Letters to the Editor

Time for Change

November 1, 2022

TAPinto Summit

By Al Dill

Having been a 4-term (12 years) Summit Council member, it is generally expected that you ride off into the sunset when your term ends and the new Council takes over.

But hearing the City is facing debt problems and possible large tax increases, I want to know what went wrong and why.

We need change and that can start by the election of Delia Hamlet as Council Member Ward 1.

Delia has some very impressive ideas to move Summit forward in the areas of recreation, keeping residents better informed of City projects, a cleaner downtown and much more.

Please vote for Delia Hamlet to help get Summit back on track. Vote column A.

Al Dill, Summit

Delia Hamlet has Proven Bipartisan Track Record Against Overdevelopment

October 20, 2022

TAPinto Summit

By Elliot Fishman

A couple of years ago, I had the privilege of co-chairing a group of concerned Summit residents fighting overdevelopment. An out-of-state developer called the Primrose Group intended to build an oversized school in a residential neighborhood. The project would have ruined the character, quality of life, and pedestrian safety of the entire neighborhood. Residents feared additional traffic and parking overflow on surrounding streets in one of the town’s busiest commute corridors. Over 200 families banded together, attended planning board meetings, engaged in neighborhood conversations and circulated petitions.

Delia Hamlet was one of the most active and outspoken members of the group opposing Primrose, even while she lived across town. As a mother of three, she immediately grasped the public safety concerns. And as a longtime community member, she immediately saw what Primrose intended to build was out of scale to Summit’s unique, hometown feel. In one forum she noted Primrose was an affront to the generations of activist citizens who came before us, whose own efforts to control development provided all of us now with such a special place to raise our families.

What stood out most about Delia’s leadership on the Primrose battle was her unwavering drive, determination, and dedication to protect the interests of her Summit neighbors. She has always been for public safety and against overdevelopment.

The 200 of us fighting Primrose at town planning board meetings were a highly-diverse group. While we were all Summit residents, we came from different parts of town, ages, socioeconomic backgrounds, and political affiliations.

Fast forward a couple of years, and history repeats itself with Broad Street West. Over 1700 of us have already signed a petition in opposition of the current Broad Street West Redevelopment plan.  I believe many more in town would join our group, if they became aware of the grossly outsized buildings. As Delia has said, Broad Street West would forever urbanize Summit’s downtown to the detriment of its current friendly village feel.

The fight against BSW is a major reason Delia is running for office. As we strive to retain Summit’s suburban character, manageable pace, and quaint downtown, it is incredibly important that we elect officials like Delia who have in mind the interests of all Summit residents. With Delia, there is no quibbling about one’s typical political affiliation. She is truly the bipartisan candidate we all need on council.

Elliot Fishman, Summit

Let’s Not Play Fast and Loose with the Facts

October 10, 2022

TAPinto Summit

By Jim Bennett

It is disappointing that Phyllis Sank presents Summit voters with an October 3, 2022, letter to the Editor that plays fast and loose with the facts about Delia Hamlet. Let’s correct the record.

On April 10, 2021, a 19-year-old Summit Woman found herself abducted and forced into the trunk of her kidnapper’s car  – close to where Delia’s three children had been playing at their father’s home. If the woman had not been able to dial 911 from inside the trunk using her cell phone, the outcome might have been tragic.

As a mother, Delia was critical of the police for two principal reasons. First, there was no Nixle report of the kidnapping. Second, authorities issued public statements after the crime proclaiming that the abduction was only attempted. These statements were incorrect. The kidnapping was anything but attempted – it was successful, and there is video proof.

Delia helped organize a neighborhood group to stop this kind of crime and encourage truthful and timely communications from City officials. Delia invited Phyllis Sank to the group. Sank initially participated but then withdrew. Police Chief Steven Zagorsky sat in on discussions with Delia and others about these issues. Following a rash of thefts and attempted thefts that went unreported to the community by the City, the group hired an unarmed private security firm for a while. Chief Zagorsky and the City knew of the private security team’s presence and goals before it started work.

