TOWNSHIP OF WASHINGTON, NJ The Township Council cleared negotiations to begin the acquisition of Washington Township Swim & Recreation Club, the private nonprofit social club located on Ridgewood Boulevard adjacent to Garden State Parkway, for a purchase price of $ 850,000.
Resolution 21-181 was passed 3-0 at the April 5 meeting. Yes, and without comment, Board Chairman Stacey Feeney, VP Desserie Morgan and newly returned member Tom Sears voted the same meeting to replace the late Arthur Cumming.
Members Steven Cascio and Michael DeSena challenging for mayor were absent.
The resolution does not refer to the swimming club, but to the tax party and block numbers. It is not clear why the city appears to finalize a purchase price before negotiations end.
The city tax records show that the lot has a land value of $ 1,173,200 and an improvement value of $ 200,000 for a total estimated value of $ 1,373,200
The resolution notes that the purpose of the Master Plan is to maintain the open space and the Township Council has determined that the Township could benefit from the said property acquisition and improvements.
Mayor Peter Calamari said the resolution does not currently bind the city in any way, shape or form, but that it allows the city to conduct further property negotiations to secure a sale.
He said it was not intended to buy the property for public works or maintenance of DPW vehicles. He said there would be no vehicle storage there and no hazardous materials would be stored.
He said there was simply the option to store some Township equipment in the parking lot or possibly leave the parking lot as part of the swim club.
We last wrote about the club, at 464 Ridgewood Road, in September 2019, noting that it was back then with its taxes and had a long list of former members late with high membership bond repayments.
City records show that a tax of $ 8,531 is due on May 1.
In our 2019 story, club co-chair Loretta DeTitta told us that in its effort to make ends meet, the club is leasing space to a boxing and fitness instructor and another swimming organization, and has benefited from barter.
She explained that a revenue stream the club had developed was shut down after a neighbor sent us into town for having members and others park commercial vehicles on site, off-season, backed up to the Garden State Parkway .
Allegations in 2013 said the property, which is zoned as a residential area, was used as a transfer station. After officials found stored dumpsters and roll-offs, the city filed a strike letter.
The situation resulted in the club losing about $ 10,000, DeTitta said.
Something has to happen. Either folding and that means selling it to a developer, I think the city might be able to help us. Those would be the two things that would happen, she said.
She added that the board had contacted potential donors in the city, but since the club is not a charity, such donations would not be tax-deductible.
Facilities at the club, which opened in 1963, included a heated Olympic-sized pool surrounded by lounge chairs, a gated children’s pool next to the main pool, lockers and shower facilities, Wi-Fi, a gated (and rentable) clubhouse, an indoor recreation room with table tennis and table football, a full-service snack stand and a shaded picnic area.
A former member, Steve Kohlreiter, commander of VFW Post 6192, a Eucharistic pastor, and a knight brother of the Mother Seton Council, claimed the swimming club is mismanaged.
He said at a council taxpayer forum on Facebook, where he and others exchanged bond stories, that repayments have been delayed for too long and that he has support for a class action lawsuit.
They’ve been tugging at my chain all this time and I’m sick of it. I have waited patiently for 15 years to get my bail money back. I was told I was 15th on the list, about where I was 15 years ago, Kohlreiter told Pascack Press.
He added: Maybe it’s time for them to close the pool and sell the property to pay back the bondholders.
The club does not receive any financial support or incentives from the council, although former councilor Joe DUrso told Pascack Press in 2019 that there was a municipal tax break until it was raised in the 2010 budget discussions and corrected.
He said the officials involved are now gone.
DeTitta told Pascack Press she thought the problem would not have been as pronounced if the city had been able to provide resources as social trends changed.
It’s not easy to make big improvements that people want to see other pools [including in Westwood] have slides. They want to see more. They were very calm, she said.
The club board acknowledged criticism by partially blogging at the time. The list of those awaiting the repayment of their bond payment is of the utmost importance to us. We do not take this responsibility lightly and work very hard not only to keep the swimming club open, but also to attract new members.
Looking ahead, Pascack Press reached out to Calamari for his views on what the township might have come up with regarding the club.
He said on September 23, 2019 that he had no comment.
On April 5, the council voted to allow negotiations for the swimming club, approximately 2 to 12 hours after the 3rd 12-hour meeting, after a long pause for a private session. The discussion begins at 2:20:50 am of the recording of the WCTV-NJ meeting on April 5th.
We reached out to Calamari for comment on the city’s interest in the land and its improvements, and for news of bondholder fees, but we heard nothing from the press.
WEB UPDATE: Hours after our issue with this story was published on the front page, Calamari took to his official Facebook page on April 8 to say why he supports this purchase, ending with, “The first use I would like to investigate is to review it. abandoned as a swimming club. All infrastructure is available for it. I would like to look at the numbers the existing club has to see the expenses and then estimate how much income it will need. “
Calamari led with, “The main reason I think we should investigate this [purchase] is my commitment to open space and my opposition to overdevelopment. There are few, if any, six hectares of land left in the city. The city will rest on Fair Share Housing units until 2025, which is not far away. I don’t want a developer buying the property, sitting on it until then, and then proposing to build an inordinate number of units on the property. “
He added: ‘My fear and concern is that allowing the property to potentially be sold to a developer will at the very least result in an expensive and lengthy legal battle, or at worst, a court ruling requiring high-density housing construction. That would threaten the quality of life of single-family homes in small towns that we all enjoy and work so hard to preserve and protect. It could also lead to a significant influx of students into our already overcrowded school system and a concomitant increase in school taxes. “
Calamari said, “I have to be careful what I say and don’t say with regard to these types of applications. Applications for the boards must be legally assessed on their individual advantages and disadvantages. Statements made by municipal officials about applications outside of board meetings and based on anything that falls outside the scope of the application can be qualified as disadvantageous. This can later be exploited by a developer in court to quash board decisions and judgments and decisions. So please understand that my overriding belief is that any potential development or building in Washington Township must be in accordance with existing zoning laws. “
He added: “I want everyone to understand that the resolution passed by the council is not binding on the city yet. The city and property owners decided to agree on a purchase price before further negotiating the terms of sale. While there are many options for the property if the city acquires it, I would like to state in my records what will NOT happen to it. “
- It will not be a base for the DPW. We believe that if we can store some of the DPW vehicles and equipment there, it will provide us with the right space to build a new DPW facility in the same space and location as now.
- No hazardous substances are stored there.
- No maintenance is performed on the equipment on site.
- Anyone who has recently visited the City Hall parking lot will notice that the space there is smaller than ever. The DPW and the police have purchased equipment that allows them to do their work more efficiently and effectively than ever before. This equipment is useful and necessary, but it takes up space.
With John Snyder
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