Apparently the death announcement of the K. Hovnanian project proposed for the former Champale site in South Trenton has brought out the worst playground behavior from some members of City Council.
Council President Paul Pintella has indicated that delays caused by “extending courtesies” to South Ward Councilman Jim Coston led to the projects downfall.
Is Mr. Pintella stating that the deal collapsed from working with rather than strong arming the elected representative of the South Ward to achieve a deal that was satisfactory to all?
Perhaps more interesting, is Councilwoman Cordelia Staton’s assertion that it was delays stemming from negotiations over “property values and assessments” that killed the deal. Trentonian reporter L.A. Parker characterized the Councilwoman’s stance as blaming “homeowners for challenging eminent domain procedures.”
Is she really suggesting that it was the residents who were against the government land grab of their private property who killed the deal?
For his part, Councilman Coston has reported that it has been his feeling for some time that the Administration desired to have a project done in Trenton by a nationally recognized developer such as K. Hovnanian and would do what was necessary to achieve that goal. Coston asserts that a remark from a high ranking administration official indicated that if this project did not get done, the land would remain undeveloped for the duration of Doug Palmer’s tenure as Mayor.
In other words, he was threatened to do it the administration’s way or suffer the consequences.
While not prone to accept all the rampant conspiracy theories that fly up and down the local grapevine, there is some history here that may just support Coston’s hypothesis.
In what may be a coincidence but is still interesting to note, Mr. Pintella mentioned at a TCCA meeting six or seven years ago that Trenton needed to attract developers like K. Hovnanian and/or Toll Brothers to town.
Since he is kept in Mr. Palmer’s expensive suit pocket, could it be possible that this was one of Pintella’s frequent bouts of verbal diarrhea where he let slip a little hint about something that might have been in the earliest discussion stages?
A little foreshadowing to indicate just how prescient an elected official he is?
And when the project was first proposed, it fit the footprint of the existing redevelopment site. It wasn’t until after the initial public approvals came in and some community meetings were held that the plans started to change and more land “might be needed.” At the builder’s request, the redevelopment area was increased to include privately held properties, thus paving the way for the use of eminent domain, “if needed.”
The city was so anxious to amend the redevelopment plan to comply with Hovnanian’s wishes that it was later determined by a judge that procedural errors were made which necessitated a “do over” and delayed the process further.
Of course, neither Mr. Pintella nor Ms. Staton mentioned that when they sought to blame someone for the failed project.
Hovnanian’s own fiscal troubles started to mount as the housing industry slowed. Was anyone really surprised that the company would give second thoughts to building in Trenton?
And is it equally unexpected that the Palmer administration, faced with losing yet another “high profile” project might try to quietly work toward a resolution…like a last minute request to extend the Payments In Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) payments?
It is completely plausible. This administration has proven so inept and challenged that it is desperate to have a name brand project as part of its legacy. To this end, the blame game will be utilized to deflect the harsh light of public disapproval from shining on the inadequacies of Mr. Palmer and his chosen few.
While others may have wished Councilman Coston had held a harder line against the expansion of the Hovnanian project from the get go, he at least tried very hard to serve and work with his constituents.
Mr. Pintella and Ms. Staton would do better to serve the people who ostensibly elected them to office than to the puppet master who continues to control their actions and words.
They need to stop these childish games of “I didn’t do it. He/she/they did it,” and get back to the business at hand.