Our Green West Orange Group
A grassroots organization working to strengthen the relationships among residents, businesses, schools, politicians & our environment.
Started 3 petitions
Mayor Parisi, No special treatment for Crestmont Country Club!
Is the Township of West Orange: Against sidewalks? Against pedestrian safety? Supporting the illegal destruction of trees in its vigorous defense of the Crestmont Country Club? Taxpayers are covering the costs of our Township Attorney, Richard Trenk who is defending the Crestmont Country Club against a lawsuit filed by a citizen simply because our own Planning Board, whose members are appointed by the Mayor, did not require Crestmont to obey the tree protection and sidewalk laws! Simple, beneficial, quality of life laws that are the basic responsibilities of town officials. A citizen felt so strongly that he has filed suit against the Township, The Planning Board, Crestmont Country Club and the Town Forester to enforce these basic ordinances that make our community green and accessible. The lawsuit will be heard in Superior Court in Newark on July 23, 2018. Why are our laws selectively enforced in West Orange? Is it special treatment? Sloppiness? Lack of caring? All of the above? All residents and small businesses in West Orange must build and maintain sidewalks according to the law, yet the Township is insistent in giving the Country Club a “free pass” endangering its own employees and pedestrians who would like to walk safely on Eagle Rock and Laurel Avenues. Whereas all residents and businesses must abide by a tree ordinance which forbids the removal of trees without a good reason… the Township has given the Country Club a free pass to chop down precious trees. Citizens believe that Crestmont Country Club acted in bad faith and after their approval, cut down more trees than they were allowed, possibly three times more, (they asked for 11) to construct a water-line. The ordinance states that applicants are to save the most trees possible. This would have required them to put their water line under or near an already cleared, pre-existing road. Even after that, they proceeded to ignore and defy their own Planning Board approval by clearing an area 30 feet in width. Our town’s response? Defend them in court against the citizens.
No Turtle Back Zoo Expansion
Essex County is proud of the improvements made to the Turtle Back Zoo. Visitors walk pleasant, undulating paths under tall trees where they encounter modest settings within the landscape which house lions, leopards, eagle, gibbons, swans and more. Children swarm everywhere and their voices sing out with amazement as they race from exhibit to exhibit. The small train toots its whistle as it has for fifty years while it glides through a corner of the reservation with the shimmering reservoir at its side. A pleasant two hours is to be had at the Zoo, if you don’t think about it from the animals or the local residents' perspective. During two public hearings on the Zoo Master Plan in early 2018, residents spoke out to alert County Executive Joe DiVincenzo of their concerns. We don’t want Disneyland here in West Orange. With 900,000 annual visitors in 2017, the traffic is unbearable for the residents who live nearby. Some wait forty minutes to go past the Zoo. Traffic is heavier on the arteries through the South Mountain Reservation, a 2000-acre park designed for passive recreation and wildlife habitat. Residents are concerned that the original intent of the South Mountain Reservation as a passive and peaceful park is being changed, even though it is a 28-acre piece that houses the zoo. The activities on the West Orange portion of the reservation are preventing the peaceful use of the reservation. The Reservation is a Sponge. Some residents have complained that the cutting of trees to expand the Zoo, building more impervious roads and walkways to service the zoo, causes water runoff. Keeping Non-Native Animals In a Northern Climate. Other residents are concerned about the potential for an animal death or accident with so many rare animals outside of their native environments and in the hands of accident-prone humans, no matter how well-intended. A Giraffe Has Already Died at this Zoo. Residents have spoken out against the proposal to bring in large animals such as grizzly bears which roam one hundred miles in their native habitat, or elephants, which would have to stay indoors in small facilities during the winter. According to zoo staff, giraffes are allowed outdoors in their one-acre pen only when temperatures are above 50 degrees. Otherwise they are kept in a large barn-like building for months. Doubtful Conservation Benefits. The zoo promotes its work as a noble conservation effort, which is only partly true. It is primarily an entertainment complex. There is no evidence that exhibiting animals leads to preservation of wildlife. According to the WWF during the last forty years the planet has lost 50% of the wild animal and bird populations due to habitat loss and human ignorance of how to maintain a pollution-free environment. Meanwhile outside the Zoo boundaries, hunters imported by the county during the months of January and February, kill the native wild deer. In a non-scientific trophy hunt they collapse the population so that it resurges and then collapses again through cruel and dangerous firearm use. Bathroom Facilities Need to be Improved and Proper Sidewalks Were Lacking in the Area. It seems the Country budgets $300K per year for portable bathrooms for county parks including the Zoo. The food that is served at the Zoo’s Zanzibar Café is primarily low-cost factory-farmed meat. This fast food is the kind of substance whose very production has caused a loss of habitat for the animals this zoo purports to protect. Open Space Trust Fund Money Supports the Zoo. Tens of millions of dollars spent on the Zoo are diverted from the Open Space Trust Fund. Imagine the benefits to residents and wildlife if that money were to be spent acquiring habitat instead. Tell The County: Animals have a right not to be traded, transported or exhibited to the public. Residents have a right not to have excessive traffic and noise near their homes. Residents request that the Turtle Back Zoo not be expanded, that no more trees be cut, that no large, non-native animals or non-native habitats be added. In addition, it should not be advertised as a destination Zoo. Please do not drive greater and greater attendance. The current traffic and parking problems need to be resolved to the satisfaction of the West Orange residents. Animal entertainment complexes are difficult and controversial. It may not be the type of economic development that residents are willing to exchange for their rights to a protected reserve, expenditures of tax dollars, and to move freely and peaceably through town. Further reading: NorthJersey.com
