Attorneys for the Boulder Run Stop & Shop have hired a public relations firm to rally residents against a controversial proposal to build a ShopRite in a nearby abandoned lot.
In the latest stunt in an ongoing fight between the supermarket chains, an anonymous flyer — penned by a public affairs executive hired by Stop & Shop — was sent to residents, claiming that traffic, safety and aesthetic concerns would arise if Inserra Supermarkets were granted approval to build a 65,000 square foot ShopRite.
The mailer, which landed in mailboxes across town late last week, urged residents to contact municipal officials, prompting dozens of calls to Town Hall and at least 50 emails to Mayor Kevin Rooney's inbox. is being heard — an autonomous board, separate from the both the mayor and township committee.
The man behind the mailer is Stephen Reid, a public relations executive working for Stop & Shop Attorney Gail Price.
He told Patch he sent the flyers, adding that his goal was to "educate" the public.
"When this is over, said and done and ShopRite gets their 65,000 square foot approval, I don't want people to say, 'We should have done something,'" said Reid, senior vice president at Capital Public Affairs.
"I told them... you're not being loud enough," Reid added. "The only thing I did was educate."
John Lamb, the attorney representing the owner of the lot where Inserra hopes to build the massive supermarket, wrote a scathing letter to the Wyckoff Planning Board calling the mailer "the public relations spin of a desperate objector."
In the letter, dated December 6, Lamb contends that a number of points stated in the mailer were misleading, including claims about traffic increases.
"We think this 'unidentified' correspondence is tarnishing the good name of the Wyckoff Planning Board which has worked very hard on this application and also causing problems in the Township which should be addressed," Lamb wrote.
Lamb also requests that an accountable party's name be signed to further mailings and that "false and misleading information" be curbed.
"We all know this is the public relations spin of a desperate objector which is afraid of the competition if the application is approved."
In response to the deluge of letters and phone calls received by officials at Town Hall, Rooney said the flyer incorrectly told residents to contact a governing body with no say in the matter at hand.
"Whether it be Mrs. Jones with a small addition or or , whatever it may be, this governing body cannot comment on municipal land use law," Rooney said, adding that he replied to emails sent to him with a "very generic form just thanking the residents for their interest."
Attached to Rooney's response to residents was a letter from Wyckoff Planning Board Attorney Joseph Perconti, explaining that the mayor and township committee members cannot comment on a pending application before any Wyckoff land use boards.
But Reid, , said Rooney shouldn't complain.
"He should hear from his constituents, I'm a councilman in my town and the bottom line is if I don't hear from my constituents I think everything is OK," said Reid, adding that the people in Wyckoff to whom he's spoken don't believe their concerns are being heard.
"I was happy to hear that people are picking up the phone or emailing, that's the only way that people are going to get heard," Reid said.
The mailer, which arrived in mailboxes across the township on December 1, also incorrectly stated the next time Inserra's application would be before the planning board.
The next meeting will be December 14 at 7:30 p.m. in the second floor courtroom in .