Council reintroduces Sharma tract ordinance

Finance board denies waiver; council approves emergency appropriation


Staff Writer

EDISON – The Township Council was forced to table a $15 million bond ordinance to bid on the Sharma tract at the Feb. 15 meeting and reintroduce it, effectively taking the township’s ability to bid on the project down to the wire.

The Sharma tract is 27 acres of land adjacent to the Stevens preserve originally purchased by the now bankrupt Kara Homes. Kara had planned to build more than 20 single-family homes on the site; however, the company’s current financial climate and their bankruptcy filing in October 2006 has led them to sell off many of the properties undeveloped. The Sharma tract is now one of them.

The township, eager to preserve the land as open space, has scrambled to pass a bond ordinance setting aside $15 million to be used in a bidding process for the land. The township had hoped to have the funds in place by the Feb. 15 meeting, but the local finance board refused to waive the 5 percent down payment required by the township, forcing the township to reintroduce the ordinance. The actions of the council pushed the approval date for the ordinance to Feb. 28 – just one day before the auction for the land is scheduled to begin.

Jong Song Nee, a representative of McManimon and Scotland, the township’s bond council, said that the local finance board urged the township to fund the 5 percent down payment through an emergency appropriation and not through a waiver of the down payment.

The council passed a resolution providing for these emergency funds to be used for the 5 percent down payment, an amount around $714,300.

Nee said that the local finance board has began to look at waivers such as this differently than they did in the past.

“The local finance board is taking a much more conservative approach to waivers,” Nee said.

Council member Anthony Massaro said that putting off the adoption of the ordinance would also give the county more time to fulfill their end of the bargain.

The county has been fast-tracking the appraisal process for the Sharma tract and has all but promised to reimburse the township the cost of the land through county open space preservation grants.

According to Ralph Albanir, Middlesex County Parks and Recreation director, the county is looking to complete the appraisal process and have the approval given to the township by the first week in March. All in all, the process would have lasted little more than four weeks, but Albanir said it usually takes greater than three


Massaro said that having the extra time could keep Edison from being responsible for at least some part of the $15 million, should the county back out of the agreement.

“It would not have the possibility to leave us hanging for some part of this money,” Massaro said. “Like a Rubic’s Cube, there are a million facets to this, but that’s the one that made the most sense to me. I want to make sure there is no possibility that we are left holding the bag.”

The council will hold a public hearing on the ordinance at the Feb. 28 meeting, at which point the council will vote on the approval of the bond ordinance.