Jul 29, 2014

Council Hires Lawyer for Edison Redevelopment Petitions

Attorney was hired to review residents' petitions seeking a referendum on project.

The West Orange council approved the hiring of an attorney to help the municipal clerk in her review of petitions seeking a referendum on the Edison redevelopment project's bond issue.

The resolution was approved Tuesday with Councilman Joe Krakoviak voting no and Councilman Sal M. Anderton absent.

The resolution calls for the hiring of Edwin Matthews, an attorney with Summit firm Bourne, Noll & Kenyon. He will be providing counsel to Karen J. Carnevale, municipal clerk, as she reviews submitted petitions from residents who are part of an on-going campaign to stop the Edison redevelopment project.

Matthews will be hired for a fee of $150 per hour with a cap of $3,000, according to the resolution.

Krakoviak said he took issue with the resolution because he thought the township's existing legal counsel could handle the case at no extra cost to residents.

"I felt we didn't need to spend an extra $3,000," he said.

The issue concerns the . The ordinance would issue general obligation bonds to the developer of the Edison property on Main Street, Prism Capital Partners, LLC. 

The bonds in question will cover the infrastructure costs on the proposed project that would erect 333 luxury apartment units for rent and 18,500 square feet of retail space in the Edison battery building.

Last week, a petition from residents for a referendum on the project was rejected, Carnevale explained, because any ordinance that pertains to local redevelopment or housing cannot be changed through referendum, according to state law.

Besides land rules stating that a referendum cannot change the ordinance, the municipal clerk also cited the following reasons why the petition was rejected: some of the signatures were considered invalid, and not every petition sheet had a resident attesting under oath that the signatures were valid, as detailed in a .

But residents were given the opportunity to resubmit the petitions to the clerk and they did, said Windale Simpson, one of the residents behind the referendum campaign.

George Dougherty, attorney for the referendum campaign, also wrote a letter to the clerk taking issue with the reasons on why the initial petitions were rejected. Krakoviak brought this letter up as well as a lawsuit filed by two residents, Kevin Malanga and E. Michael Taylor, who are seeking to overturn the ordinance on the project's bond financing.

Krakoviak provided copies of the letter and the suit on his website, West Orange Grassroots.

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