Mt. Laurel Man (3): First Blush

After finding out about the Kenilworth tenement project and doing a little research I was prepared to bring my concerns to the Kenilworth council. However, sensing the atmosphere at that meeting I decided not to read my prepared text fearing being cut off (both at that meeting and with OPRA requests). I was right.

But now, being actually cut off from speaking at Kenilworth council meetings and with all the background information (including contracts) that I am likely to need, there is no point in holding back. Here are the comments I would have made and the questions I would have asked at the July 14, 2021 Kenilworth council meeting:

It’s been a while, can I talk without interruption? There are a few questions that you likely will not want to answer so I won’t expect answers and move through them. You can answer or deflect after I finish.

Reading up on the history of the Mt. Laurel rulings I see it was possibly the worst case of judicial activism ever recorded (in this case activist judge Frederick Hall) who was a one-man jihad against exclusionary zoning fifty years ago and, on one of his last days on the bench, his colleagues gifted him his way. The problem is that legislating from the bench makes bad law since the process that laws need to go through (committee review, witnesses, public input from those not involved in that particular trial) are all missing. With Mt. Laurel what we have is basically law clerks writing the rules and the legislature trying to follow along.

COAH tried to follow along but it made it worse. Getting rid of COAH in 2015 was surrender and Mt. Laurel is effectively done except when some developer or consultant wants to use it as a scare tactic.

Anyone can sue anyone else for anything. If you have the filing fee you have the lawsuit. Among the things you should be least worried about being sued over is a builders remedy suit. You are susceptible but there are two prongs to it:

1) No plan – check. According to the numbers you need 353 units and are throwing a bone of 25 units that gets to be considered 31 units plus an ordinance that any projects involving 5-dwelling units (how many of those are in Kenilworth) has to have affordable housing included.

2) A substantial percentage of the project has to be dedicated to low-income housing. As has been mentioned here low-income housing is not a developer’s dream. Even this project dedicates a token amount. No developer is going to come in looking to build 300 low-income housing units here. If they did they would certainly file a lawsuit citing Mt. Laurel but show me the developer who would go that route.

Going back to 2015 when COAH went away. That must have been a huge loss of income for lawyers and consultants who were living off of it.

The first question that I have that won’t get answered is how much Harbor Consultants was making prior to 2016 in consulting on COAH. My guess is a lot and they would have been looking for other sources of income. Which is where we get to Kenilworth.

As you mentioned last week Democrats took control of the council in 2016. According to invoices I got, Harbor Consultants started billing in 2016. (opra story – $73k)

Also in 2016 you got new accountants (Suplee Clooney who do the county), Gary Taffet came in for insurance consulting, and in 2017, a new borough attorney.

Second question (or series of questions) that you won’t answer is how does that process work. Does Nick Scutari (or an aide or maybe Gerald Green at the time) call you to tell you to put out an RFP? Do you even need an RFP? Can the consultant apply directly, mention Scutari, and you hire them?

Also looked at the cost of these County vendors:

Harbor Consulting

Suplee Clooney

BGIA;Acrisure; Gary Taffet

You could run the DPW for a year for what you paid Harbor.

Frank Capece – started back in 2017 with $500 to Scutari. EBOE before then.

This project is just to get Joe Neri more money for this property and Harbor Consultants more money in fees but don’t parrot the arguments they feed you because you come off as racist (and Kenilworth has had enough of that with the S. Michigan bar episode). Arguing that Kenilworth residents will “lose control” of who can build here if you don’t go with this prjoect and anybody who has a house near an empty lot is at risk of having something built that will bring in “low-income” – translation “black” – people in is the worst kind of racism since it is veiled. It makes you look racist and worse, as a Kenilworth resident represented by you people, it makes me look racist.

Finally, what dollar amount and percentage of Kenilworth tax money is Merck paying?

One response to this post.

  1. Posted by qpat00 on September 22, 2021 at 1:30 pm

    You possibly uncovered something rotten in KW not good for the residents, bringing up Taffet and acrisure, bad agents for sure. Taffet goe back to 2005 in bad activities and Kenilworth is embracing him? (county is too, big time, so county must have told KW to use him). Heres a quote from an article AG Grewel is investigating Acrisure and Taffet (i’ll post one link to the sept 29, 2020 Northjersey.com article later)…”Taffet has a long history in New Jersey politics. He stepped down as former Gov. JamesMcGreevey’s chief of staff in 2003 amid accusations that he used his position to improperlyinflate the value of his billboard business. In 2005, he agreed to pay $725,000 in restitution,fines and interest to end a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation that accusedhim of passing along insider information”……..https://www.longevitymedicine.me/nj-investigating-bergen-health-broker-records-in-criminal-probe-of-political-donations-northjersey-com/

    Reply

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