Since the abduction, Fernwood neighbors tried to close off the connection between Fernwood and Route 24, but the State would not approve the closure. Since the closure was not possible, Delia and others have been pushing to put a median at the end of Fernwood Road, where it runs into Route 24. A similar median exists at the end of Canoe Brook Parkway. A median would deter criminals from crossing over to the Route 24 ramp immediately across from Fernwood.

The City approved this median many months ago in a public City Council meeting, but the administration is still working on the project. However, you can be sure that if Delia had been on Council, there would be a median at the end of Fernwood Road today.

Phyllis Sank’s distortions about Delia and her efforts to enhance safety are shameful and do not belong in Summit’s public discourse. Rather than attack her, we should instead thank Delia for her service to our community. Delia Hamlet deserves your vote in November.

Jim Bennett, Summit

Summit or Council?

October 9, 2022

TAPinto Summit

By Nick Giorgi

I am proudly born, raised, and live in Summit with my wife and three young children. I’m third generation. This is not my adopted or transient residence, for which I claim to speak on behalf of its inherent character. I know Summit because I’m a product of it. I’ve poured blood, sweat, and tears in the school system and onto Tatlock Field. It’s with incredulity that I’ve watched the devolvement of Summit’s Common Council and the processes by which they claim to represent our town.  

Like many others within our community, I was disinterested in local politics prior to the pandemic. I had assumed that our good neighbors and colleagues were above the troubling machinations of national discourse. But my interest was piqued with the debate regarding a proposed ban on gas powered leaf blowers. I didn’t have a dog in the fight but was alarmed by the alacrity that our Council had in dismissing the well-meaning constituents that disagreed with them. I watched as a council member laughed as a Summiteer offered questions to the body. I asked rhetorically, our officials realize that these folks vote, don’t they? 

The recent dialogue regarding Broad Street West has illuminated these concerns to a more egregious degree. When I first learned of development in the proposed region I was enthusiastic, and still am. I assumed it would involve beautiful architecture, a meaningful boon to the city financial coffers, and another outlet for downtown entertainment. To me that region represents an impermeable desert that could be so much more for the community. I then began to learn more about the proposals and became alarmed because it doesn’t cure the ills and inexplicably appears to add to the burden. But what’s been more alarming has been the brazen willingness for Council to steamroll public transparency and opposition.

Common Council meetings have turned into “must watch” entertainment. Tune in to watch hundreds of very well-reasoned and educated objections to an otherwise dispassionate slate of stone faced officials.

One particular meeting stood out in highlighting these transgressions. On June 21st the Common Council held a meeting at the Community Rec Center. After four hours and forty-two minutes of near-uniform dissension from the audience, Councilman Danny O’Sullivan read from a written script his introduction of a resolution (ID#9733) to advance a proposed amendment to the Broad Street West Redevelopment Plan to the Planning Board. All council members agreed, with the exception of Councilwoman Lisa Allen. What was striking was that it was revealed that Council did not need to advance an amendment to the plan in order for the Planning Board to opine, as conveyed by their counsel. The current council members were seemingly unaware of this. Councilwoman Allen, to her credit, applied this new information to her decision whereas other members curiously stuck to script. 

Within 72 hours the dissenting council members changed course and the proposal was not advanced. Apparently Bayesian theory work on a lag in some circles. This begs the question for Councilman O’Sullivan and others; were you uninformed or swayed by public sentiment? How are we to trust your judgment when you flip-flop from advancing a proposal to postponing it in such a slight timeframe? Neither is a good look. To pile up the alarms, another council member sold their residence without relinquishing their seat on the council until it was politically advantageous. 

