By William E. Cleary Sr
THE SECRETIVE GLOUCESTER CITY COUNCIL—At a recent executive session of Gloucester City Mayor and Council, City Solicitor Leonard Wood gave an in-depth report on the ongoing negotiations with the NHP Foundation and what they are looking to do with financing the purchase of city-owned property Chatham Square.
CNBNews submitted an OPRA requesting a copy of that report and was told by the custodian of records, Kathy Jentsch, “This matter is currently in the negotiation stage. These materials are in the possession of our attorney for that purpose-attorney client privilege”.
According to their website, The NHP Foundation, (NHPF) owns 30 properties in 12 states and the District of Columbia, totaling approximately 6,000 units of low-and-moderate-income. They own two sites in New Jersey, the Hollybush Garden, Glassboro (252 units) and Washington Dodd Apartments, Orange (300 units). See website
The James administration purchased the property in 2008 for $4.25 million claiming the apartments were being used by “drug dealers”, and the criminals were a “strain on the local police department”. Mayor and council also said some of the people living there were a “strain” on the local school district.
At the same time, the city brought the adjacent Gloucester Terrace complex for $1.65 million.
Mayor James’s original plan was to demolish the apartments and build single family homes. In fact, many of the people who purchased one of the 64-homes in the nearby Meadowbrook Run, for prices ranging between $260,000 and $280,000, did so only because of that plan.
In 2010, the city hired Oren Bros. of Philadelphia to renovate the 100 apartments into 50 townhouses. Oren Bros was given a $1.1 million UDAG loan from Mayor and Council to help with the construction. The homes were originally listed in a price range of $167,000 to $195,000. A few years later the price was dropped to $129,000. Still no sales. Failing as a real estate developer, the city decides to become a landlord and rents several of the apartments in the price range of $595 to $869.
Adding the loan to the cost to purchase the two apartment complexes, the total cost to taxpayers was $7 million. The number does not include the cost to maintain the properties since they were purchased in 2008 nor does it include the property tax revenue the city has lost over the last seven years.
THE SECRETIVE GLOUCESTER CITY COUNCIL—At the May executive sessions of Gloucester City Mayor and Council, Jeffrey Dey of Resource Control Consultants, LLC, supplied budget information for the CBS/GTC Remediation Project and distributed a handout about *Trans World Power Project. Also at an executive meeting solicitor Wood stated that he and his partner Mr. Long are working on the agreement with CBS and the DEP. In January 2014 Dey was appointed Gloucester City’s Licensed Site Remediation Professional for the Amspec and Vanguard Vinyl sites in the Southport Redevelopment area.
CNBNews filed an OPRA request on July 12, 2015 asking for all documents pertaining to the remediation project, a copy of solicitor Wood’s correspondence with the DEP pertaining to the remediation project, and a copy of the information provided to council by Dey. Those requests were denied once again by Jentsch, who said the matter was in the negotiation stage. “The materials are in the possession of our attorney for that purpose -”client privilege".
THE SECRETIVE GLOUCESTER CITY COUNCIL—At the April executive session of Gloucester City Mayor and Council the topic of discussion was the Sergeant Scrap Metal business which is in Haddon Township. The business gives its address as 610 Crescent Blvd., Gloucester City. Residents who live behind the business on Cornell Avenue have complained, apparently to the city council. Their complaints resulted in a terse April 2, 2015 letter being sent by City Solicitor Wood to Haddon Township Mayor Randall Teague citing a number of problems that have been created by Sergeant Scrap. And in return a blunt, pointed letter to Wood from Haddon Township Solicitor Stuart Platt.
CNBNews submitted an OPRA request to Gloucester City on July 12 for copies of the correspondence between the two towns which was denied by the custodian of records. Jentsch said, “This matter is currently pending litigation and all materials have been turned over to our attorney. Correspondence between others and our attorney and certain correspondence between the City and its attorney are subject to Attorney-Client privilege. This material falls into that category.”
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AN OPEN AND CLOSED GOVERNMENT—A similar request for the same correspondence was filed with the Haddon Township custodian of records who was much more cooperative than the Gloucester City official.
Wood wrote a threatening letter on February 3, 2015, to Haddon Township Mayor Randall Teague. He stated, the business was in an improper use in the zone and it would require a use variance; Gloucester City was never given notice of an application for this property, which borders on Gloucester City; and the property enters within 200 feet of this property located in Gloucester City.
“This would seem to point to the fact that whatever approvals many have been granted were improperly granted because procedures were not followed. It is not my intention to embroil your town in long and costly litigation, but this situation needs to be addressed. It has been one year since our first inquiry and we had no satisfactory response,” said Wood.
Platt writes, “While you never state who you represent, I presume you are representing Gloucester City in this matter. With respect to the so-called “difficulties,” please be advised that after conferring with the Zoning Officer, Sgt. Scrap did receive a zoning permit. As a result, any claim that a use variance was never issued, an application was never had or a notice was never provided is groundless.”
Platt tells Solicitor Wood he has no basis for a lawsuit because he was out of time and it was a frivolous claim.
“Furthermore, by your own letter, over a year has transpired and no formal legal action has been taken. Accordingly, any claim that you may have would be out of time under the Prerogative Write Rule.”
He told Wood, “I put you on notice of the jurisdictional and timeliness issues because in your letter you make reference to potential long and costly litigation. It is my firm belief that any litigation that you file against the Township of Haddon would be completely without merit and would likely be dismissed on motion. To the extend that you would move forward with such a litigation which necessarily requires the resort to taxpayer funds, the Township would stand ready, willing and able to seek a recovery of attorney’s fees which the Township would have to expend if such a lawsuit is filed under both the Frivolous Claim Statue and Rule.”
Platt suggested to Wood that a meeting between interested officials would be a better approach “than threatening litigation.”
ET CETERA—The taxpayers of Gloucester City, according to an OPRA request, have paid the Wade, Long, Wood & Kennedy law firm a total of $58,990 for the first six months of the year to represent them.
Lastly, for four years Mayor and Council have negotiated with the developers who wanted to build the Otts on The Waterfront restaurant at Freedom Pier. We have been told unofficially the city walked away from the deal in May. Yet no one will go on the record to tell you if that is true or not.
You have a right to know what is happening in your city of Gloucester.
*NOTE: We did a Google search for Trans World Power and found only one company located in Red Bank, NJ. Because the City is not being forthright we are not sure that this is the same business. Trans World Power was established in 2005. It is an independent privately held parts, consulting and services provider to the industrial and power generation markets. See website