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Redevelopment Agency Criticized in South Amboy

 Residents Question Necessity, Tax Dollar Control

By: Joseph L. Kuchie

Council President Joseph Connors

Council President
Joseph Connors

SOUTH AMBOY – A number of South Amboy residents brought their concerns about the South Amboy Redevelopment Agency (SARA) to the council during the 11/24/14 City Council meeting.

SARA has been behind a number of redevelopment projects in the city since it was developed, including the South Amboy YMCA that opened in 2010. However, residents like Lori Papernick questioned how necessary the agency really is to the city.

“Can you explain the purpose at this point of what the redevelopment agency is useful for?” Papernick asked. “We have Lighthouse Bay, we have Shoregate, a park, Venetian (care and rehab center), and we have the YMCA. At this point what good is a redevelopment agency?”

Business Administrator Camille Tooker defended SARA, explaining that the agency has done wonderful things for the city of South Amboy like the YMCA and that there is still plenty of land in town that needs redevelopment.

“It’s funny you list those examples of work that the Redevelopment Agency has done and then you ask what good is it,” Tooker said.  “By Lower Main Street you’ll see that there is plenty of land that has yet to be redeveloped.”

The pushback from local residents comes after SARA presented the “Manhattan Beach Project” to the public, a plan that will lead to the construction of 1,750 new residential units at the Amboy Aggregates site.

Resident Tim Walczak questioned the officials that make up SARA and the amount of control they have over taxpayer dollars. He didn’t believe a group of officials that were not voted in by local residents should be handling millions of taxpayer dollars.

“You are elected officials but the Redevelopment Agency are not elected,” Walczak said. “They are sitting on millions of dollars in property and buildings. How can people that are not elected control that amount of money?”

President Joseph Connors explained that the council gets the final say in what is done in South Amboy.

“[SARA] comes up with a plan and they submit it to the planning board. They hold a public hearing and generate a report,” Connors explained. “The planning board votes on it then it comes to the council and we vote on it.”

SARA meetings are held on the first Thursday of every month at 6:30 p.m. All Council Members were in attendance for the meeting.

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