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Buyer Signs Purchase Agreement for Alcatel-Lucent Property in Holmdel [VIDEO]

Stunning announcement made before huge crowd at public meeting Thursday at the Senior/Community Center.

Alcatel-Lucent says it has signed a purchase agreement with Elsie Sterling Oversight LLC for a mixed-use plan at its huge property on Crawfords Corner Road in Holmdel -- welcome news for a township hurting for revenue.

Mayor Patrick Impreveduto broke the news to more than 200 residents who had turned out to a public meeting on Thursday at the Senior/Community Center, many of whom came prepared to spar over unpopular legislation authorizing the sale of treasured open space to close a $2.5 million budget gap.

"This is the first time Lucent has hard money down," said Mayor Patrick Impreveduto. "They are very serious buyers. This deal is done. I'm very pleased it is done. And it is going to be done before the end of the year.

He added, "Lucent is going to go back on our tax rolls by the end of the year." The news was applauded.

But he quickly noted its contribution would not come soon enough to fix the 2012 fiscal crisis. Despite an eleventh hour discovery of $700,000 in additional surplus found as a result of doing the full accounting analysis of last year's operation, and a $400,000 payment owed to the municipality by the Holmdel Board of Education for bonding of Roggy Field -- residents could still expect a tax increase within the two percent cap.

The mayor said Holmdel officials have not met Elsie Sterling Howard, who he said was a philanthropist based in Miami, Fl. Through a quick Internet search, he said he learned she is the executive director of the The Miami Beach Visitor and Convention Authority, and she is married to a real estate attorney. She has also been connected to the University of Pennsylvania as an alumni trustee.

Alcatel-Lucent spokesperson Mary Ward, reached on email, confirmed the news moments later.

"Yes, I am pleased to be able to confirm that we have signed a purchase agreement with Elsie Sterling Oversight LLC," said Ward. "The buyer is in the early stages of their due diligence, but my understanding is that they are looking at a mixed use plan."

According to the mayor, the buyers have examined Holmdel's redevelopment plan and REVA recommendation report and can work within its framework.

In its best years, the 472 acre property, known locally as "Bell Labs" provided high-paying, prestigious technical jobs to the local workforce. Its historic role in telecom invention and discovery, the serene landscaped property and architecturally distinguished building and water tower are appreciated in Holmdel.

But years after the plant's closure, the township is still smarting over its dwindling contribution to the tax rolls. At the height of its assessed value in 1997, the property contributed $4.5 million in property taxes -- $600,000 of that amount went towards the municipal budget.  Today, the vacated Alcatel-Lucent's property generates just $525,000 in property taxes -- with $78,300 of that going towards the municipal budget, an 83% reduction.

Legislation to sell a 12-acre portion of the 103-acre Cross Farm to an athletic facility was dropped from the agenda to the relief of many who came to oppose it.

But an ordinance authorizing the potential sale of the township's three wooded lots on Plum Lane was approved by a vote of 4 to 1. Committeeman Larry Fink voted no, calling the Plum Lane property a much needed park in the most densely populated section of Holmdel.

Also, the mayor said there would be no referendum in the spring on a tax levy increase exceeding the two percent cap. "Your taxes will be within the two percent we have to go by, to abide by the law," he said.

Correction Feb. 24: Township officials identified $700,000 in surplus to reduce the $2.5 million deficit down to $1.8 million. An earlier version of this story said they had identified $1.8 million in savings.

