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Mayor Responds to Overdevelopment Claims, Miele's Controversy

In part four of our series, Clark Mayor Sal Bonaccorso responds to the controversy surrounding the Miele's condo proposal, which is set for another meeting tonight.

When Clark Mayor Sal Bonaccorso sees "Clark Overdevelopment" signs dotting lawns adjacent to the Miele's Greenhouse property, he gets frustrated.

The signs are the work of the for a laundry list of safety, traffic, environmental and aesthetic reasons.

“This overdevelopment thing is completely ridiculous,” says Mayor Bonaccorso, pointing out some of the open spaces that have been preserved under his tenure, like the Esposito Farm, Schwarz Farm, the reservoir and Hyatt Hills. “Thirty-five percent of our properties are open space."

Mayor Bonaccorso says overdevelopment is last thing he wants in Clark and, if he had his way, he wouldn't ever let more condos be built here.

“We were heading down that road before I became mayor,” Mayor Bonaccorso says. “The first memo I ever sent to our township attorney was asking for a moratorium on townhomes and apartments – which our attorney kindly informed me isn’t legal. People need to understand the laws.”

Mayor Bonaccorso feels that residents are sometimes confused as to what the planning board legally can and cannot do.

"What residents need to understand is that the zoning board is an instrument of community for what is not zoned," says Mayor Bonaccorso. "But the planning board simply looks at applications for what is zoned. This property is zoned for multi-family homes, and we can't change that. If we rezoned just this property, that’s called spot zoning. We’d be sued instantly.”

Indeed, 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.

Mayor Bonaccorso points to the Retro Fitness gym being built on Terminal Avenue as an example of the planning board’s limited power. According to Cresitello, that application was a conforming application requiring no variances that was denied at the township level and then overturned at the county level.

“The planning board heeded the advice of the community and voted it down, and we had to pay legal fees in that loss as it was overturned,” Mayor Bonaccorso says.

"I tell the folks I appoint to the planning board, feel free to voice your opinion and speak your mind," the mayor says. "But in the end your opinion doesn’t count. What counts is that you follow the law."

Developer George Sangiuliano agrees. "The ordinance has existed for many years, with the property zoned this way since 1991," he says. "Our project meets 100-percent of the ordinance."

At this Thursday's planning board meeting, Sangiuliano will take the mic and explain the project himself, followed by a question and answer period for those in attendance. The meeting is open to the public and will take place at 7:30 p.m. in the Arthur L. Johnson auditorium. 

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This is the fourth post in our series. Read our first story on the Miele family feud that led to the sale of the property; our second story that profiles the group opposed to the project; and to hear from developer George Sangiuliano. Also, check back 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.

Pete Keller December 01, 2011 at 02:11 PM
Four properties were re-zoned in 1991 with little fan-fair since no one was notified of the change. The reason this property and others were zoned RB (multi-family with middle and low income set aside) was to be compliant with the state mandated COAH (Mt. Laurel) obligation. Yet, the Esposito Farm zoning was changed to a park. Charlotte Estates' zoning was changed to single family homes. That leaves Miele's and Schieferstein's properties with the 1991 zoning. The way I see it is the ordinance is being "cherry picked" by the developer for the most profitability--multi-family but requesting a waiver for the moderate and low income to be built elsewhere in Clark (but where?) Why should the profits of a few be at the expense of the many??? Do what is right Mr. Mayor. Many of us have voted and supported you over the years. It is time for you to support us.
derek December 01, 2011 at 02:30 PM
Redevelop what's already here, then , if it fits within the realm of things, start new products. The east side of Westfield Ave is in serious need of redevelopment. It's beginning to look like (no offense) like Downtown Rahway with the per centage of empty stores. The comment by the mayor of ANY citizens concerns being ''ridiculous" is offensive. Everyday citizens don't suddenly know the proper protocol of which office to complain to or what branch of government to voice their opinion. I love this town. I've invested in this town. I want to see it grow, but grow with a consciousness and a respect for the people who pay property taxes. No one will agree about everything , or even how to go about achieving the same goal. Build mixed use buildings where the old A&P is, retail and residential. Convert the empty medical building across the street from it to the same type of use. More residential and commercial mix can add new life to what's becoming a depressed part of town. SLOW TRAFFIC DOWN on Westfield Ave. It's my understanding all property now has to be either commercial or commercial with residential above. Fantastic. That creates foot traffic. But the location where these proposed condo's are going, while zoned for it, makes me wonder why it has to be done there. What's going on with L'Oreal or the other factory across from Hyatt Hills? Those are huge pieces of real estate- build condos there..I doubt there'd be much resistance.
KJS December 03, 2011 at 03:22 AM
Sure DEREK just kick the low/mid housing to the other side of town. So much for you caring about your neighbors. Yea right. You sound like the typical "not in my backyard" You probably live right off Madison or Lake ave. DON'T THINK SO....

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