On the agenda for tonight’s Middletown Planning Board meeting will be the ongoing discussion, with the possible approval, of the Four Pond redevelopment plan for the Avaya complex. Looking at the agenda, it would seem that the only business to be discussed tonight will be the Four Ponds application, all other planning board business has been pushed back to the new year.
Back in October during his reelection campaign, Tony Fiore was telling every Lincroft area resident which he met, that there was a commercial entity interested in occupying the former Avaya industrial site. He also told them not to worry because the township’s planning board would not approve of the proposed Four Ponds housing redevelopment plan that would be comprised of 342 units with various road and infrastructure upgrades for area. He said that the township favored the commercial alternative for the redevelopment of the site over the housing and that the town would do what it could to ensure that the housing project would not be built.
Now that the election is over and Fiore’s seat on the Township Committee has been secured for another 3 years, it seems that the plan has once again changed.
The commercial entity believed to have been interested in the Avaya site was Commvault, a spin off of Lucent Technologies that specializes in data management and recovery. Their current corporate headquarters is located nearby in Oceanport NJ. Commvault it seems, is no longer interested in moving it’s headquarters to Lincroft and prefers instead to move it’s offices over to the now empty, Fort Monmouth in Eatontown.
Why would they choose Eatontown over Lincroft? More than likely it was some sort of tax abatement issue. I had heard previously, before the name of Commvault was known, that the interested commercial entity was looking for a large multi-million dollar, multi-year property tax break in order to move into Middletown. Supposedly the Township reached out to State Senator Joe Kyrillos for help in securing such a deal with the State, but Kyrillos had reservations and nothing was done. This in turn left the door open for Commvault, who more than likely got the deal they were looking from the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority to moving itself over to the now empty Fort Monmouth.
So where does that leave the Four Ponds development? Rumors are circulating that Four Ponds developers have decided to back out of the housing project altogether and will announce their decision to do so tonight at the Planning Board meeting, leaving no one at present to build the 342 unit housing development, if the Planning Board’s decision was to approve Four Ponds’ application.
Four Pond’s rumored decision to drop its application could put the town in a major bind. The Avaya project is part of the Township’s COAH plan. If Four Ponds or some other builder, doesn’t build some kind of affordable housing there, the town will not be compliant with it’s State COAH plan and will have to find another location to build the affordable units. This would then open the door to builders that could seek “builder remedy” law suits against Middletown that would allow them to build just about anything, anywhere in town.
And for those that say that couldn’t happen because Governor Christie abolished COAH earlier this year, you are wrong. Christie abolished the governing body that presided over COAH not the rulings or decisions that had been already established by it. Middletown is just as bound today to their plans for building affordable housing as they were a year ago, nothing has changed.
Tonight’s meeting should be interesting.
So what’s the next step here? As one person so apply stated “Middletown should keep that COAH attorney on retainer.”