Since adolescence a goal of mine was to prosper in Summit, raise my family in Summit, and inspire them to aspire to raise their families in Summit. I’m onboard with change and I embrace it, but I believe it should be born out of the collective willpower and in the collective good of the people it affects. Some folks claim that there is a silent majority unwilling to face the vitriol of a louder minority. To that I say, welcome to democracy. The truth should ultimately prevail at the ballot. I’ve been supportive across the aisle to various candidates but believe that the current slate in power requires a check to help install the balance that this public deserves from their elected officials. 

Delia Hamlet has stepped up for Summit and our country when it was needed, when it was thankless, and when it was difficult. Given what I’ve seen from her opponent in contrast to her dedication to thankless efforts in opposition, where do I sign?

Nick Giorgi, Summit

Endorsing Delia Hamlet

October 5, 2022

TAPinto Summit

By Bill Callahan

I endorse Delia Hamlet for Summit, NJ Common Council.

As a decorated Army Officer in Kuwait and Executive Officer for the 155th Transportation Company, Delia has exceptional experience serving our country. She continues to hone her leadership skills as partner and Chief Operating Officer of the Fort Athletic Club, a premier health club. Like me, Delia has chosen Summit as her hometown where her children receive a top-notch education at our public schools and where we support local causes like GRACE to ensure each of our neighbors are supported in times of need.

Delia has the training and talent to manage the affairs of Summit, including Broad Street West, and she will respect the work done by previous administrations. I encourage my fellow neighbors to join me in voting for Delia Hamlet for Common Council.

Bill Callahan, Summit

Choice Is On the Ballot and Delia Hamlet is the Right One for Summit

September 27, 2022

TAPinto Summit

By Rachel Kramer

I’ve been a registered democrat for the entirety of my adult life and up until very recently, I could be what some might consider a “blue, no matter who,” voter. This changed in the Spring of 2021 when the Summit Common Council introduced an ordinance to ban gas-powered leaf blowers, in the middle of a pandemic. This is also the time that my path would cross with Delia Hamlet, Ward 1 Common Council candidate.  Delia and I began attending council meetings together, and we began speaking with landscapers who continued to communicate that their business was being negatively impacted, both to us as a listening ear, and to Common Council, continuously requesting a reversal on the ban or making it optional, to no avail. The answer, in short, was that the limited months were the compromise. 

I was shocked at the reaction of our elected officials when they were confronted with a perspective that was different from theirs, and the way that they spoke to hard-working individuals who came to meetings to express their disapproval. Unfortunately, this would only be a glimpse of what was to come when just a few short months later Summit had moved on from GLBs and BSW became the focus of the city’s attention.

We experienced a lot of the same issues with BSW, on a much bigger scale; an opaque process, minimal communication, incorrect information from hired experts, dismissal of Summit residents that were truly trying to help, and a complete disregard of facts, over and over and over again. After more than 5 months when hundreds of residents spoke out against BSW, wrote e-mails, and signed petitions, on June 21st, Council Person Danny O’Sullivan introduced an ordinance to send the amended redevelopment plan to the Planning Board for approval. This was not someone who had been “listening.”

I run around our city a lot and whenever I come across a sign that says, “choice is on the ballot,” I think about that in terms of the Summit we all know and love. This November choice is on the ballot, and Ward 1 residents can choose a candidate who will prioritize communication, collaboration, and a sense of community by putting Summit and its residents first. Summit would be incredibly lucky to have Delia Hamlet representing them and I hope that when you cast your vote on Tuesday, November 8th, or sooner, you make the choice for someone who is willing to listen, willing to compromise, and willing to do the hard work.

Rachel Kramer, Summit

No More Rubber Stamps On Council – Time To Bounce Danny

September 17, 2022

TAPinto Summit

By Patrick Nash

We all want our Summit Common Councilmembers to be successful in achieving what’s best for Summit and its residents. But I believe only the most equipped individuals should serve in that capacity as it’s imperative to our community’s success. As typical in Council elections, we need to choose the best candidate that will voice the community’s concerns and take action. 

