Daniel Cohen, an attorney representing the company, said AGC was unaware until recently that the council would be voting on the resolution that allows the Bayonne Planning Board to start making definitive plans for the area.
The Planning Board unanimously endorsed an expansion of the redevelopment zone in early January allowing part of the chemical company's property to be included.
Cohen argued against the passing of a council resolution saying that the city had upped the amount of AGC property from 11.2 acres to 17 acres - which would interfere with the company's plan to expand.
While city officials were careful to say that they were not "taking" the property by starting the redevelopment plan, the term has been used to highlight the very controversial policy of forcing property owners to sell land for either preservation or redevelopment.
While city officials said AGC would benefit from this forced sale because the largely unused property would likely increase in value once the redevelopment plans got underway, Cohen said the company needed more time to discuss what exactly the city wanted since the city increased the number of acres it wanted.
AGC initially asked to be included the redevelopment of the area when unveiled by planning board officials because the company might benefit from the designation, but Cohen said the company wanted to give up only 10 acres not the 11.2 acres the city initially sought to include. In late November, the company discovered the city wanted even more acreage to accommodate the request of a redevelopment company that intended to build a mall in the area.
The plan adopted in September by the Planning board included a total of 35 acres - including vacant parcels owned by AGC. The plan adopted in December, added more acres to the redevelopment zone, and took a larger bite out of property owned by AGC. While Councilman Ted Connolly, who also serves on the Planning Board, agreed to amend the plan to reduce the amount of property the city proposes for the zone, Cohen said the company wants more discussion as to the benefits of whether or not the total proposed land should be left in or portions taken out.
"We do not yet know whether we want all of our property, some of our property or none of our property included," Cohen said.
This is just the beginning
While Jay Coffey, the director of the City's Law Department, said the resolution only began a process that could be amended later, Cohen and AGC's Vice President Bear (who refused to give her full name to the press), however, said they wanted the delay in order to more fully understand the impact of the development plans as to whether they wanted all, some or any of their property included in their plans.
Mayor Joseph Doria, who made a hurried appearance, accused the company of stalling and said attorney who regularly attended the Planning Board hearings was as unprepared to answer questions as Cohen was, and Doria blamed the company for deliberately not being forthcoming with information.
During the council meeting, Cohen said he had been led to believe that the vote would not take place, something numerous city officials, council members and the mayor flatly refuted.
Council members - including Councilman John Halecky said the property had been neglected for decades and that the redevelopment plan would bring a mall project that would increased tax payments to the city, provide residents with jobs and make good use of a property that is largely vacant now. By designating the area a redevelopment zone, they give themselves the legal right to take it by eminent domain if it comes to that.
Doria said the property's use dates back to when Standard Oil operated facilities there, and that the property needs an environmental cleanup - something Exxon Mobil would be responsible for and would conduct if the redevelopment plans moved ahead.
Mayor Doria went on to say that AGC had other reasons for opposing the redevelopment, which sprouted immediate objections from Cohen and the company's vice president Bear who later refused to give her full name to the press. Doria also said the company had shown not plans for expansion and had done nothing to upgrade the site.
Vice President Bear said that the company had only reorganized as of Jan. 1, 2004 and was just making plans to locate the national headquarters in Bayonne, plans that the proposed redevelopment could jeopardize.
AGC Chemicals Americas, Inc., is subsidiary of the Asahi Glass Corporation, and was formed as the result of a merger of two sister companies. The company currently employees about 143 people, a number that Bear said was increasing because of recruitment efforts.
City officials have been seeking to get property owners in the area proposed for redevelopment to upgrade the use of the land for years, including changing zoning that would encourage redevelopment. But these efforts to prompt owners to seek better uses for the area have resulted in no significant upgrades. The potential cost of contamination cleanup has been one reason companies may have resisted seeking redevelopment on their own. The city-imposed redevelopment designation could make state funds available for the cleanup of contamination.
The forced sale of the property could lead the city to court since redevelopment that uses the city's power of eminent domain to trade one form of commercial property for another will be heard shortly by the U.S. Supreme Court. A challenge could be mounted against the Route 440 plan if the plan proposed would benefit a particular developer.
At the same meeting in which the council voted to send the redevelopment proposal back to the planning board to take the next necessary steps towards fruitions, the council also approved a conditional redeveloper's agreement with Cameron Group, LLC, of Syracuse for the area.
Attorney Joseph P. Baumann Jr., of McManimon & Scotland, said AGC has more than enough opportunity to discuss and negotiate with the city, and that the plans are far from final. He said the redevelopment plan would benefit the city by pushing ahead with necessary contamination cleanup - which would have a positive impact on residential areas nearest to the site. He said because the land has lain vacant for so long, the redevelopment would bring up the value and would increase the taxes paid to the city. He also estimated the proposed change would produce the equivalent of 200 full time jobs.
One reason a developer may be interested in the area is because the property lies within the boundaries of an Urban Enterprise zone, and would benefit from the distinction.
City Finance Director Terrance Malloy said the month delay AGC has requested would mean an eventual loss in tax benefits to the UEZ since the UEZ income is based up sales tax revenue.
Contact Al Sullivan at firstname.lastname@example.org