Lifting of PRV Age Restriction Passes Second Hearing, Cunliffe Goes Berserk


pine-river-villageA Matzav report: The Pine River Village senior citizen development in Lakewood, NJ, is one step closer to being partially rezoned after the proposal underwent its second hearing last night, with the Lakewood Township Committee giving it the green light. The Township Committee unanimously voted to lift PRV’s age restriction for half of its property and the proposal now heads to the Lakewood Planning Board for its approval.

In exchange for lifting the age restriction, the township will be receiving $850,000 from Somerset Development, the developer of Pine River Village. has learned that the money will be paid up front, in full, before any houses are built.

Somerset, which bought the property for $9 million, had offered, at an earlier meeting this month, to compensate the Township $425,000 for the 85 lots – or $5,000 per house – on the property which would be rezoned and then used for housing that would be available to buyers of all ages. The money was going to be paid to the Township as each house is constructed. After that meeting, there were protests from some residents that the developer should pay the taxpayers the value difference of when the deed changes to all-inclusive and the property’s worth is substantially increased.

Meetings were held and negotiations were conducted between the Township and Somerset Development. Last night, Mayor Bob Singer thanked Deputy Mayor Steven Langert for serving as the chief negotiator to ensure that the Township would receive fair compensation for the lifting of the age restriction on the land.

It was explained at last night’s meeting that the value of each parcel of land on the eastern portion of the Pine River Village property which would be rezoned is $71,000. (The parcel values are currently listed at about $120,000 each, but a lawyer at the meeting last night explained that discrepancy and said that the latter number is only a temporary one based on a prior agreement. The actual appraised value – agreed upon earlier by the Township and Somerset Development – is $71,000.)

A lawyer who addressed the meeting explained that the per-house increase after the land has been rezoned and the age restriction is lifted is 20% of the appraised value, which in this case is $14,000. After capital improvements are taken into account, the increase in value comes to $10,000 per lot. Thus, it was agreed that Somerset Development would give the Township $850,000 – $10,000 for each of the 85 units on the rezoned land – for the age restriction to be lifted.

The hearing at Lakewood’s Municipal Building was by no means uneventful. Former Lakewood Mayor Charles Cunliffe expressed his anger at the passing of the resolution. During the public portion of the Township Committee meeting, he shared his views from the podium, criticizing Mayor Bob Singer, and calling the lifting of the age restriction unlawful.

A local resident said after the meeting that he doesn’t take Cunliffe’s rhetoric too seriously. “He’s just farbissen (negative) that he was the target of a recall effort during his term on the Lakewood Township Committee. He wants to still be in office, so he lashed out at the Committee, holding nothing back.”

Deputy Mayor Steven Langert later told the audience, during a discussion with a township attorney at the meeting, that the matter was carefully studied and is 100% legal and proper. He related that the agreed upon sum of $850,000 is fair and will stand up to any legal scrutiny.

Cunliffe, though, wasn’t happy. After he returned to his seat in the audience following his comments, Cunliffe went ballistic, yelling at the Township Committee. With his face turning crimson, he bellowed that all members of the Committee had better be sure they have no connections to Somerset Development or Cedar Bridge Corporation – which originally owned the PRV land – or they’d be the target of an investigation.

What’s going on, said Cunliffe, “is no different than what Sharpe James did.”

Cunliffe was referring to former Newark Mayor Sharpe James who was convicted by a federal jury of fraud for conspiring to rig the sale of nine city lots to his partner, who quickly resold them for hundreds of thousands of dollars in profit.

The audience was comprised of a mix of people, including some residents of Pine River Village and their attorney. A number of the PRV residents addressed the Township Committee and explained that the deed change is necessary for their quality of life.

“We are living in a construction zone,” said one resident.

Mayor Singer told the audience that the agreement would be beneficial for all parties involved. Firstly, he said, it addresses the concerns of the senior citizens of Pine River Village, who say that they want their quality of life back after living in a perpetual construction zone with no relief in sight. Secondly, it puts $850,000 in the Township’s coffers, which can be used for tax relief or budget surplus. And thirdly, the change will allow Somerset Development to complete the project and address the eyesore that has existed on Pine Street for an extended period of time.

If the Planning Board grants its approval, the land designated for PRV will be split, with one half going for 93 senior homes, and the remainder of the tract of land – a separate development of 85 units – being used to build houses that can be sold to buyers of all ages.

Currently, almost 40 houses in PRV have been sold, mostly to people who have children living and learning in Lakewood.

 {By M. Rubin for Newscenter}