Berkeley Heights Council Determined to Deny the Citizens a Vote
The LOCAL REDEVELOPMENT AND HOUSING LAW ( LRHL ) can be used by a municipality to declare that an area is in need of redevelopment. That is a polite way of saying it is blighted. Once the local government makes a determination that an area is need of redevelopment it can create a redevelopment plan and designate a redeveloper to carry out the plan. N.J.S.A 40A:12A-5 has 8 criteria that can used to find that an area is in need of redevelopment. Of interest is that criteria (h) says that an area within Metropolitan Planning Area 1 will satisfy (h). Since all of Berkeley Heights is within MPA 1, the entire town could be declared in need of redevelopment!
Within the LHRL is an obnoxious provision (N.J.S.A 40A:12A-28) that forbids any binding referendum on any ordinance or resolution that the council uses under the LHRL. This of course is an enormous power since the council is then permitted to bond without any voter approval.
Within Berkeley Heights the Town Council has managed to have the entire Municipal Complex and Library properties as areas in need of redevelopment. If you have visited either one of these buildings I think most people would not think of them as blighted or unsafe.
As part of this process the council has already spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on attorneys, planners and architects, all through no-bid contracts. We have yet to see any work done for actual improvements.
It is hard to know what the residents are willing to pay. Some may not mind a tax increase and some may not want it. But the council seems determined to take the path of "we know best, so just pay for it". If they had not elected to use LRHL we could have had vote on how our tax dollars are spent.
Ed Delia, seemed to have made it clear that he felt that the taxpayers should have a say in this process. However, he will not get to vote on this since prior to the primary the three time incumbent and life long Berkeley Heights resident was replaced by the Republican Committee Chairperson with chosen favorites.