I remember getting ready for dinner last spring and having my laptop on, listening to the Summit Common Council meeting. A resident started speaking and you could hear the passion as well as terror in her voice describing the recent kidnapping on her block. Both my wife and I stopped making dinner as we were intently listening to this resident- Delia Hamlet. 

At following Council meetings, Delia and others repeatedly spoke about residents that were hard hit by car thefts. I met one of those residents (a Democrat) and they said Councilmember Danny O’Sullivan came to their door recently with reelection material. They politely told him that after they repeatedly spoke at Council meetings and endured a house robbery, an attempted car theft with family outside as well as a kidnapping in front of their house, Danny never reached out to them. They told him he hadn’t earned their vote for reelection.

While attending Summit Common Council meetings these past eighteen months, Delia has become more engrossed in the Broad Street West Redevelopment (BSWR) process. She continually asked questions about the size as well as scope of the project. Delia was befuddled that Council repeatedly ignored the warnings of Summit residents to slow down the BSWR process and listen to residents. Despite many Council meetings and resident objections for months on end, Danny O’Sullivan remained 100% for the five-story monstrosity proposed to be plunked down at the corner of Broad Street/Morris Avenue in our beautiful downtown. His tone deafness on the BSWR proposal and comprehension of Summit resident’s serious concerns couldn’t be more on display than at the June 2022 meeting at the Community Center. Hundreds came out to voice their objections to amending the Redevelopment Plan with the stroke of a pen, and rewrite the zoning laws to further increase density as well as the size of the building in Subdistrict 3. People who were involved in creating the Master Plan and the Redevelopment Plan spoke as well, begging Council to follow the original plan.

After four hours of compelling resident testimony, without hesitation and not addressing any of the questions or concerns raised by residents that night, Councilmember Danny O’Sullivan pulled out a prepared written statement. He coolly introduced the ordinance to send the amended Redevelopment Plan forward to the Planning Board and voted in favor of it. It was a stunning display of aloofness which has been Danny O’Sullivan’s calling card for his entire tenure on Council. You can go back and watch any of the Summit Common Council meetings over the past two years on the City of Summit YouTube channel. As residents speak, Danny is fixated on his laptop or remaining silent while other Councilmembers were able to take notes as well as communicate with the public. Only recently, with his reelection at stake, has he suddenly found his “voice”. Regardless of the vote at hand for Council, Danny can be counted on to vote in line with all the other Democratic Councilmembers. Over the past two years he couldn’t even be bothered to have an actual Councilmember Facebook page like the other Councilmembers but resurrected one once campaign season hit. His only prominent social media post over his current term was to call one third of his Summit constituency stupid on his personal Twitter page. Never mind that he likely offended the vast majority of Summit residents who saw Danny behave in a manner unfit to serve ALL of Summit.

Summit residents need their voices to be heard by their seven elected Councilmembers. Right now, Summit Common Council suffers from a collective groupthink where all six Democrats vote in unison, regardless of the input from Summit residents. This couldn’t be any more self-evident than with BSWR where only a handful of residents spoke in favor of the proposal while 1,700 residents signed a petition asking to do better.

Right now there is simply too much at stake in our community, including BSWR, safety, traffic, our downtown, our schools and our taxes to have aloof rubber stamps like Danny O’Sullivan on Summit Common Council. Our community deserves transparency, accountability and above all respect from its Councilmembers. If we are ever going to have a say in what the future of Summit will look like and be, it’s time for the residents of Summit to send a message to the current Summit Common Council and bounce Danny from his seat. 

Patrick Nash, Summit

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

Time to Pull the Plug on the Broad Street West Redevelopment Plan

September 12, 2022

TAPinto Summit

By John Miano

While the community is the midst of a break in the Broad Street West redevelopment plan (the fire station property), it is time to consider the obvious option for the fire station property that has been ignored. That is, get rid of the redevelopment plan, sell the property at a public action (as is normally required by law), and allow the buyer to build under the zoning (commercial, maximum of three stories).

