At least two elected officials say Councilwoman Camille Ferraro is off base in her criticism of the conditions under which she and other councilmembers had to read a Recognition Agreement between Toll JM Urban Renewal LLC, Wal-Mart Stores East, LP.
Ferraro said she didn’t have enough time to review a Recognition Agreement between Toll JM Urban Renewal LLC, Wal-Mart Stores East, LP and the Township of East Brunswick before it was approved. She said the 100-page agreement was made public for two weeks and they had to read it in the municipal building, rather than at home and at their leisure.
But Council President Michael Hughes and Mayor David Stahl both disagree. Both reached out to the East Brunswick Patch independently and said that the Recognition Agreement and the agreement between the three groups was approved by the council, including Ferraro, and had been under negotiations for several months.
The Recognition Agreement concerns a lease agreement entered into in March between Wal-Mart and Toll Brothers, which will build a 151,507-square-foot Wal-Mart on the township owned Golden Triangle site at the corner of Tices Lane and Route 18.
Special township attorney Jeffrey Leher said the agreement is recognition of all sides’ rights under the lease and under the Redevelopment Agreement. He compared the Recognition Agreement to if he were to own a house and lease it to a tenant. He said the tenant would ask that if Lehrer reneged on his mortgage payments and the house was foreclosed upon that the tenant would not be forced out of their home by the lender.
“It’s public record,” said Hughes. “The mayor worked with our attorney, Jeff Leher, for a number of months and I believe we had a closed session with the attorney to go over the plan with council, and then an entire other meeting in public, where there was more then enough time for public input. At that meeting, Camille didn’t bother to voice these concerns."
Mayor Stahl had similar sentiments, saying that since 2011, when Republicans Ferraro, Hughes and James Wendell pushed for a change in the township’s redevelopment attorney, he has worked to keep all of them informed of progress made regarding the Golden Triangle.
“The concern is not one that was expressed publicly at a council meeting,” said Stahl. “As I said in the Sentinel (newspaper), I worked diligently to make sure the council has the appropriate information. We had an executive session, and the document was on file at the clerk’s office. I read it in the clerk’s office, and I think the council president and vice president (Wendell) read it there too.
“I just don’t think that’s fair. It maybe required a little extra work, but we’re elected officials. That’s what we do.”
Hughes said the agreement protects the township as much as it does Wal-Mart and Toll Brothers.
“This part protects us as much as it protects Wal-Mart. I can't think of a scenario where we'd want a default not remediated," said Hughes. “I can’t think of why we in the township would want that to happen.”
Ferraro also questioned the need for such an agreement, saying that the township is never asked to sign similar agreements with restaurants such as Hooters and the Tilted Kilt.
However, this is township owned property and the agreement is for a Redevelopment Project.
“It has absolutely nothing to do about it,” said Stahl. “A lease between any retailer and landlord, that’s a private lease between landlord and tenant. Here we have a piece of redevelopment land and it protects the redeveloper, the tenant and, obviously, it protects the township. This is good for the township, it gives us protection. I don’t t know why it suddenly is being portrayed as something out of the ordinary.”
Follow Patch on Facebook.