Clark Mayor Sal Bonaccorso spoke at length on Monday about his gripes with the Clark Neighbors group, the citizens group who filed suit about the town planning board's approval of the 39 townhomes on the former Miele's property.
Their appeal described the board's decision as "arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable." A Superior Court judge upheld the board's approval of the Sangiuliano Group's proposal last month.
The project, named Stone Hill Village., was approved by the planning board in March 2012 (after months of meetings, acrimony and objections from residents), and was appealed by the Clark Neighbors, the most outspoken and formalized of the nearby residents opposed to the project. Robert Appleyard, Manny Disporto, Marianne Disporto, David Esteves, Carmen Esteves, Robert G. Hampson, Joyce Keller, Peter Keller and Susan Schreiner were listed as plaintiffs in the appeal; all live within 200 feet of the property.
"This project took on life of its own that was upsetting to some of the neighbors in the area," said Bonaccorso at Monday's Clark Council meeting. "They came out to voice displeasure as they have a right to do so, of course. This went on for three or four lengthy meetings. It became part of a political campaign. But it also became part of a lot of rumor and innuendo quite upsetting to myself, council and members of the planning board."
The mayor continued, adding that residents have a right to disagree with town decisions, but said he was upset by rumors of "who is in whose pocket," "this is a done deal," and "secret meetings" regarding the project.
"I took great exception to that not only as mayor but as a man," said Bonaccorso. "There were things being said to some of the volunteer members of Clark Planning Board, which consists of Democrats, Republicans and Independents. They are neighbors like the rest of the people in this room. ... When this group entered the political arena and started sending flyers it started to make me wonder, was this a game from day one? Was this an organ of the Democratic party to be used as political tentacle in this year's election? Either way it didn’t change anybody's results. If Clark Neighbors wants to enter into politics, I think they should return the check to the Clark treasury for the $7,258 that it cost the Clark planning board to defend this frivolous lawsuit, which was deemed without merit, arbitrary and capricious."
After losing the suit, Clark Neighbors' Marianne Disporto told Patch: "In the two years of this struggle, we feel that we presented a strong, professional and united opposition. We believe the town will watch and monitor the development more closely because of this. We will continue to monitor the demolition and building of this project. Environmental issues still exist and we are closely monitoring that situation, particularly the glass greenhouse that has asbestos walls and tables."