Say No to the Taxpayer subsidy of Essex Green Shopping Center
Should YOUR property tax DOLLARS subsidize RENOVATIONS and TOWNHOUSES at the Essex Green shopping center and the Executive Drive office building complex? The West Orange Mayor’s Office is looking to use your tax dollars to subsidize the new owners of the Essex Green Shopping Center and Executive Drive office buildings through bonds and tax abatements by declaring the properties as “Areas In Need of Redevelopment”. In March 2016, the Essex Green Shopping Center was purchased by Clarion Partners, a $10 BILLION dollar real estate management group for $97 million. It is currently 77% occupied. In May 2017, the four office buildings on Executive Drive were purchased for $15 million by PAG Investments. How does this work? There is a special law in New Jersey called the redevelopment law that was intended to help cities fight urban BLIGHT. If an area is found to be BLIGHTED, a municipality can issue redevelopment area bonds and tax abatements to encourage developers to invest in and develop these blighted areas. Does Essex Green look BLIGHTED to you? It may not be that pretty, but it is hardly BLIGHTED. No buildings are falling down, no graffiti, no broken windows, no trash strewn about, no drug dealers hanging out. None of the conditions that evidence BLIGHT. If the Planning Board and Town Council approve the Properties as “An Areas In Need of Redevelopment” then the Township can give these properties a lower rate of taxation than the rest of West Orange residents. We will be subsidizing all the municipal services for these properties, including the education of the school children that will live there. Did we say school children? Yes we did. That’s part of the redevelopment plan. MORE TOWNHOUSES IN WEST ORANGE. More demand for services and more children for the schools means higher taxes. The residents of West Orange are already overburdened by property taxes. If property tax abatements and redevelopment area bonds are issued, current West Orange property owners will subsidize future residents of these development projects in education, sanitation, police and fire protection expenses, while the Township collects fewer taxes. If you don’t want further tax burdens, come make public comment at the next two meetings: Town Council meeting, Tuesday, November. 21, 2017 at 7pm. Please attend. They want to hear from you. Planning Board meeting, Wednesday, December 6, 2017 at 7:30pm, please attend, they want to hear from you. Sincerely, Your neighbors at Our Green West Orange Photo by TAP Other good info: Some of the real estate companies involved: BNE Real Estate including Millennium Homes, Clarion Partners, PAG Investments, Renova Investments. The language of the law that these properties DO NOT MEET and which the Town Planner is relying on: Under the regulations of the LRHL at N.J.S.A. 40A:12A-5, a delineated area may be determined to be in need of redevelopment if, after investigation, notice and hearing as provided in Section 6 of P.L.1992, c.79 (N.J.S.A. 40A:12A-6), the governing body of the municipality by resolution concludes that within the delineated area any of the following conditions is found: “ b. The discontinuance of the use of buildings previously used for commercial, manufacturing, or industrial purposes; the abandonment of such buildings; or the same being allowed to fall into so great a state of disrepair as to be untenantable. d. Areas with building or improvements which, by reason of dilapidation, obsolescence, overcrowding, faulty arrangement or design, lack of ventilation, light and sanitary facilities, excessive land coverage, deleterious land use or obsolete layout, or any combination of these or other factors, are detrimental to the safety, health, morals, or welfare of the community. “ The tax records Real estate records show that Essex Green’s real estate value increased dramatically over 17 years. from $ 41 million in 1999 to $ 97 million in 2016. · Essex Green Shopoing Center sold for : · $41.4 million in 1999; · for $52.925 million in 2002, up 28% in three years; · Sold for $88.225 million in 2006, up 67% in four years; · Sold for $97.85 million in 2016, up 11% in a decade and up 136% in 17 years. Patch.com "The office complex consists of 31 acres and comprises 10 Rooney Circle and 100-300 Executive Drive. Built between 1971 and 1984, the complex's amenities include a full-service cafeteria, shared conference room and fitness center. The property is 48 percent leased to tenants, including Lincoln Educational, GEICO and a U.S. government agency. Located off Prospect Avenue and Rooney Circle, Executive Hill Office Park is situated at a full interchange of Interstate 280. The Essex Green Shopping Center is also located adjacent to the complex." Essex Green Tap Our Town’s must current Annual Debt Statement shows that we carry a debt of: - $34,421,781 for local school purposes - $72,209,940 for municipal/county obligations - $106,631,721 in sum total Assuming our town has 45,000 residents – this calculates to $2,369 debt per person. Economic development decisions are made largely behind closed doors by political and corporate powerbrokers. Public officials and developers use their political power and influence on the news media to portray economic development as a complex, secretive process beyond the understanding of the average citizen. Although the purpose of economic development is to improve the quality of life for local residents, residents rarely have much input into what form that improvement takes or how it will be brought about. When citizens do attempt to participate, they often find that they cannot obtain even the most basic information about the deals being considered. Those seated at the negotiating table claim that the details of subsidy talks must be kept secret until the deal is sealed, or companies will bolt. The result is that a company's announcement to build in an area, accompanied by the government's announcement of a large subsidy package, is often the first official word the public hears about a development project.