The last time we left off in our saga now known as The Mayhem in Medford, we found out that Mayor Chuck Watson, also known as Beer Drinking Chuck, has a love for the stanky swill, a love that we also recently learned, is extremely well documented.
As of today, the Mayor has 2,171 beer reviews on his profile on Untappd, which is a popular site where people review beers. Mayor Watson has two set locations where he enjoys most of his brewskis, The Mayor’s Compound in Medford, and a place called Compound East, which is the other property he owns on the water in Tuckerton. Of The Mayor’s over 2,000 reviews, one of his favorites, who he has reviewed nearly 50 times on UNtappd, is Magnify Brewing, a small brewery who has been operating in Fairfield since 2014.
When the Township of Medford transferred their municipal offices at the end of 2020 to a new building on Union Street, the Council and Mayor immediately began discussing plans to redevelop the old offices and land, which are located at 17-19 North Main Street. Minutes from a December 15th, 2020 executive session meeting, that have since had the redactions removed, show that “Council discussed a brewery looking at the 17-19 North Main property. Discussion ensued regarding a redevelopment plan and meeting with the interested party.”.
Just a month later, on January 21st, 2021, the Mayor posted his gratitude to the owner of Magnify Brewing by saying, “Delicious! Thank you Eric and my friends at Magnify.”, in his review of a double IPA made by Magnify Brewing called, Sit Tight.
At the February meeting, just a months after the Mayor gave the owner of Magnify Brewing a shout out, Mayor Watson let the Council know during the executive session that “a brewery reached out to him to let him know about their interest in the 17 North Main Street property”.
A month later in March, a resolution was passed to look into the “potential redevelopment of 17-19 North Main Street”, but at the same meeting where they approved the resolution, the towns Solicitor, Tim Prime, mentioned that he was already working on the redevelopment plan for the property, making it seem like the investigation into the “potential” redevelopment, had already been decided.
At the April meeting, and over the next couple of meetings, the township worked on creating a request for proposals for the redevelopment of the old Municipal Building. The Request For Proposals would finally be issued on July 25th, 2021, seeking a redeveloper for the Main Street property, a redeveloper that the Mayor, and the Solicitor, seemed to already have in mind.
Just nine days after the RFP was advertised, and in what appears to be a violation of NJ public contract law, Mayor Watson, and the township planner, Scott Taylor, admitted that they “met with an interested party for the 17-19 North Main Street Property Redevelopment Area.”. NJ public contract law states that at no time shall a government official disclose any information which could confer an unfair advantage to any potential vendor, and while we do not know what was conveyed to the “interested party” at the meeting with the Mayor and Planner, the very meeting itself, created the clear perception of impropriety in how the RFP process later played out.
The only bid submitted by the September 7th due date for submissions was the one from Magnify Brewing, and without any hesitation or questions, a resolution was drafted to award the single bidder the rights to redevelop the property.
The resolution was approved at the very next council meeting on September 21st, with Mayor Watson and Tim Prime, both praising the single bidder. Mayor Watson made a claim on the record that the RFP seeking proposals was first advertised over 90 days ago, which was completely untrue. The RFP was placed on July 25th, and by September 7th the resolution approving Magnify as the redeveloper was already being drafted, which is just 44 days after the RFP was placed in the Burlington County Times, not the 90 plus days that the Mayor claimed the town waited for bidders.
The redevelopment law that is being claimed to gain the massive federal and state tax breaks on this project, does not seem to fit the location of the old municipal building, as you can see below.
“Land that is owned by the municipality, the county, a local housing authority, redevelopment agency or redevelopment entity, or unimproved vacant land that has remained so for a period of ten years prior to adoption of the resolution, and that by reason of its location, remoteness, lack of means of access to developed sections or portions of the municipality, or topography, or nature of the soil, is not likely to be developed through the instrumentality of private capital.”
While the land is owned by the municipality, can they really claim that the former municipal building, which was located in the heart of downtown, has a lack of access, and or that private capitol wouldn’t want to invest in the property? It is prime real estate in a booming downtown with no real need to tap Uncle Sam for tax breaks by claiming that the place would not attract private investors, or is somehow in a desolate location not easily accessed, because both of those premises, are completely false.
When the Mayhem in Medford first started with part 1, Stiffed Wood, we thought is would only be a three part series, but with all that has been going down, we are considering a nice little spot in downtown Medford.