SOUTH TOMS RIVER – The Borough Council voted Monday night to approve a controversial landfill redevelopment plan that will see the construction of town homes at the site of the borough’s old landfill. At the meeting, just one resident raised concerns about Ocean County GOP chairman George Gilmore’s involvement in the project as the attorney for the developer, given recent news about the influential county Republican chairman and lawyer. But borough officials claimed that Gilmore is no longer actively involved in representing the developer, despite documents from earlier this year indicating his presence at a meeting as an attorney for the developer, M&T.
The plan will see the construction of a 27-building townhouse apartment complex on the site of the borough’s old landfill, with 314 total units to be built.
“Why Was George Gilmore’s Name On It?”
Celie Horne, a resident of South Toms River, questioned the council about why George Gilmore’s name was appearing on paperwork related to the project from earlier in 2016 – but township officials distanced themselves from Gilmore.
Horne first inquired as to how the council came to choose the redeveloper that the borough decided to partner with for the project, and whether or not a competitive bid was required.
“Under the redevelopment law, we don’t have to go to public bid,” responded Borough Clerk / Administrator Joseph Kostecki. “We have designated a redeveloper for this project.”
When asked by Horne about Gilmore’s involvement in the plan, Kostecki deferred to the township’s redevelopment attorney, who was hired to represent the township’s interests in the project.
“Mr. Gilmore was involved early on,” admitted redevelopment attorney Joseph Baumann, who sent at least one letter that was marked as also being copied to Gilmore. He said that the redeveloper is currently being represented by another attorney, John Verlaque.
But as to Gilmore’s continued involvement, “He hasn’t been at a meeting that I’ve been at in months,” Baumann claimed. “I don’t know if he still represents them or not.”
“I have a piece of paper with George Gilmore’s name on it,” Horne quipped in response.
In addition to being listed on correspondence regarding the project, Gilmore’s name was also recorded on a sign-in sheet for a March, 2016 joint meeting between representatives of the borough council, the redeveloper, and regulators from the Pinelands Commission to discuss their application for the independent state agency’s land use approvals. The sign-in sheet listed Gilmore as being present at the joint meeting on behalf of the redeveloper.
Documents obtained by Ocean County Politics showed Gilmore’s involvement in the project, where he was listed as representing the developer:
It should also be noted that Jean Cipriani, an attorney from the Gilmore law firm, is listed as Mayor Oscar Cradle’s designee on the South Toms River Land Use Board. That board was involved in earlier phases of the plan, with the borough council having the final say.
Environmental Group Critical Of Plan’s Target Amount Of Pinelands Development Credits
The Pinelands Preservation Alliance opposed the redevelopment plan from the start, and encouraged residents with concerns about the plan to attend public meetings regarding the project.
Theresa Lettman, the group’s director of monitoring was disappointed in the borough’s target amount of Pinelands Development Credits set for the project in the version of the plan that was approved at the meeting.
“South Toms River has placed a requirement in the plan for Pinelands Development Credits (PDC) at 25%,” Lettman said. “The requirement is way below the requirement under the current Pinelands certified ordinance of South Toms River which is 75% to 100%.”
“It is disappointing for the overall Pinelands Plan,” she added. “This is the last opportunity in South Toms River to see any use of Pinelands Development Credits. The WaWa application proceeded with no use of PDC’s in the project and now they have reduce[d] the amount for this project.”
South Toms River Councilman Gleason Films Audience Members
In a bizarre and unexpected twist, STR Councilman William Gleason set up a camera of his own from behind the dais, and had it pointed it at the small handful of people that stayed for the council meeting throughout its duration.
Gleason did not make any statements as to why he chose to film the audience members rather than the council, but appeared to be interested in doing so only after noticing the OCP camera set up in the back of the room.
Perhaps Councilman Gleason has been taking lessons from the reality show taking place a few miles to the north at the Lakewood Zoning Board, where those board’s members have been using their cell phones to mock and harass a member of the public that records township meetings.