Even as the Collingswood Planning Board approved revised ordinances governing the completion of the LumberYard this week, the borough is taking additional steps to close off any lingering opposition.
Collingswood issued a statement that it would seek “a declaratory judgment from the New Jersey Superior Court" on the legality of a petition submitted by residents regarding the final phase of the LumberYard redevelopment project.
The move could take the air out of a citizen-led petition delivered to the municipal government earlier this month that called for putting the redevelopment plan and 25-year PILOT grant issued to its developer, Ingerman Group, up for a referendum.
“There’s 13,962 people in this town,” said Collingswood resident Joseph Dinella, one of the authors of the petition. “If they want to vote on it and approve it, that’s great; they should at least be allowed the chance to vote on it.”
Collingswood Mayor James Maley said that the request for a declaratory judgment was made in order to bolster support for the legal position of the borough, “rather than us just unilaterally acting on our opinion, which is that the law does not permit a referendum.
“I think our interpretation of the law is correct, so I expect that we’ll prevail,” Maley said. “We’re trying to get clarity to it quicker.”
Maley anticipates that the borough will get a sense today of how long it will take before an outcome on the issue is available.
Even if the declaratory judgment finds in favor of the borough, Dinella still feels that petitioners have a case.
“Four hundred thirty-five people signed [the petition],” Dinella said Thursday. “We stand by their decision to sign it and our decision to pass it around. It’s a reasonable course of action.”
Dinella is a union worker, not a lawyer, but he’s hoping that there’s enough room for a judge to allow the action to proceed.
“What little bit of research I’ve been able to do, there’s only one case anywhere near it,” he said.
Still, Dinella admits, a defeat at this stage of the game would make further alternatives both less hopeful and more expensive.
“We don’t have a lawyer and we don’t have any funds,” he said. “I guess we’re going to have to go to court.”