Robert Way February 24, 2012 at 12:28 PM
Having missed the meeting last night it seems that progress has been made for both the immediate deficit issue as well as long term with the Lucent news. Was there any further explanation as to what contributed to the $1.8M in savings beyond the $400k owed from the BOE?
Christina Johnson (Editor) February 24, 2012 at 12:51 PM
Look for more stories and details about that coming today. The meetng lasted three hours, ending at 10 p.m. You missed an interesting meeting!
HolmdelResident February 24, 2012 at 01:41 PM
I have faith in the township committee. I believe they will do what is right for Holmdel and its taxpayers. Closing a budget gap is not an easy task and these folks work hard to get this done. All of us who are residents of Holmdel should be thankful that we have dedicated people who make up our township committee. Hats off to you all!!
Robert Way February 24, 2012 at 03:58 PM
Thanks for the heads up Christina, look forward to the updates. I'd like to second Mikey V here as well and thank the TC for its efforts and what is probably a much more difficult task than is perceived by a lot of us on the "outside" of the process.
Tony Orsini February 24, 2012 at 04:07 PM
If you take anything away from the overflow meeting last night it is just the opposite: the people have lost faith in this TC that has been blowing smoke up our chimneys over the last several months. Details to follow on Lucent that will be explosive and take this debate to another level, need to verify sources. The divide and conquer strategy last nite that did not work: the TC took Cross farm off the table and went after Plum Lane: no one left. They passed the ordinance despite overwhelming public opposition, and there will be a price to pay for this. Significant Lucent ratables kicking in for 2013? Don't think so. I ruffled a few feathers of the rookie TC members when I paraphrased what the mayor had said re the selling of Plum Lane being insignificant in the overall inventory of open space. Tell that to the 70 people in the neighborhood who signed my petitions, which NO ONE opposed. This TC has a problem with transparency among other things. Mr. Pascucci had the gall to say sell the land. When he took office in 2005, the budget increased by $2 million. He started the ball rolling, did he not? We may have lost the skirmish, but the war is still on and heating up. Stay tuned, chin up, butt down.
rocco February 24, 2012 at 05:44 PM
TONY,All of Holmdel's woes can be traced back to Fink's and your times.Please get your facts correct.The rudeness and actions of your crowd were an embarrassment . Time to stop blame games.Lets all work together to solve Holmdel's problems.I am are you.
Nick J. February 24, 2012 at 05:55 PM
Tony, Tony, Tony. I must say that I have never encountered a person who is so one sided. Stop hugging trees as your vision has become blurred from the bark rubbing off. Let's look at your fabrications. To start with, 3/5 of the TC have one year or less experience, so the smoke you claim that is blowing up your chimney is coming from your pal Fink who has been serving for too many years....it's time for him to step aside. And this war you want to fight...who is going to benefit from that? You're just going to wind up taking yourself down. Why don't you tell the public how much money your family made by selling open space on Laurel Ave (you know the north side of town that has so little open space) to TD Bank!!! How much Tony? Let's face it, you're just bitter because Plum Lane was not taken off like Cross Farms was. I truly hope it doesn't have to be sold, as perhaps the TC can find additional ways to balance the budget. You also put words in the TC committee mouths with another lie, accusing them of calling the Plum Lane properties two crummy lots....those are YOUR WORDS....STOP SPREADING LIES. Or perhaps that is what you really think of those lots. And of course no resident opposed your petition...NIMBY Lastly, why are you such a nay sayer about the potential ratables for Lucent? This could put us back on the right track...but then you will have to admit that it came under the Impreveduto administration.
Holmdel Resident February 24, 2012 at 06:08 PM
As I listen to the fall out from last nights meeting, I am reminded of why this meeting was held. To answer questions, to exchange information, in a public arena. It is definately a time of hard choices. Our community future stands in the balance. We must remember the future has not happened yet, and our present is upon us. Our TC is doing everything they can, given the ever shifting possibilities of what might happen. No one has the ability to see into the future, but our TC is practicing prudence and forethought. Expressing to the public possible venues. If you want to know everything then you must be prepared to hear things you may not agree with. This does not give right to hostilities, or extremist verbage that is heated and inaccurate. So I say if you want to know the future be prepared, it maynot always be in your liking. However, keep an open mind, listen carefully, and you may learn a thing or two. Our TC does not want to follow the path into selling land, or raising taxes. They do have a lean budge inplace. They have been working to the demands placed before them. So I say let us applaud their work, due diligence and continue to support their efforts. We elected those who are on the TC.
