Judge Linda R. Feinberg said a consultant's study of the wetlands on the tract clearly showed the land could hold as many as 40 homes as township officials and the land's owner, Doylestown, Pa.-based developer Fieldstone Associates, have said and was not a swamp as detractors of the township's purchase of the property have alleged.
If the judge is right, the Central NJ town of Hamilton's mistake wasn't in buying back the land for $4.1 million; it was in selling it for $375,000 six years ago. It certainly looks as if her ruling will go that way.
On the other "fun" part of this deal, the claim that since the town council never formally approved funding for the purchase, it is illegal under state laws:
In a separate aspect of the complicated land deal, Feinberg said she would consider the township council's arguments that the entire purchase should be voided because the council in power at the time of the agreement never approved a bond ordinance to pay for the land. If the new council's argument is upheld, the land would revert back to Fieldstone and the price would become irrelevant.
But in her comments, Feinberg warned that the new council should be "careful what they ask for." If the purchase is voided, she said, the township could be liable for damages to Fieldstone.
"One thing for sure is Hamilton Township wants that property for open space, and if I were to do anything the township would probably end up paying more in damages than the $4.1 million purchase price," Feinberg told the three attorneys representing the township, Fieldstone Associates and the council.
Don't forget the $400,000 owed in interest on the money, making it a total of $4.5 million.
So, it looks like the land is worth what Fieldstone wants for it after all. Since it looks like the taxpayers of Hamilton and Our Fair State will be footing the bill for this, I wonder if the two strange parts of this debacle will be formally investigated:
- the decision in the first place to sell the land for what was clearly VASTLY below its market price to Fieldstone
- the decision to not try to force an eminent domain issue in order to avoid a costly lawsuit
*Hamilton Twp. sold this wooded property to Fieldstone Developers in 2001 for $375,000 with the intent of development. Four years later, Hamilton agreed to buy it back for conservation for $4.1 million. Hamilton foots part of this bill but monies come from the county and the state, through the DEP and low-interest loans- hence the fleecing of all of us on this deal. The key posts of the Center of NJ Life continuing series:
Cut the price, 40 Lots and a scam?, Like a bad marriage, The Fleecing of Hamilton and NJ, Deal postponed, 41 lots not feasable, Klockner Woods, Deceptions, Wheeling and dealing, Lawsuit, Paying interest, Money flow