Cranford administrator resigns, replaced by police chief

CRANFORD, NJ — Terence Wall, who played a central role in bringing Cranford’s purchase and sale of the controversial Birchwood property to a close after decades of legal and logistical roadblocks, is leaving his position as township administrator after five years.

The members of the Township Committee at their Oct. 23 meeting voted unanimously to accept Wall’s resignation. Although his final day was Oct. 31, Mayor Tom Hannen said in a Oct. 24 phone interview that Wall will continue to consult with the township through the end of year “to keep the transition as smooth as possible.”

The committee approved police Chief Ryan Greco as interim township administrator. Hannen said the township has put an advertisement on the League of Municipalities website announcing its search for a new administrator.

Wall, 51, used the meeting as an opportunity to thank Hannen and fellow committee members Ann Dooley, Mary O’Connor, Patrick Giblin and Jean-Albert Maisonneuve. He also thanked several former colleagues, friends and family. At the end, Wall thanked the residents of what he called a “fantastic community.”

“All roads seem to go through Cranford at some point in time,” Wall said. “It’s an honor and a tremendous pleasure to work for you and to have served you for five years. Really, really, really fantastic and look forward to see you in the future out and about.”
The room was filled with applause when he finished speaking.

Each member of the committee and township attorney Ryan Cooper took turns wishing Walls well. And some referenced his work with the Birchwood project.

The township committee on May 8 approved a 30-year payment in lieu of taxes agreement with the developers of the Birchwood apartment complex on the Kenilworth border.

Birchwood Developers Urban Renewal Associates agreed to pay 11 percent of its yearly gross revenue to the town as an annual payment rather than taxes, the ordinance states. The developers of the Birchwood Avenue project also will pay an annual 2 percent administrative fee to the township.
The town had purchased the property for $18 million, but sold the land at 215 and 235 Birchwood avenues to the developer for $18.5 million.

The 225-unit apartment complex includes 34 affordable housing units and is several years in the making. The redevelopment was delayed by changing developers and lawsuits over the township fulfilling its Mount Laurel requirements, LocalSource previously reported.

The original plans called for 360 units to be built on the site.
“Mr. Wall was instrumental in moving the Birchwood project forward and reducing the density at that site by 140 units,” O’Connor said. “It took years of meetings and meetings and meetings and I think it’s one of the most substantial contributions you made to the township of Cranford, and I appreciate it more than you know and I think everybody in town knows how hard you worked on that and appreciates it, also.”

Dooley said Wall “is especially deserving of accolades for what I consider his signature accomplishment during his Cranford tenure. It was the very skillful negotiations and closeout of the term sheet for township’s acquisition of the Birchwood property, a really important accomplishment. It required persistence, skill and he did it to the max.”

Hannen called Wall “a bright, affable individual” who went about the unsung duties of an administrator with professionalism. When it was suggested that Wall ran the town, Hannen said, “Without question.”

“Our form of government, the members of the township committee are all part-time people and our form of government charges the administrator to run the day-to-day operation of government,” he said. “We’re to set policy and give direction, but the nuts and bolts of the whole thing actually comes from the administrator. On a day-to-day basis, he runs the town. That’s the way the ordinances are set up so that a profession individual has the opportunity with those skills to run the community in the most cost-effective manner.”

Wall said he would be looking for career opportunities in the public and private sectors.
He has served on the Board of Education and the Township Committee in Holmdel, where he lives with his wife and their four children.
He also served as the Keansburg Borough administrator and its acting chief financial officer for a short tim. Before coming to Cranford, he was the borough administrator and clerk in North Arlington in Bergen County for six years.

In addressing the timing of his departure, Wall said “it’s an opportune time to review new opportunities for both towns and administrators in charting paths forward. From me, I enjoyed providing measurable positive results for communities that I serve and I’m excited about the next opportunity.”