Ivy February 24, 2012 at 06:59 PM
Let's remember people, on the Plum Lane side of town, who voted yes and who voted no to sell the open space on Plum Lane when election time rolls around. We are the majority and should use our votes to get someone who cares about our side of the tracks.
bud February 24, 2012 at 07:37 PM
Now, let's get to work on the $500,000,000 Monmouth County budget. For the first time in DECADES, we have a Freeholder Director with his head screwed on correctly. Mr. Curley: "REDUCE THIS BUDGET." The average property tax payer in MC pays approx. 15%-20% of total property taxes to the county. We should be able CUT the budget by 2% per year for the next 5 years. Keep up the good work.
Rick Blaine February 24, 2012 at 08:09 PM
Maybe Dennis Miller was onto something when he said.... For too long, our elected officials have treated our tax money like a bowl of M&Ms on a receptionist's desk that they can keep grabbing handfuls from any time they want. It has to stop. They need to be accountable. So from now on, any time they spend something, I want to see a receipt. Hey, I would gladly pay more taxes if I could be guaranteed that my money is going toward the greater public good. The thing that sticks in my craw about giving my tax money to the government is: I know that some slimy guy in Congress is gonna wind up on a junket to Bora Bora sunning his fat butt on my dime. Look, the tax code is an atonal collection of discordant notes tapped out by the eighteen-carat-gold-ring-wearing fingers of five thousand special interest weasels that would give nightmares to even Clive Barker. Every bizarre exemption, every deduction that wouldn't apply to you in ten million years is there for one reason and one reason alone: to save money for some pig lobbyist who then kicks back a portion of it to some scumbag politician's campaign war chest. I say we eliminate the middleman and lend some dignity to the process. Every April 16, strip each congressman buck naked, dip them in honey, then give them sixty seconds to roll around in the tax revenues, and let them keep whatever sticks to their bloated, liver-spotted carcasses, and then guess what? We get to keep the rest.
Rick Blaine February 24, 2012 at 08:10 PM
In Holmdel parlance, if the town needs more money and has the means to do it without shaking me down for more coin, then do it, sell the vacant lot, build the town square at Lucent and variance it with care. Responsible growth is a good thing and a necessity for the township’s sustainability. Gorging at the trough of tax dollars is not; nor is the narcissistic NIMBY flag waving.
Jan February 24, 2012 at 09:28 PM
Does anyone know what these "eleventh hour $1.8 Million savings" are? Only $400K was listed in the above article. I thought our mayor said that they could not find any more savings and that there was "no stone left unturned" . They must have found another stone. Maybe if they keep looking, they will find more stones.
Christina Johnson (Editor) February 25, 2012 at 04:58 AM
Township officials reduced the deficit from $2.5 million to $1.8 million by identifying $700,000 in surplus funds that could be used to close the gap, says Twp Admin. Andy Katz. This story has been corrected to reflect that. I incorrectly reported the township identified $1.8 million in savings. An interview with the Twp Admin with more detail is running tomorrow morning.
Holmdel Resident February 25, 2012 at 05:46 PM
I think we should ask for Impreveduto to step down now! A few weeks ago, I heard Impreveduto say "we have searched every corner and have left no stones unturned". Now he claims to have found the $1.8 million in savings. Are you kidding me!! As mayor of Holmdel, you should do your due diligence. Kudos goes out to Larry Fink who insisted on searching for ways to cut and reduce our expenses.
James McEowen February 25, 2012 at 07:04 PM
I agree with Rocco. Mr. Orsini should read the article on the bottom of page B1 of the Asbury Park Press for Saturday, February 25th. I am embarrassed by some of the behavior of my fellow townspeople at public meetings.
Michael Bair February 25, 2012 at 07:18 PM
I am an Independent voter but as long as Mr. Orsini is involved with the politics in this town, I will vote Republican in every election.
Shore Skeptic February 25, 2012 at 08:18 PM
