History of the Emerson Redevelopment: Part II (2007-2008)

This is the second selection in a series of historical background facts on the history of redevelopment in Emerson. By sharing these timelines, it is my hope that people will understand what is presently happening in the Borough. The goal of this series is to illustrate the long (15+ year) path that our elected officials have had to follow in their efforts to comply with our Constitutional mandates.

In late 2006, the Mayor & Council had adopted the Redevelopment Plan which had its origins in Judge Harris’s 2001 Decision in a builder’s remedy lawsuit brought against the Borough. Emerson then issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) in October 2006. That initial RFP failed to produce any proposals from either individual property owners or redevelopers. I took office at the stroke of midnight on January 1, 2007, and immediately began efforts to implement the plan passed by the prior Council.

A revised RFP was issued on February 6, 2007, after making changes to receive some submissions. That RFP was sent to each and every property owner in the redevelopment zone (See link to letter dated February 2007 and RFP below). The initial RFPs afforded the property owners the ability to develop or redevelop their own properties. Three prospective redevelopers, Millennium Homes, the Atkins Companies and Hekemian filed responses. A summary of each company’s proposal was set forth in my letter dated May 8, 2007 to the head of the Bergen County Department of Planning and Development. (See link below).

After presentations by all three, the Borough Council selected the Atkins Companies as the redeveloper for all 59 lots designated as the redevelopment zone. One of the primary reasons for the selection was that their proposal had the least density of the three proposals. The Resolution, dated May 15, 2007, was accepted unanimously by a bi-partisan council, consisting of five Republicans, one Democrat and now a Democratic Mayor. (See link below).

Atkins entered into a Letter of Intent with the Borough dated August 21, 2007. With that Agreement, Atkins, among other things, was tasked with “the improvement of Kinderkamack Road” ... and to “propose a traffic plan for Kinderkamack Road within 45 days...”.. (See link to Letter of Intent). After several months, it became apparent that Atkins was not willing or able to perform what they had promised. Their attorney terminated the relationship in December 2007. A link to an article in the Record dated December 4, 2007 sets forth the particulars. (See attached link).

Millennium Homes was then selected as a replacement for Atkins in early 2008. Millennium was also unwilling to undertake the massive redevelopment of all 59 lots, as set forth in the 2006 plan. In November 2008, Millennium was terminated as the Borough’s redevelopers.

At this point, it became apparent that undertaking redevelopment of the entire downtown would simply not work. Therefore, the 2008 Mayor and Council decided to again give the property owners another chance to redevelop their own properties. With my letter dated December 8, 2008, I asked each and every owner “to engage in an open dialogue with the Borough’s Redevelopment Subcommittee...to discuss any plans you might have to redevelop your own property”. (See attached link).

At that point, the bi-partisan council consisted of three Republicans, three Democrats and a Democratic Mayor. I met with at least seven property owners in the period from December 10, 2008 through January 5, 2009. The idea of improvement to our business district actually dates back to a July 20, 2000 memo from the Borough Planner at the time, Fred Heyer, who wrote that the best way to re-plan the downtown would be “through the formal redevelopment process set forth in the Local Redevelopment and Housing Law (LRHL)”.

Since then, Borough elected officials, regardless of party affiliation, have had to make the tough choices to move forward with efforts that are in the best interests of the Borough as a whole. As usual, please feel from to reach out with any questions to mayor@emersonnj.org. I will pick up with our efforts from 2009 through 2010 in my next posting.

Below is a link to the Request for Proposals issued in February 2007 with my cover letter to the property owners, my letter dated May 8, 2007 to the head of the Bergen County Department of Planning and Development, the Council’s May 15, 2007 Resolution, Atkins Letter of Intent, December 4, 2007 Record Article and my December 8, 2008 letter to the property owners.