As the Chairman of the North Caldwell Planning Board, this letter is to set the record straight regarding a misunderstanding concerning Green Brook Country Club and its sale. Statements have been made about John Chiaia and Cindy Santomauro saying that they voted in favor of developing the property at a Council meeting on July 21, 2020. That is not so. The evening before the planning board a voted to approve an overlay zone which was required as part of a court settlement to keep North Caldwell from losing its immunity from a builder’s remedy lawsuit which loss would result in any number of builders being able to construct high density housing anywhere it chooses in our Borough including on the nearly 100 acres at the Green Brook Country Club.
That is simply incorrect. What they voted on affirmatively on that evening, AFTER.
About a year prior to crafting that overlay zone, the Council negotiated a settlement with the purchaser of Green Brook which was designed to dramatically reduce any negative affect on the town infrastructure and, most importantly, its schools. That settlement was provided to the North Caldwell Planning Board prior to its signing for our review and approval which we were relieved to give as we were acutely aware of the adverse consequences had that favorable settlement not been achieved. None of us were happy with the possibility of the property being developed—certainly not me or my board members–but we all came to understand the law which applied and the manner is which we had to proceed. We and the Council came to this understanding through the advice and counsel of the most experienced planners and attorneys on COAH law.
Both the settlement and Council on Affordable Housing laws required that the Council enact a new zone where the Country Club is now located, permitting the construction of what is called an inclusionary overlay zone which makes provisions for a percent of low and moderate income housing. They worked on the zone for almost a year and the zone was heavily negotiated with the builder. That zone does not negate in any way the fact that no building may occur on the site until and unless the Planning Board reviews all site plans and other required submissions, holds hearings with the public, hears expert testimony and considers all aspects of the development including, importantly, drainage. The overlay zone in question does not address, nor was it intended to address, issues such as the actual site layout, types of construction, roads, ingress and egress to the site, drainage and a great many other issues and hurdles the builder must clear in order to get permission to build. That can take many months or years considering the scope of this project and the Planning Board process and oversight.
Rather than being thanked for what they did to save our schools and infrastructure from a scenario which could have crippled our town, certain Council members are being accused of voting in favor of Green Brook being developed something not they, nor I and my Board, wanted. The very people who now make these accusations have in the past acknowledged that the agreement reached by the Council was one of the best that could be achieved but did not like a few elements of the overlay zone. However, for political purposes, this has turned into an accusation that the Council members in question wanted development. That is an extreme perversion of the truth. Please know the real truth as relayed above. I am still hopeful that the Country Club property can be saved and I look forward to see what can be done to achieve that result.
North Caldwell Planning Board Chairman