Redevelopment is the statutory process for municipalities to address blighted areas as permitted by the state constitution. The redevelopment process was not intended as a mechanism for bypassing the statutory requirement for selling valuable public real property (such as fire station parcel) at auction. It would be hard to find any place in Summit that would legitimately qualify as blighted.

Council gave the community three general reasons for using the redevelopment process for the fire station property: financial benefit, affordable housing, and getting what the community wanted. So far, the redevelopment process has been a complete failure at all three goals.

In regard to finances, the city signed a letter of intent with the developers under which the fire station property ostensibly would be sold for $8M. In addition the agreement had the city supplying massive corporate welfare in the form of a $1.75M Development Area Bond (RAB) and a Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) that would save the developer about $18M in taxes over 30 years. The present value of the PILOT to the developer would have been around $9M–$11M  (depending upon the interest rate). When you subtract the present value of the corporate welfare from the sale price, you find that the agreement under the letter of intent would have the City of Summit effectively paying the developers $3M–$5M to take the property off our hands. 

As a means of addressing financial issues, the redevelopment process has been an abject failure.

Worse yet, the $8M proposed sale price is likely to be well under the true market value. Council stated that the $8M price was the best it could get under the redevelopment plan. The value of the property to a developer depends upon what the developer will build. Yet no alternatives to maximize the value of property have received serious consideration. Off-the-cuff estimates based upon comparables (including the City’s own purchase of part of the parcel on Cedar St.) I have received from those in the business suggest the market value without the redevelopment plan could be as much as $16M and $30M, depending up on what would be built. 

Astonishingly, while of hundreds of thousand of dollars have flowed to consultants as part of the redevelopment process, the city has not had an appraisal done to find the true market value of the property without the redevelopment plan.

In return for the massive direct corporate welfare and the likely underpricing of the property under the letter of intent, the city would have received the absolute minimum number of affordable housing units required by law.  That would not even qualify as consideration in contract law. The corporate welfare from the taxpayers under the letter of intent is almost $200,000 per unit of affordable housing. If the true market value of the property is $16M (a minimum indicated by city’s own purchase), the combination of corporate welfare and underpricing the property could have the city expending nearly $600,000 per unit of affordable housing. The same financial investment could build much more affordable housing by other means.

Meanwhile there are other development projects taking place in the City of Summit that are providing the same percentage of affordable housing without any corporate welfare at all. The redevelopment plan is a highly inefficient means for the City to provide affordable housing and the need for affordable housing provides no justification for the Broad Street West redevelopment plan.

As far as getting what the community wanted, redevelopment produced a plan for massive, cheap “5-over-1” building, with inadequate parking that would have been uglier than a baboon’s rear end. Few people in Summit wanted such a building. As a means of controlling what would be built, the redevelopment plan has been a total failure. The underlying zoning (without the redevelopment plan) would have provided the community better control than the redevelopment plan.

The Broad Street West redevelopment plan has been a comprehensive failure at meeting any of the goals Council put forth to justify its existence. In light of this failure, it is commendable that Council has paused the redevelopment process. Now is time to consider alternative means of dealing with the fire station property. 

The City of Summit needs to have appraisal done of the fire station that estimates the market value of the property for commercial development under the zoning and without the redevelopment plan that considers different types of construction. If the market value of the property is incrementally greater than the value under the redevelopment plan, the redevelopment plan should be repealed, payments to redevelopment consultants should cease, and the property should be sold at auction to bring the maximum value to the residents.

In parallel, it should be made clear to developers that any proposed project under the redevelopment process must conform to the redevelopment plan and the zoning requirements. Any proposal must satisfy the density and size requirements. Any proposal must provide all the required parking for any residents and businesses on-site because on street parking is totally unacceptable to the community. The reality of geometry is that, with a single level of parking, the fire station property can fit about 60 units of housing with 10,000 sf. of retail or 80 units of housing and no retail. Any proposal for denser construction is dead on arrival and would further erode the already tenuous credibility of council with the community.

John Miano, Summit