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Developer Responds to Controversy Over Miele’s Condo Project

In part three of our series, George Sangiuliano responds to the Miele's project detractors.

“We’ve never done a project where people have been riled up like this," developer George Sangiuliano says of his proposal to build 39 condos on the property and

Sangiuliano says he never sees this level of alarm from folks with properties abutting his projects. At the most, “sometimes they want a fence," he says.

though the sale won't be final until plans for the condos are approved. Sangiuliano declined to confirm the sale price. In March, he applied to build luxury townhomes on the five-acre property. Some neighbors instantly balked and have formed a group called the Clark Neighbors to oppose the housing project.

The group has started a grassroots effort distributing fliers, launching a website, creating lawn signs, hiring an attorney and becoming the leaders for those opposed to the condo complex. The first time the condo application was scheduled to be heard at a planning board meeting on July 7, so many residents had been galvanized that the meeting had to be rescheduled for a space that could accommodate all who wished to attend. The next meeting is set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday.

Meanwhile, Sangiuliano claims his proposed condo complex, known as Stone Hill Village, meets every bit of the ordinance that governs development on the site and believes the project will be an asset — not a detriment — to the town.

Sangiuliano says he has deep roots here in Clark where he’s lived for some 40 years. He has previously served on council and been a leader in community organizations like UNICO and Kiwanis. “When people see the renderings of what we’re going to build, I think many of them are going to think completely different about it,” he says. The renderings were unveiled at the Oct. 20 meeting – see them in our gallery, above.

Sangiuliano points to some of his other properties as examples of his work, including the condos on Cellar Avenue, the homes on Melvin Court and the new medical/professional building where Steak n’ Ale once was.

Through their website, the Clark Neighbor's argue, "With so little greenspace left in Clark, do we really need multi-family housing on every available piece of open land? Or do we need to protect the value of our homes, the quality of our neighborhoods as they currently exist and keep the small town feel which brought us to Clark?"

“I’m disappointed that they’re so upset because it's going to be a beautiful project that’s going to enhance the town,” Sangiuliano says. “And it’s going to provide more tax dollars for the town.” Sangiuliano's project, as a condo development, would be taxed at a higher level than Miele's, a farm and business.

Sangiuliano also believes that the Clark Neighbors misunderstand how much recourse they have exactly to prevent condos from being built.

“I've heard that the only thing those people will accept there is a park or one-family houses,” he says. “That tells me they don’t understand. To build one-family houses is not an approved use in that zone. You can’t just pop up and say we want to build one-family houses. The ordinance has existed for many years, with the property zoned this way since 1991. Our project meets 100-percent of the ordinance."

Indeed, though residents sometimes confuse the planning board application process for a democratic one­ – that is, board members should listen to citizens’ concerns and vote based on what it seems most residents want – in fact, the board has little power to deny an application if it meets the requirements of the ordinance. Planning board attorney Michael Cresitello confirms that as long as the applicant meets the requirements of the municipal land use laws, a planning board cannot deny an application simply because there’s public outcry.

Sangiuliano also says that he offered to meet with the Clark Neighbors group to explain the project clearly and answer any of their questions. “I offered to bring all of my professionals and even offered to pay for a place to show them the project,” he says.

The Neighbors turned down his offer. “We didn’t want to walk into a sales pitch,” Marianne Disporto, co-leader of the group, told Patch.

When discussing the Clark Neighbors group, Sangiuliano says he prefers to “take the high road,” but believes their efforts are misguided.

“They need to verify some of the misinformation they’re putting out,” Sangiuliano says of “They have a lot of nerve.” 

The Clark Neighbors believe the application is further complicated by the possibility of low- and moderate-income housing units to be built on the property because of state-mandated requirements under the recently disbanded Coalition for Affordable Housing. Sangiuliano maintains that the township has authorized a waiver of these requirements, but the Clark Neighbors are skeptical that such maneuvering is legal, even with COAH in flux. This COAH issue was brought up at the Oct. 20 meeting, with planning board attorney Michael Cresitello asserting that the waiver (which requires developers to pay a fee per unit into the town's affordable-housing trust fund) is allowable. That fund is then used to build the low- and moderate-income units elsewhere in town or used to pay another town to build the units.

At this Thursday's planning board meeting at Arthur L. Johnson's auditorium, Sangiuliano will take the mic and explain the project himself, followed by a question and answer period for those in attendance.

“At all costs, I want to avoid as much hard feelings as can be avoided,” Sangiuliano says. “My name is on many projects here. I would never want to do anything that’s going to hurt the town."

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This is the third post in our series. Read our first story on the Miele family feud that led to the sale of the property, and our second story that profiles the group opposed to the project. Check back for a response from Clark Mayor Sal Bonaccorso on whether the town is overdeveloped and later in the week for our coverage of the planning board's second meeting to discuss the application.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to be sure you don't miss the next installment.

