NUTLEY, NJ — On Dec. 3, Nutley Mayor Mauro Tucci released the following open letter to Nutley residents regarding ON3, the redevelopment project headed by Prism Capital Partners at the former Hoffmann–La Roche campus in Nutley and Clifton:
In early October, the Nutley Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to adopt phase III of the redevelopment plan for the former Hoffmann-LaRoche/ON3 corporate campus site. As determined by our professionals, this ordinance was necessary to protect the health, safety and welfare of Nutley residents and our neighborhoods.
Unfortunately, the developer of ON3 — Prism Capital Partners — and city of Clifton have suggested that they plan to take legal action, so it’s important that our residents understand the facts about what is happening. Below, I am sharing answers to some common questions regarding the project.
What is the Nutley Board of Commissioners stance on development?
We are very pro-development and want the former Hoffman–La Roche site to be an economic driver that strengthens our tax base. If it weren’t for the work of the board, the ON3 project would not be where it is today. Just as importantly, we believe development must be done responsibly and in a way that does not harm Nutley’s residents. We think it is possible to do both, and that is the purpose of the collaborative outreach we have attempted in the past and the redevelopment plan that we have adopted.
How big is the proposed development going to be?
It is a very significant 116-acre project in both Nutley and Clifton. In fact, according to the developer’s website, “ON3 represents New Jersey’s largest contemplated redevelopment.”
What is the commissioners’ role in redevelopment?
The municipal body is the redevelopment agency for Nutley. It is our role and responsibility to determine how development should occur in Nutley.
Is the development being planned piecemeal or comprehensively?
The developer and Clifton have been moving forward with individual projects in a piecemeal fashion, but the Nutley Board of Commissioners — and our professionals — think that is the wrong approach. This very large project spans two municipalities and we believe it must be planned thoughtfully and comprehensively using the full buildout, because what happens in one town affects the other. It is critical that we anticipate and require any improvements needed to mitigate the negative impacts of the project. That is the purpose of redevelopment planning.
Why is it so important to plan comprehensively?
If the project is built piece-meal over time, Nutley will be like the frog in a pot of boiling water — incrementally creating negative impacts on our community, which add up over time to the detriment of our community, but with each individual project too small to merit the investments that may be needed to mitigate the impacts. Whether deliberate or not, the result is that the developer would effectively escape their obligation to mitigate these impacts through a “death by a thousand paper cuts” approach.
When fully built out, where would most of the development be?
Under the full anticipated build-out, Clifton would see 65 percent of the development — and related tax benefits — while Nutley would see 35 percent of the development.
Has the developer provided a traffic study for what the impacts would be based on the full development buildout?
No. For years, we have been asking for a traffic study so we know the impact on our neighborhood, but the developer has not provided one.
If the developer hasn’t provided a traffic study, how do we know what the impacts would be on Nutley when fully built?
We hired our own professional planners and traffic engineers to understand the impacts of the project.
What would the traffic impacts of the full build-out be?
While Clifton would see most of the tax benefits of the development, Nutley would receive a disproportionate share of the traffic. The new vehicle traffic would place a significant burden on Nutley, creating significant traffic congestion that would spill over into our neighborhoods and compromise the safety and efficiency of roads.
Given the negative traffic impacts, does Nutley oppose the full build-out of the project?
Not necessarily. In fact, the Nutley Board of Commissioners believes the full build-out that the developer is seeking may be possible — as long as the negative impacts are mitigated.
Nutley is raising concerns, but has Nutley proposed any solutions?
Yes, Nutley has met with representatives from Clifton and the developer to propose solutions to mitigate the traffic impact. For example, our traffic engineers believe that the construction of a flyover interchange on Route 3 could alleviate the negative traffic impacts and make the project viable and successful without negatively impacting the health, safety and welfare of Nutley residents.
What was the developer’s reaction to the idea?
As we expect any developer would want to do, we recognize that their priority is to maximize the profit from their project. As these improvements could very slightly reduce their profit, they are resisting the idea of making these improvements and rejecting the premise that they are needed at all. Our priority, however, is to maximize the benefits to Nutley while mitigating the negative impacts on our community.
Is that why phase III of the development plan would restrict traffic along Metro Boulevard?
Nutley’s Master Plan requires that any redevelopment needs to balance the negative impacts that it causes. Without a comprehensive plan that considers the full build-out of the project, our professionals have determined that this plan is necessary to protect the welfare, health and safety of our community.
Is there a way for all sides to benefit?
Yes. We believe that good corporate citizens can make a healthy return on their investment while responsibly addressing the concerns of the host communities. A win-win scenario is possible and can be achieved through a spirit of collaboration and a planning process between Nutley, Clifton and the developer that recognizes the complexity of the project and the need to plan holistically and comprehensively.
Is it likely that such a process can take place?
We remain hopeful that we can have a positive, collaborative process, but so far, we have received letters from lawyers implying that they plan to sue Nutley. This would be an unfortunate turn, but our residents should know that we are elected to serve you and we will always fiercely defend Nutley’s interests.