The BLRA's unanimous approval allows the Trammel Crow - doing business as Bayonne Limited Partnership - to take the project to the Planning Board in the next step in a process that could see the breaking of ground by August.
"This plan has a good concept and is good for Bayonne," said BLRA Commissioner Vincent Lo Re. "The BLRA has worked hard to bring in world class developers."
Bayonne Limited is proposing to construct 549 rental apartments in a portion of the Bayonne Bay District.
The MOTBY - renamed the Peninsula at Bayonne Harbor - has six development districts, each with different development criteria. The Bayonne Bay District is designed as a residential district, and the proposal the BLRA reviewed would construct rental housing on two development blocks within that district.
Michael Shorter, development associate for Bayonne Limited, said the proposed 549 units would be split between two development blocks within the Bayonne Bay district, over a total of about 7.25 acres. The first block would have a four-story building that would have 305 apartment flats and would include a five story garage with 456 parking places. This section would also include 20 townhouses with interior garages and a one and a half story recreation center clubhouse.
The second section would include a four-story apartment building with 220 residential flats, a five story parking garage with 325 parking spaces and a recreation center club house.
The total will be 58 percent one bedroom units, 39 percent two bedroom units with 3 percent three bedroom units. The entire project is estimated to generate less than 30 school children. The club houses, the apartment buildings and the garages will be for residents only, although the streets and parks will be open to the general public.
Shorter hoped the project would break ground in August for the construction of the recreation building, sales office and sample units. The entire project would be completed hopefully by 2011.
Trammel Crow will pay over $18 million for rights to develop these two blocks of land, and has already given the BLRA ¿a? deposit of $11.3 million.
Last year, Trammel Crow received the go-ahead for development in partnership with H.R. Horton.
Horton withdrew from the project at the last minute and a separate deal was signed with Trammel Crow for the rental portion, as the BLRA worked out agreements with another developer, Bayonne Bay Associates, for the remaining portion of Bayonne Bay. An agreement for the remaining section is currently being negotiated.
Questions about access and finance Councilmen Anthony Chiappone and Gary La Pelusa led questioning about aspects of the project, in particularly the public access.
Residents Bob Lake and Lenny Kantor attempted to ask about financial aspects of the deal and were cut short by Chairman Howard Fitch, who said the review was to determine if the project complied with aspects of the redevelopment plan, not aspects of the financial deal.
In the later public portion, however, Chiappone questioned some of the details behind the sale, particularly the aspect that would require the city of Bayonne to bond to cover infrastructure improvements.
Under an agreement with the federal government, the city is prohibited from making a profit on the sale of land from the base until 2009. But city officials, seeking to use the funds from the base to help fill yearly municipal budget gaps, are using a loop hole in the law to feed development money back into the city coffers. The federal government will allow money made off the development to be used to upgrade MOTBY - such as for the installation of sewers, electric and telephone services and building of roads. The BLRA - which is an autonomous public body from the city council - accepts the down payment from developers, transfers this cash to the city, and the city council uses it to balance the budget, but bonds for the money so that the BLRA had drawn down on the cash to perform the necessary work at the base.
Two years ago, the BLRA accepted a $20 million down payment from Fidelco Realty toward the purchase of the first development district, Harbor Station. Last year, the Trammel Crow - H.R. Horton deal was supposed to generate about $25 million.
With city budgets due for review in mid-January, Chiappone learned that the city council planed to float yet another $25 million bond this year.
"Since the previous bonds came as a result of the sale of land, where is the BLRA going to get the $25 million this year to give the city to cover the bond?" Chiappone asked. "I don't see another land deal on the horizon. I'm very uncomfortable with the city council voting for another bond that is not tied to a land deal."
Chiappone also questioned why the bond was needed.
"Last year, you told the city council that you needed a $25 million bond to pay for infrastructure improvements for the Bayonne Bay District," said Chiappone. "Now you're telling us you need another $25 million."
BLRA attorney Jay Coffey said the total cost for service upgrade of the Bayonne Bay section was $50 million, and that last year's bond only partly paid for the improvements.
Chiappone said later he was shocked.
"Isn't it coincidental that the BLRA needs $25 million for upgrades, which is exactly the amount the city needs to fill this year's budget gap?"
The issue is expected to become a central piece in the city budget amendment hearing on Jan. 17. In order to pass the bond, the city council must have four out of five votes in favor. At this point, La Pelusa and Chiappone appear to have serious reservations about passing the bond.
"We will have amendments of our own to propose at the hearing," Chiappone said.