Rex Range November 30, 2011 at 03:55 PM
Clark is one of the few "nice" towns left in Northern NJ and it is a shame to see developers and bureaucrats working together to make sure it is as crowded/overrun as surrounding towns. I grew up in Clark but thankfully have had the chance to live in three other areas of this nation. NJ property taxes are already unconscionably high compared to every other state in the union, and just because corrupt bureaucrats can't "get by on" the taxes they already bleed from residents is no reason to fill every square inch of the town with developments like this. So much of the vaunted "Tri-State Area" in the NE, and the LA nightmare in the West, are cesspools of urban blight and it is the result of a million greedy decisions like this made for all the wrong reasons. My message to friends and former neighbors is to get out of Union County and Northern NJ entirely. If you must stay in NJ, move to nicer places that don't have to be "the Shore," like Tinton Falls. Better yet, if you really want to get away from this ongoing urban blight, there are 48 other U.S. states (46 in the continental U.S.) where for the most part you can live in peace. If enough of you do, bringing your intelligence and culture with you, maybe a decade from now we'll all actually be able to get a good NY-style pizza in places like rural Missouri.
Andrew Timoni November 30, 2011 at 09:13 PM
My opinion has no reflection on Patch as a whole. I feel I should mention that before continuing. The residents say they would accept the construction of a park or single family homes on that land. In these economic times, it is imperative that a town such as Clark always be on the lookout for ways to improve its economic health. With one of the largest parks in the county, Oak Ridge Park, right around the corner, there is no reason anyone would visit a small park in this spot. It brings absolutely no economic positives to Clark. The lot is not zoned for single family homes and that was covered by the developer. I live around the corner in the neighborhood by the Clark Pool. I see the only negative affect of this condo complex being an increase in traffic. At this day and age, in the most densely populated area (most likely) in the country, there is no way to avoid traffic. Try driving through Middlesex County and Bergen County roads during rush hour. Those are much more unbearable than this would ever be. Traffic is unavoidable. Those looking to get away from it should be living in Morris/Hunterdon Counties and so on. What Clark residents should be doing is appealing to NJDOT and trying to get Parkway exits 132, 133, and 134 constructed and opened. That is the only thing that will deter some traffic from Clark. I, for one, welcome the project and others like it in the area. Especially what is happening on Terminal Avenue.
Matt Casey November 30, 2011 at 09:30 PM
Do the detractors realize 39 condos equate to less than 100 total people? 100 new residents will not change the character of the neighborhood or township at all. And yes, I DO live in this immediate neighborhood.
Joyce Keller November 30, 2011 at 09:47 PM
No, 100 new residents will not change the character of the neighborhood or township but 39 condos in the middle of single family homes will.
Matt Casey November 30, 2011 at 10:22 PM
Joyce - I respectfully disagree. I don't see any great "beauty" in the current use. New, attractive, well manicured condos will be an upgrade, in my opinion.
Doris Dias December 02, 2011 at 05:10 AM
I for one, do not want or will appreciate having 39 three bedrooms town homes across the street from my home, neither will I enjoy the noise and truck traffic from their construction that will go on from 7:30 am till 5 or 6:00pm, Monday through Friday for 1.5 to 2 years (and this is a wishful thinking estimate on the developer part), nor do I think that a high fence covered by meager vegetation will be more attractive than the flowers I see everyday from my windows. The zoning is RB1 but so many other places had their zoning altered to accommodate the township needs, why not this one? I guess we are not influential enough citizens of this town to have our interests taken into consideration. There are many areas in Clark that are in desperate need of re-development or upgrading, but I guess they would not bring the desired profit to the developer pockets. After the meeting tonight all I have to say is I'm really disappointed by some of the things and condescending attitudes I witnessed, come next election I will know in whom not to vote.
KJS December 03, 2011 at 03:56 AM
The place looks like an eye sore already. Lux condos might be better. Doris you will get over the traffic after 2 yrs.
Agent Moose and Squirrel January 13, 2012 at 06:45 AM
Clark accept money from the state to develop exit 134 on the gsp and has profit by it. now stick in these other exits on the parkway witthe the traffic problems going on those roads and you'll have a real disaster! the is the roads are max out in traffic, the schools are full which means expanding the school building and costs which means increase taxes, and finally the towns cost to the addition to these condo's and homes (streets, police, fire, sewage, etc). the developer builds what he wants and makes money on this and the town and residents paid for the additional costs. if this was being built next to his home or area he liveswould he want this? i don't think so. by the way, his other projects don't look that great.
Agent Moose and Squirrel January 13, 2012 at 06:48 AM
it's farmland. would you like to maybe a giant fence around it?
Lizard Man March 09, 2012 at 01:49 PM
The developer has many friends in Clark government, including the Mayor, the Buisness administrator and many council persons, their is no way that this was not going to get passed.......The attorney for developer is a real scheister, these people have the governing board in there pocket
Lizard Man March 09, 2012 at 01:55 PM
Maybe 5 years, when the first few units don't sell building will stop until the market picks up, ( if it ever does) their will be mountains of contaminated dirt piled everywhere. Lake Ave will be covered in mud and if you live on Lake or on streets surrounding the miele"s property, everything will be coated with dirt, windows,doors porches, cars etc.
Lizard Man March 09, 2012 at 02:00 PM
Just remember to vote when these people come up for reelection, the Mayor needs to go..been in office to long....thinks he can't be beaten
Marlene Morley April 03, 2012 at 03:53 PM
Am very interested in the condos to be built on Lake Ave. People in Clark are nuts and complain about everything. Did they complain when the golf course was DONE for that Music fest that really flopped and cost money.

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