DePhillips Steps Down from ShopRite Hearing
Wyckoff's mayor recused himself from the hearing because of a potential conflict of interest caused by his new position with the Northwest Bergen Utilities Authority.
Wyckoff Mayor Christopher DePhillips "reluctantly" recused himself from Inserra Supermarkets' application to build a new ShopRite due to a possible conflict of interest.
James Jaworski, the attorney representing Inserra Supermarkets for the application before the Wyckoff Planning Board, raised the issue during the board's meeting Wednesday. DePhillips was recently appointed commissioner of the Northwest Bergen Utilities Authority, which has a sewer easement on both the site of the proposed ShopRite and the neighboring Boulder Run property.
DePhillips, who has sat on the planning board as a committeeman and mayor for 18 of the 24 months the application has been heard, said he did not believe there was an actual conflict of interest, but he would step down to be safe.
"I believe it strains logic and reason to recuse myself from this application," DePhillips said.
DePhillips noted that the easement was never previously mentioned in the hearings.
Board Attorney Joseph Perconti said he was concerned that litigation after the application is complete could lead to a court-mandated complete repeat of the entire application if DePhillips did not step down. Perconti said it would be best to "err on the side of caution" rather than repeat two or more years of testimony and cross-examination.
DePhillips said he was disappointed to step down because he believed having the mayor sit on the planning board was an important service to the community. The New Jersey Municipal Land Use Law states that mayors should be members of their respective planning boards.
"Our concern is what is in the best interests of Wyckoff, not what is in the best interests of your appeal," DePhillips said.
DePhillips has only recused himself from two other applications: one for work on his neighbors' home and Aldo Cascio's plan to move Aldo's Italian Restaurant because Cascio contributed to his political campaign.
At the board's previous hearing, they appointed Berge Tombalakian as the replacement traffic engineer for Gary Dean, who was removed because board members believed his work for Inserra on an application in New Milford created a conflict of interest.
After DePhillips stepped down, only four of the board's nine members were present, so they were unable to hear any testimony. The hearing is scheduled to continue at a special meeting at 7 p.m. Monday in Memorial Town Hall.