By FRANCES SHARPE | Editor-in-Chief
Protect Our Village (POV), a group of residents who voiced numerous concerns about Caruso Affiliated’s Palisades Village project, finally reached an agreement with the developer prior to the City Planning Commission hearing on Thursday, April 28.
Alphabet Streets resident Lou Kamer, who has mediated a series of meetings between developer Rick Caruso and POV advisory board members Mark Grinblatt and Ted Weitz, moderated a final gathering last week that resulted in a signed agreement between Caruso, Grinblatt and Weitz.
Although the details of the agreement were not released, Grinblatt told the Palisadian-Post that “our main concern was making sure [employees and patrons] were incentivized to park” in the proposed underground parking lot.
Grinblatt said this would help prevent people from parking on the nearby residential streets and would alleviate potential traffic from people circling the property looking for outside parking.
Kamer said another issue Caruso and POV agreed on was to return the community room to the project but in a different location within the property.
During the CPC hearing, Caruso said the community room had returned but will no longer be on the corner of Swarthmore Avenue and Monument Street “out of deference to homeowners.”
Throughout the series of private meetings, Kamer said, “The thing that would go through my mind was that we had Rick who had good intentions but has needs as a developer and Mark and Ted had good intentions for the Alphabets, whereas I tried to look at the community as a whole.”
Kamer added, “I would have hated it if we did something that worked for Ted and Mark but not the whole community.”
There were times when Kamer wasn’t sure they would be able to reach a consensus, however, and he admitted that when he took on this project, “Everyone thought I was crazy and even Caruso wondered about my intentions.”
Basically, Kamer explained that rather than having neighbor against neighbor fighting over who was pro and con, he simply wanted to find a way to nail down solutions as a community.
“The ultimate message I take from this is when people think there is no way to work something out, the way is to sit down with respect and work it out openly,” Kamer said. “That will happen with one-way Swarthmore vs. two-way.”
Grinblatt added that he wanted to clear up some misconceptions about POV, which some community members had assumed was opposed to the overall project.
“A lot of people have mislabeled POV,” Grinblatt said. “What people think of POV isn’t what it is. We’re just good people who care about the community and had some concerns. Personally, I was always excited about the project. I just had some questions.”
“I’m thankful for the relationship we built with POV, and we have enjoyed working with its members. A cornerstone of our approach is that we have always worked very closely with communities, listening to what their needs and wants are, and building better projects because of it,” Caruso said. “This agreement gave POV greater comfort with the plan while we maintained the key aspects of the project that so many in the community had already embraced. It does represent great community collaboration, which has been the underpinning of what will make this project uniquely special to Palisades residents for generations to come.”
Some residents take issue with the way POV and Kamer held private meetings with Caruso to make changes to the project that will affect the community at large.
“The reality of transparency is no group makes 11th-hour closed-room deals. How is that fair and honest to the entire community?” said Riviera resident Reza Akef.
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