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This is the independent WEB site for the Society Hill at Piscataway Condominium Association, located in Piscataway, NJ. This site is not sponsored, endorsed, or supported by the Association, the Board of Trutees, or the Managment Company. It is run by a former member of the Board of Trustees.

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If you are looking for the Association's official new WEB site, they don't really have one - it's just a payment portal for the monthly fees.

The Hill is DOOMED! - Report of the Feb. 21 BOT Meeting by Kevin Wine, Feb 25, 2023, 8:04 PM, reply, branch, edit

At the Board Meeting this Tuesday, it was revealed that the Board has been indirectly convinced by the Township to remove the hill, instead of continuing forward with the plan to file an amended site plan application to just keep it in place. It sounds like this is the work of one or two un-elected Township officials who have spooked the Board into thinking the site plan application process is going to end up requiring updates to the entire property in exchange for approval to keep the hill. The Board approved a motion to direct T&M Associates to go ahead and prepare the plans and related documents to proceed accordingly. So this is yet another change in plans, with still no solid number on what this will cost, and the Board repeatedly saying "we don't know" when asked about the cost multiple times at the meeting .

Earlier in the day on Feb. 21st, the Board released a lengthy engineering report from T&M Associates relating to the recent issues with the pond and the hill. If you didn't received the Town and Country email bulletin, the report is available here:

I wasn't able to review the report prior to the meeting, since it was delivered while I was at work and I had constant interruptions all afternoon. I read through most of it yesterday, and while interesting, it is still lacking the critical soil volume calculation of the hill. I can't believe they Board doesn't have that number by now, after 3 surveys I think it has been!? I find this odd, especially since they are trying to be so open with the information. There is a topographic drawing of the hill, and if I had time I could recreate it in CAD and get pretty close based of some scale reference in the drawing.

There were about 35 people attending the meeting remotely, and 12 in person at the clubhouse. All 7 Board members were present - 4 in person, and 3 remote. Multiple people commented on the recent "FINAL WARNING LETTER" and the $1,200 special assessment, on which the Board is obviously refusing to budge. Alarmingly, during two of the related public comments, one of the Trustees laughed while the homeowner was explaining their concerns. I don't know if this is just a nervous response under pointed comments, or this was a nice "screw you" to around half of the owners who have not yet paid the $1,200 - hopefully it's the former. And yes, it was finally revealed that approximately half the units have still not paid the $1,200.

This brings us to the next alarming thing from this meeting - the Board declined to provide any reassurances that the $1,200 special assessment will be enough to cover removal of the hill, and left open the possibility of future assessments! They declined to make any predictions on the future maintenance fees when asked, and are now backtracking on the return of any leftover funds should the $1,200 be more than enough to cover the hill costs. None of this is good news, and as a result I will re-iterate my $300/month maintenance fee prediction from barely 3 years ago. I will also reiterate my estimated cost of removing the hill, which was around $100,000 base cost. A contractor will add their overheads, profit, and other charges of course, but is should still be WAY LESS than $650,000!!

Also at the meeting, via ZOOM, was association counsel Susan Radom. I'm sure she will be very happy at all the new collections business she is about to get from Society Hill. Just filing the liens on 250 units at $400 each will get her firm $100,000 in revenue. In response to some of my questions she explained the potential complications with submitting a site plan application to the Township. There are still 2 members on this Board from back when the Board filed the original maintenance building amended site plan application, which was approved around 2014, and when the Board prepared and filed another large-scale amended site plan application in late 2018, which was pulled by you-know-who before it ever got to the planning board for review. Since the Society Hill Board is still meeting in secret prior to the public meeting, we are not allowed to see where each members stands on this very important decision to remove the hill. Presumably, 2 of the members would be aware of the whole site plan application process and not be so intimidated by it, but it looks like other opinions over-ruled. In spite of potential approval complications, and updated compliance the Township might be trying to extort from the Board, and possible costs of litigation, it seems that it is still far less expensive than $650,000!! The last time we sued the town over the affordable housing dispute, it cost about $130,000 in legal fees, $100,000 of which was reimbursed by the town. Given my experience with site plans, how that process works, and review standards which the planning board is obligated to follow, the site plan application still sounds like the better approach. Remember the maintenance building site plan was approved in 2014, without triggering a site plan review of the entire complex - have the condo development guidelines really changed that much since?? Can the town really make us update things we are not even touching? I think that's a stretch..

Turning to the burning question about what to do with the $1,200 special assessment, I was originally going to request ADR, which I would still suggest is the best approach in general, however personally I am very tempted to just let them come at me with their collections practices. Our bylaws section 5.11(v) impose limits on collections fees (15% of the amount outstanding) charged to owners, and a NJ Appellate court decision as recent as Sept of 2022 (Cross Roads Condo. Owners Ass'n v. Cosentino, No. A-3599-20) put the damper on the exorbitant legal fees in condo associations (court found it "unreasonable" to charge a delinquent owner over $14,000 in collections expenses for an $870 delinquency). I am tempted to let them try this BS on me, just so I can make a point. Maybe it's time for another bylaw amendment petition!??? This one could be real short - forcing the board to put all special assessments greater than $100/unit to a vote of the membership for approval. And somehow make it retroactive. I have a feeling we are going to need such protection in the future. The problem now is that half the owners are delinquent! Meanwhile, the appeal on the prior petitions is continuing forward, so it will still be very interesting to see how that ends up after Appellate Court review.

I guess I should have known, years ago when I started working on all these improvement projects here, that it's just going to be too much for future boards. It's way beyond what they can handle, even without the corrupting industry pressures and other external forces. I guess I also didn't fully account for the psychological/behavioral aspects of boards, although I had some experience with that even as early as 2004. It's unfortunate that as a group, it is impossible to do nice things, as there always seems to be someone lurking in the shadows to muck it all up and destroy everything. They can hate me all they want, but that hatred doesn't change even one bit of any of the reality, even if it does influence their decisions. I don't know if it was possible to catch it remotely, but they adjourned the meeting on me after barely letting me say anything in the public comments portion, after I waited patiently for a turn. I only got to make the point that they are not being realistic with expecting all 545 owners to be able to come up with $1,200. I guess they just don't realize how bad it is to be saying one thing - we want openness and listen to everyone - and then do exactly the opposite. Why are they so afraid to debate anything with me?? Things might be better with the former tyrant out of the picture, but we are still not where we need to be, so I will keep working on this project until it is fixed.


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