Thursday, June 22, 2006

Development - Courier - UCIA picked as redevelopment entity for 4 projects

Published in the Courier News, Thursday, June 22, 2006

Agency to oversee Plainfield projects
City Council vote allows Improvement Authority to handle redevelopment.

Staff Writer

PLAINFIELD -- The City Council voted unanimously Wednesday night to put four redevelopment sites in the hands of the Union County Improvement Authority, the agency that managed construction on the Park-Madison tract downtown.

Officials said the move will allow the authority to take care of details that normally would be handled by the city or a private developer and added that the City Council will have final approval of all potential new projects arising from the deal.

"What we're trying to do is, let's move the city forward; here's an organization that has considerable experience in doing this," Councilman Rashid Burney said Wednesday.

The city for several years has considered improvements on the four sites the authority would be in charge of redeveloping. They are:

# A parcel of properties along North Avenue and East Second Street, roughly from Watchung Avenue to Park Avenue.

# An area near the intersection of Richmond and East Third streets.

# The so-called Marino's tract, named for a former auto dealer, on the corner of Plainfield Avenue and West Front Street.

# The former Macy's site, north of East Front Street between Watchung and Roosevelt avenues.

The resolution passed by the council essentially designates the improvement authority as the city's redevelopment vehicle.

Democratic Assemblyman Jerry Green, who lives in Plainfield and advised Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs on talks to bring in the agency, said it would allow the county to pay for professional property studies.

"We don't lose control, we don't put any money out up front," he said about the arrangement.

The authority likely will be in charge of performing the studies and then seeking developers for projects on each site. However, many of the properties within the redevelopment areas are privately owned, meaning negotiations would have to be undertaken -- with eminent domain seizures a possible last resort.

Officials voted on the measure just two days after the resolution was abruptly brought up during Monday night's City Council agenda session. It had not been on the evening's advertised agenda but was included at the last minute by attorneys from the city and the improvement authority.

Some council members were cautious in responding to the deal with the authority, saying they wished they had been given more time to consider the full ramifications. Several members of the public voiced similar concerns at Wednesday's meeting.

Councilman Cory Storch said he believes giving the agency jurisdiction in Plainfield is a good idea, within limits.

"The devil is in the details. I just want to make sure the city has protection and has a full voice in what happens," he said.

Green said Plainfield officials would have full power to reject any plans they find objectionable.

Still, there were some initial questions because of the scope of the areas being handed over to the authority for management and the quick move to push the resolution through the council.

All elected officials in Plainfield are Democrats. The Union County Improvement Authority is headed by Charlotte DeFilippo, who also is the county's Democratic chairwoman.

Former Mayor Albert T. McWilliams negotiated with her and the authority when the Park-Madison office building was being considered several years ago, but he later fell out of favor with the regular Democrats and was pushed off the party line. He left office in December after he was defeated by Robinson-Briggs, who was chosen by DeFilippo and other party leaders to run for office.

McWilliams said that "to turn over such a broad swath to the authority doesn't seem prudent." He added it would have been wiser for the city to begin with one area and then move on if the results were satisfactory.

"It's hasty for them to designate the UCIA as the city's redevelopment agency when they don't have experience with the UCIA in that capacity," he said.

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. Plainfield Today, Plainfield Stuff and Clippings have no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of these articles nor are Plainfield Today, Plainfield Stuff or Clippings endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

Blog Archive

About Me

Plainfield resident since 1983. Retired as the city's Public Information Officer in 2006; prior to that Community Programs Coordinator for the Plainfield Public Library. Founding member and past president of: Faith, Bricks & Mortar; Residents Supporting Victorian Plainfield; and PCO (the outreach nonprofit of Grace Episcopal Church). Supporter of the Library, Symphony and Historic Society as well as other community groups, and active in Democratic politics.