Fight over Edgewater waterfront property leads to accusations of corruption

Posted: Updated:
EDGEWATER -

A battle over waterfront property in Edgewater has led to accusations of corruption, with the property owner claiming town officials are blocking their plan because they’re “in the pocket” of a rival developer.

The old Hess terminal in Edgewater is one of the most valuable pieces of vacant waterfront property in New Jersey. It’s owned by a development company, 615 River Road Partners, which wants to build luxury apartments and retail stores. The project would bring in an estimated $12 million a year in property taxes.

But Edgewater’s mayor and council are fighting the plan, and trying to seize the property through eminent domain.

Mayor McPartland told News 12 New Jersey in 2017 that Edgewater didn’t really need the extra $12 million a year because “we have one of the lowest taxes in Bergen County.” Instead, he said the site should be used to house a new Public Works garage and park.

The property owners have filed suit, claiming the town is actually trying to seize their land to benefit a rival developer, Fred Daibes, who they say has provided town officials with “improper benefits.”

Their attorney, Justin Walder, tells Kane In Your Corner that when Daibes was outbid for the property, he threatened that “since he was not going to be part of this development, the project would never be built.”

Edgewater’s town attorney says the 615 River Road site was simply not zoned for residential construction, and the owners should have realized that before they bought it. The plaintiffs argue the town approves zoning changes all the time, and contends they are being singled out.

In addition, while the town has claimed the 615 River Road development would be “too dense,” the lawsuit notes the town is supporting an even larger project, a mile down the street, on a site Daibes owns.

According to the lawsuit, Mayor McPartland gets “undisclosed benefits” from Daibes, including a luxury residence in a Daibes-owned apartment building at “below market rent”. The suit also claims a bank in which Daibes owns controlling interest “provided numerous Edgewater officials with loans,” as well as selling them bank-owned properties at below-market value.

“Everybody’s starting to question it,” says Tina Macica, an Edgewater resident who frequently attends town council meetings. “There’s a whole bunch of properties all up and down the waterfront that are being rezoned and they’re increasing the occupancy of these properties. So to single out this one property makes no sense to me.”

McPartland and Edgwater’s town attorney both declined to be interviewed. In a written statement, Daibes’ attorney said, “Neither Mr. Daibes nor his businesses are parties to this lawsuit. And they should not be as there is absolutely no evidence that Mr. Daibes has done anything wrong.”

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