Hamilton has made its first three interest payments to Fieldstone Associates in regards to the Klockner Woods land deal. This would be the payments due on Oct. 1, Nov. 1 and Dec. 1; January's payment hasn't been made yet, according to Hamilton Township officials, as reported in today's Times of Trenton. These payments may possibly someday hopefully but probably not be credited toward the purchase price of $4.1 million, but under the current deal they are on top of it. The township also owes $100k on a loan for money alloted to buy the property, so right now we're looking at approx. $4.3 million.
All for a bit of land the developers bought in 2001 for $375,000.
Back at the end of October, someone in Hamilton's administration leaked that a deal was reached to build 100 age-restricted housing units on half of the property and conserving the other half. This was close to the deal Fieldstone wanted in the first place, but several township council members were in danger of losing their seats in the following week's election and it really looked like they were trying to save face. It turned out to be even worse- the deal was never struck and they were grasping at straws.
Weak straws. The three council seats in play, all held by Democrats, were turned over. And the Republicans danced, as they regained control of the town council.
Hamilton has just over 90,000 residents, making it NJ's eighth largest municipality, and politically has a lot of focus from both parties. It was solidly Republican until just about six years ago, when the longtime mayor lost reelection due to a nice scandal involving gambling, possible Mafia ties and lots of politicians. (PoliticsNJ has the rundown on that story in a piece currently on their front page about Hamilton and the Republican hopes.) A loss of this town by the Dems is felt far and wide.
The Republicans spent a good deal of time campaigning on the Klockner Woods issue, but really, did they have to? It was front page fodder for the Times of Trenton several days a week. (Probably the Trentonian too but I can't bring myself to read it and find out.) The Republicans promised to try to void the deal as is and and seek to pay a reasonable price for the land. New councilman Dennis Pone is quoted in the Times today, "Our goal is to preserve it, but we want to preserve it having all of the information about the land and preserve it at a fair price. It's unfortunate that the deal was brokered with this interest payment, but we really can't do anything about that at this point." Ah, but it made good campaign fodder, whether or not you could actually do anything about it, right?
Mind you, Hamilton isn't the only ones paying for this soggy boondoggle. Hamilton pays some and Mercer County covers a bit, but much of the purchase price is to be paid by Our Fair State through grants and loans. That's why the DEP balked at paying so much and requested a study of how much of the property is swamp- oh, I'm sorry, "wetland." This study will be completed in the spring. I wonder after how many more interest payments are sent will the results come back.