North Plainfield Planning Board

Rodino, James
Zoning Officer and Local Floodplain Administrator

Allen, Harry
Chair, North Plainfield Environmental Commission

Tighe, Mark
Chair, North Plainfield Board of Adjustment

Saloukas, Thalia
Chair, North Plainfield Shade Tree Advisory Board

Land Developer

McNerney, Robert
CEO, Watchung Hills at North Plainfield, LLC
PO Box 67, Glen Rock, NJ 07452

Chewkaskie, Brian
Attorney for McNerney
Gittleman Muhlstock Chewkaskie & Kim,
2200 Fletcher Ave,
Fort Lee Nj




This document was prepared by Katherine Watt, co-founder of North Plainfield Citizens for Community Rights, and Blog Editor for Grassroots
Groundswell (www.npccr.org), based on information and documents gathered by NPCCR volunteers between May 2007 and September 2008.
Please send corrections, clarifications, additions, etc, to communityrights@gmail.com or call 814-237-0996.

				
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