Residents of Holmdel beware! "Mixed-use" development is part of UN Agenda 21’s plan for "walkability"...taking people out of their cars, placing them in high-rise complexes where their jobs and businesses will be on the ground floors and their homes will be above. No more driving, no need for parking garages, mass transit use if available, or just plain moving only within walking or biking distance. Eminent domain land seizures are next!
Nick J. February 25, 2012 at 09:44 PM
I'm with you Michael. Tony Orsini does not care about this town, just his own political agenda. It's a shame when people put their own self interest before the betterment of the Town. He and his cronies should be offering their services to help fix a problem he started many years ago.....now the current TC is left to fix the problem. Enough with the open space bologna, we can no longer afford it. Fink and Orsini over paid for F&F nurseries and allow the owner to still farm there and keep his profits....are you kidding me!!!!
Nick J. February 25, 2012 at 11:05 PM
Are you saying that Larry Fink is the only member of the TC that is looking for ways to cut and reduce our spending??? That is another comment from a misinformed resident....that hides behind an alias name. If you were at Thursday's meeting you would have witnessed the hard and dedicated work that has been put in by all members of the TC, including finding additional savings....shame on you. What meeting did you attend?
Steve Strickland February 26, 2012 at 12:08 AM
Yes, let's stop the blame games (right after taking your shot at Fink). Note that the Republicans have controlled the TC for the last 6 years (and all but a few of the last 20). Fink has mostly been on the losing end of 4-1 and 3-2 votes. Given this, I'm curious about the mysterious power that has enabled him to cause all of our woes.
Steve Strickland February 26, 2012 at 12:31 AM
Please. At this point, we should fear that Impreveduto might say "The hell with this; I don't need the aggravation" and step down. I'm sure that the entire TC is working as hard as they can at this very complex problem. The high-level budget runs to almost 200 pages; a fully detailed budget would probably be 10 time that size. And not include all the history, constraints, and side information needed to understand it. Not to say that more savings don't exist. But don't underestimate the difficulty of finding them. The real problem is that steps weren't taken years ago. Now we're like someone facing a mandatory weight-loss deadline who's failed to diet and is now contemplating cutting off their foot to make weight---and maybe the other foot next year. And in what can only be called a masterstroke of timing, the dominant TC person over this period has decamped to Freehold.
Robert Way February 26, 2012 at 12:49 AM
The "mixed-use" plan definitely calls for a lot of transparency and attention paid to it. Once it is zoned as such, how much influence can we as citizens or the Municipal bodies have on what is built. Not sure if it does the ratable base any good to drop mixed use in with some amount of commercial developed with "lab-rat communities" built on top of them to create a nifty little new-urbanism community unto itself on the Lucent Tract.
Jennifer February 27, 2012 at 02:21 AM
Elsie Sterling Howard, of Miami, is obviously a very accomplished person, and has held many high-level positions in Miami and at the university of Pennsylvania. What the heck she is doing turning into a real estate developer in Holmdel is a mystery to me. Her husband, a real estate lawyer, is the only clear link to real estate at all. No links to Holmdel. Don't really care if the project is in our best interest as a town, but I do think the current tempest over the $400 tax increase has made people more willing to grasp at any ray of hope. I am only gathering intelligence at this poin, and all I have been able to come up with so far is the website of MBI project management , which already lists Bell Labs, with a nice slide show. It says in part, " the existing building and out builds occupy 120 acres, leaving 350 acres open to development" . I have to say I am a wee bit frightened by that, especially since the entire tract is currently open to sewering. I am still HOPING for - some retail? A convention center? ( Mrs. Howard was the head of the Miami convention center and tourist authority). Really, I was hoping for a sports complex. Hockey, indoor tennis, aquatic center, maybe baseball or soccer indoor training facilities.....I hope she investigates and maybe does some market research in the actual community, not on likes or dislikes but rather on " what would you pay for in this town that you are already paying for in some other town?" Wow, rambling, sorry
Jennifer February 27, 2012 at 02:26 AM
Also - I don't mean that I " don't care if it is in the best interest of the town", I mean, that if it IS in our best interest, then I don't really care how or why Mrs. ESH ended up here. It is just not yet clear or obvious.

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