Summit Council: Stop Accommodating Toll/L&M, Regain Our Trust, and Do What’s Best for Summit

September 13, 2022

TAPinto Summit

By Steve Sartorius and Vicki Lederman

On Tuesday night, September 6, Summit City Council said they have heard us and have told Toll/L&M to come back with a revised proposal that adheres to the redevelopment plan, the master plan, zoning ordinances, and the perspectives of the Historic Preservation and other commissions. They seemed to think that this is a win and residents should be satisfied with this progress. This was not a win or an accomplishment: this was the starting point from which BSW proposals were to come forth. The fact residents have had to fight to even meet those basic standards originally set and approved by the City is absurd. Had these things been adhered to from the beginning, we’d be at least a year further down the path and with much greater goodwill and most importantly, greater trust between the city and residents.

If the developers can’t make a reasonable profit by adhering to those standards, why did they respond to the RFQ with a project proposal in the first place? That’s their poor business judgment and loss. This is our home and town and BSW needs to serve our needs and objectives. Summit does not exist for the purposes, or to pad the profits of, developers or consultants. We do not need to, and should not, accommodate them at the expense of our quality of life. It was their choice to answer the RFQ.

We have strongly advocated for the creation of a diverse, inclusive and open citizen advisory committee to help Council get the best for Summit in both financing and design, and many of us were eagerly waiting for the applications to join. Instead, Council’s resolution created a strictly financial, closed advisory committee that totally ignores design or any other aspect of this project, and only looks at subdistrict 3 in isolation. The exhaustive list of qualifications demanded to even apply for this committee, which no Council member even comes close to having, precludes the vast majority of residents from being on it. Further, Council has no obligation to abide by or even consider their recommendations.

While Council is at least willing to have qualified individuals advise on project financials, what we don’t understand is why Council is still set on “tweaking” this proposal without looking at other options that might work better. In any business endeavor, sometimes you just have cut your losses, pull the plug and start over. Regardless of the extent of the investment so far, if it just isn’t going to work, you get out before investing more and making the economic and time losses worse.

Council is throwing good money after bad and has lost the trust of many residents. After studying this redevelopment proposal in detail for months, it has become clear that we need to start over, with a project that meets Summit’s financial, housing, business, and lifestyle needs and wants.

Now however, we wonder if that is even an option, based on the comments of Council members Danny O’Sullivan and especially Susan Hairston at the Sept. 6 meeting. After O’Sullivan stated that “it’s now two four-story buildings,” Council President Fox explained “We actually have not seen a drawing of it, it’s just a conceptual discussion.” This was followed by Hairston’s comment: “Those of us who are saying revisit redevelopment, sorry, NO. We have as a community — we decided on that, and we will make the best out of it.”

This seems like another done deal just waiting to be signed once they finish “humoring” us that we’re being “heard”.

Steve Sartorius and Vicki Lederman, Summit