To the Editors:
South Orange friends: on April 30th, many of us received a mailer from the Line A slate of candidates that includes Deborah Davis Ford for Village President, and concerns revitalizing our downtown. Sheena Collum provided a very cogent and honest rebuttal to the claims made in that mailer. As a member of the South Orange Development Committee for the last 3 1/2 years, I have first-hand knowledge of all of the projects and sites mentioned in the mailer and wanted to add my perspective.
First, it is important to understand that all of the properties highlighted in the mailer are privately owned. The Township does not control them and can only react to redevelopment proposals when the owners of those properties make them. As for the old Village Hall, that project was significantly delayed by a lawsuit filed by another property owner. In my opinion, the Town was very gracious and went to significant lengths to settle the suit to save the project. Sheena deserves some credit for that.
Second, neither Sheena nor the Township has been spending our tax dollars on “planning” as it relates to these projects. The Township devotes time and related expenses to having its staff review development proposals and applications, which is its statutory function. For redevelopment projects, the first audience is the Development Committee. This committee is a group of resident volunteers, most of whom have subject matter expertise related to real estate development. The committee does not render decisions, but advises the Board of Trustees on redevelopment proposals. We assist the Trustees and serve at their pleasure. That includes Trustee Davis Ford. Committee members meet at least once a month and frequently form separate working groups to review more complex proposals. As someone who donates dozens of hours of his time each year for the benefit of his community, I am offended that anyone would suggest that tax money is being wasted when we have dedicated volunteers doing much of the heavy lifting.
Third, the Line A mailer states, “in the May 14th primary, vote for change.” Be aware, that the May 14th election is NOT a primary. There is no primary in this municipal election cycle. May 14th will be the ONLY opportunity you will have to vote for Village President and the three Trustee seats.
South Orange deserves elected officials who govern and campaign with honesty and integrity, and whose positions are supported by facts. Please vote on May 14th, and if you are inclined, vote for decent people.