Mayor Carl Block has repsonded in the Asbury Park Press to an op-ed by Willie deCamp of SBB regarding the Stafford Landfill proposal.
On March 21, 2006, Stafford Mayor Carl Block responded to the March 16 op-ed piece in the Asbury Park Press written by Save Barnegat Bay president Willie deCamp concerning the proposed development near the Stafford Landfill and overdevelopment in Stafford generally.
Below are all of the paragraphs of Mayor Block’s piece interspersed with italicized and underlined comment by Mr. deCamp of Save Barnegat Bay. You be the judge …
Impact of Stafford project extensively reviewed
Posted by the Asbury Park Press on 03/21/06
BY CARL W. BLOCK
I am writing in response to the recent commentary by William deCamp Jr. of the Save Barnegat Bay organization. (“Stafford must weigh all costs of landfill proposal,” March 16.) DeCamp has misstated numerous facts and omitted others concerning the Stafford landfill closure project and growth and development in our township in general.
The landfill closure project and the redevelopment of the Stafford Business Park have been discussed publicly for more than three years, including detailed and well-reported discussions at public meetings. The local news media have taken the time to report on this project and to delve into the details of the project as well.
The Pinelands Commission through the Public and Government Affairs Committee has been actively and openly discussing this project for more than a year. To infer that “this process is moving ahead too swiftly” is ridiculous in light of the discussion and research that has taken place.
Whatever the process to date, its result gives the appearance of an excessively costly inside deal. Much has not been publicly discussed. There is little evidence of a rigorous determination of the cost of capping the landfill, or of the new environmental problems brought into being once 500 homes and a huge commercial project are created.
If deCamp had researched the details of the project, he would have learned that all of the 500 market-priced residential units proposed in the redevelopment project will be age restricted, which was done to alleviate any costs to the local school systems. In accordance with the state’s affordable housing law, there will be an affordable housing component as well. However, more than adequate revenue will be derived from the project to completely offset any educational costs for all students generated from the affordable housing component.
We did research the details. As the Mayor is well aware, no Memorandum of Agreement or any contract involved in this matter contains any stipulation that the housing must be age restricted.
As with all other projects in Stafford, the redevelopment project in the business park will have to comply with all current storm water management regulations, which exceed the minimum requirements of the state Department of Environmental Protection.
A capped landfill without adjacent development would be less polluting than the proposed capping with over 500 homes and 680,000 square feet of retail and commercial space, regardless of what storm water management regulations are applied. And that’s not to mention traffic, air pollution, and cost of services.
The revenue derived from the redevelopment project will be more than sufficient to offset any costs for municipal services including trash collection, snow removal and police protection. All water and sewer services are paid for by the users of the system and connection fees will be paid by all new users.
This is what public officials throughout Ocean County have been saying for years – as our taxes have gone up. There’s a name for this: the ratables chase.
The designated redeveloper must post financial guarantees in advance for all of the costs associated with the landfill closure and the post-closure requirements. The DEP must approve the closure once it is completed. In short, the township will not be left “holding the bag.”
At the end of thirty years, the liability for any failure of the landfill reverts to the taxpayers of Stafford Township. No landfill is likely to stay capped forever.
There is no viable funding source with sufficient resources ($45 million) for the township to use in closing and capping the landfill. The $15 million appropriation deCamp refers to for Waretown was a special one-time appropriation from the Legislature several years ago which, at this time, is not a viable funding option either.
To date we have seen no paperwork demonstrating that the $45 million dollar figure was not pulled out of thin air. An example of an acceptable funding formula might be to: (1) Exclude all political contributors to the township or county from the bidding process. (2) Find a non-political contributor who can do the work for an amount of money not far beyond the Township’s bonding capacity. (3) Bond for the capping of the landfill. (4) Use the existing business park for job-producing tax ratables, or sell the land for funds to pay for the landfill closure.
How about at least trying for state help? What is the number of Senator Connors’s bill for the Stafford landfill? We’ll support it.
The $40,000 contribution from Walters Management Group in 2005 that deCamp refers to was made to the Ocean County Republican Party and not to the re-election fund for the Block Team. None of this money was sent to the mayor and council’s election fund. To infer that some type of preferential treatment was given to Walters is false and inconsistent with the facts.
The paragraph above is artfully worded. The Block Team did not run in 2005; in 2003, when they did run, Walters gave them $1,250. Whether the Ocean County Republicans or Walters made contributions to the Stafford Republicans during 2005, we do not know because, in violation of state law, the Stafford Republican Club did not itemize their contributions.
Carl Block’s contributions in his 2003 campaign for County Clerk came almost exclusively from the Ocean County Republican Finance Committee, which in 2005 alone, received $32,700 from Walters.
The Ocean County Republicans routinely make large contributions to Stafford Republicans entities. Whether or not there has been a quid pro quo for political contributions, the public has the right to the appearance of propriety, as well as the reality. Why did Walters Homes make these huge political contributions to the Repubican Party instead of to the United Way or to hurricance relief?
As of today, 51 percent of Stafford land is devoted to open space preservation and will never be developed. An additional 570 acres will be acquired for open space preservation as part of the landfill closure. There are only 4,300 acres of vacant, privately owned property left in the township. Under any rational measure, including the state’s “smart growth” provisions, Stafford is not overdeveloped and will never be overdeveloped.
We invite anyone, including Mayor Block, to spend a Saturday morning in the parking lot at Shop Rite looking for someone who believes that there is not enough development in Stafford. This is an issue of democracy, not of land use percentages. Ask the people.
The township is currently proposing, in accordance with State Plan co-ordination, to designate Mayetta a “Hamlet” with 50% impervious coverage. Meanwhile the 4,000 acre Regional town center, allows a staggering 80% impervious coverage. To us that is “overdevelopment” .
Stafford’s environmental initiatives have received positive recognition of state and federal agencies over the past several years for good reason. The proposed redevelopment project does not deviate at all from our standards and practices. The closure and capping of the landfill in accordance with DEP and Pinelands Commission regulations is an example of responsible action by the township to protect the groundwater. For anyone to infer otherwise is disingenuous at best.
Save Barnegat Bay believes that Stafford Township has not to date made the case that the capping of the landfill cannot be undertaken at lower cost, with fewer undesired environmental side effects, and with less appearance of impropriety.
As elected officials, we are visible in our community. We have discussed our landfill closure project over the last three years and answered questions from concerned residents. We will continue to do so. Our residents do not have to wait for a “rally and public information” session. We are available to answer their questions at any time as we have done on an ongoing basis.
On Tuesday, March 21, over 150 citizens, the overwhelming majority from Stafford Township, attended our “rally and information session” .
Carl W. Block is Stafford mayor. William deCamp Jr is president of Save Barnegat Bay.