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Councilwoman Explains 'No' Vote on Wal-Mart

Councilwoman Camille Ferraro questioned the need for an agreement. She also said the council wasn't given enough time to consider the agreement.

Councilwoman Camille 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

Ferraro was the lone dissenting vote on Aug. 20, when the Township Council voted on the agreement. She said she and fellow council members had just a few weeks to read and digest the 100 page agreement, and they weren’t allowed to remove the document from the Municipal Building, which means they had to read it there in a busy office, she said.

“We had to read that in the clerk’s office,” she said. “We couldn’t take it home, couldn’t make a copy of it, couldn’t read it at our leisure. We had to read it in the office with three other people working, phones ringing.

She said the lease agreement took three months to negotiate and included four to five pages on the actual agreement, with the remainder pertaining to the legalities of reading and signing it.

Ferraro said Mayor David Stahl, who helped negotiate the agreement, is merely treating the Township Council as a rubber stamp, assuming that they will approve whatever he sends them.

“He may have had time to read and understand and digest the thing, but the council, which is a separate arm of government, did not have that luxury of time,” she said.

The Recognition Agreement concerns a lease agreement entered into in March between Wal-Mart and Toll Brothers, which will 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 a 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 says that if Toll Brother’s can’t honor its commitments to town, Wal-Mart can step in and remedy it, so Wal-Mart, regardless of what happens to Toll Brothers, will be given opportunity to fix it,” said Ferraro.

However, Ferraro questioned the need for such an agreement, saying that the township is never asked to sign similar agreements.

“I have concerns about the actual agreement, and it’s two fold,” she said. “I don’t see the need to sign off on this. Its one thing to say Wal-Mart is coming into town, and we have no right to say whether or not someone is coming into town to do business. We can’t stop Hooters, we can’t stop Tilted Kilt, based on their right to do business.”

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Douglas Brown September 05, 2012 at 10:56 AM
Its great that Councilwomen Ferraro spelled out exactly why she did not vote yes. Why was she denied complete access to the report and could not just get a copy to read ? The people of East Brunswick voted her in and trust her. Why can`t the "insiders" do the same? Doug Brown
Martin Spielman September 05, 2012 at 05:51 PM
<<We had to read that in the clerk’s office,” she said. “We couldn’t take it home, couldn’t make a copy of it, couldn’t read it at our leisure. We had to read it in the office with three other people working, phones ringing.>> It sounds like someone's covering something up. How often are we told, "Read before you sign;" and yet Walmart is afraid to let us have that option. I can almost guarantee that somewhere down the road a councilman will be explaining away some grand failure by saying they never had a chance to read the entire document. We have seen this so many times in Congress ie the Patriot Act etc that we should know better.
pole732 September 05, 2012 at 05:54 PM
wow A councilwomen or councilamn actually reading a agreement before they sign off . i thought that that died many years ago *** DOING IT THE RIGHT WAY
Myrna September 05, 2012 at 08:58 PM
The members of the council should certainly should have had the chance to fully read and review the agreement before voting; limiting access- only during office hours in a crowded office, does not fufill the obligation to the taxpayers. Guess the Mayor figured it's already a done deal. Toll Brothers and Walmart probably insisted on speedy approval; and they are holding all the cards. No surprise since their legal teams are bigger and more experienced in matters of this sort than our township attorney.
Jean Vitta September 07, 2012 at 12:54 AM
I wonder what the many closed sessions were about. Was not the councilwoman involved in the discussions for all those months? The mayor and entire council needs to fully explain all to the citizens of East Brunswick before Election Day.

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