As a member of the Residents Against Matrix executive board, I take strong exception with the Feb. 18th “Thumbs Down” to Lower Makefield Supervisor Chairman Steve Santarsiero. Your paper suggested that Santarsiero is preventing public comment on a “secret plan” concerning the 186-acre development known as the Octagon Center.The Courier Times printed the following addendum to the letter.
This could not be further from the truth. The current negotiations have been taking place among representatives of the township, RAM, and the Matrix Development Corp. This is the result of a lawsuit filed by RAM to prevent the building of 30,000 square feet of big-box retail stores with a million square feet of asphalt parking lots.
Since RAM sued the township (actually the former board of supervisors whom the voters have now replaced with new ones) and Matrix, all parties involved in the legal dispute agreed to settle the matter amicably. By legal precedent, these negotiations are not conducted in public. Through give and take, tough compromises have been achieved.
RAM’s lawyer advised the executive board not to sign on any agreement until the wording has been finalized. RAM and the township negotiators thought this would have been done by the Feb. 15th supervisors meeting. That is why Santarsiero placed the agreement on the agenda.
At that meeting, there would have been plenty of time allotted for public discussion. Unfortunately, RAM and the township were not fully satisfied that all outstanding matters were resolved. That is why the agenda item was postponed.
RAM has been fighting for five and a half years to see responsible development on the largest tract of undeveloped land in Lower Makefield. We have always stood for community input and open government.
To characterize Santarsiero’s action of postponing an agenda item for two weeks so that a final plan could be presented to the public for a fair and open discussion as “quickly forgetting what he once stood for” is not only inaccurate but unfair.
Editor’s note: The editorial criticized Santarsiero for refusing to explain what negotiating point remains unresolved, and it encouraged public comment before the supervisors vote on whatever agreement has been developed in secret.“In secret,” huh? What a bullshit disclaimer that is! (sorry for the bad word, boys and girls, but that’s the only one that is appropriate).
I’ve heard some things about this myself, but I don’t think it’s appropriate to get into all of it because the whole Matrix issue is, in large part, a legal matter (as Rubin stated above). What I will only say is that there is still some discussion going on between Belle Meade, the owner of the property where the proposed Octagon Center would be built, and Matrix Corporation, since there may be some question as to whether or not Belle Meade has actually sold the property yet (but don’t quote me on that…that’s very unofficial, but I have heard it from a couple of people “in the know”). As I said, this is still a legal matter, so there are things Santarsiero wouldn’t be able to say anyway before the plan was finalized and THEN presented for public comment (I would expect a paper even as provincial as the Bucks County Courier Times to understand that).
Update 3/2: A story appeared in the Courier Times today that confirms this and more - can't find a link from the awful phillyburbs site...God, either do it right or don't do it at all!
Oh, and Steve has SUCH A HISTORY of acting in secret, doesn’t he? Who was the one who proposed the idea and fought to have the township supervisor meetings televised on the Lower Makefield public access channel with Comcast’s cooperation (and who fought him on it)? Who was the one who challenged the township on whether or not the newly-built golf course would actually be self-sustaining at some point (it seems to be achieving that goal, to be fair, though I haven’t read anything recently on that)? There are probably other examples of Steve’s “secret” governance that I could find, and if I manage to do that, I’ll update this post.
Kudos in reverse to the Courier Times on this one; they do good work at times, but certainly not on this occasion (if you’re a Democrat, you’d better walk on water or they’ll try to carve you up).