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New Jersey residents fear LG Electronics expansion

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NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Residents of a northern New Jersey town fighting an electronics company's expansion plans say they worry the project will usher in an era of big development in one of the last pristine sections of the Palisades along the Hudson River.

Concerned Residents of Englewood Cliffs is urging their mayor to reverse his support for a planned new $300 million North American headquarters for the South Korea-based LG Electronics, which has been in the borough for more than 25 years.

Group member Carin Geiger says many residents have only recently become aware that a proposal to amend the borough's master plan to allow for the development could irreversibly alter the quaint, low-rise feel of the Bergen County town perched atop the Palisades.

"We don't want Englewood Cliffs turned into a Fort Lee North, full of high-rise buildings and traffic problems," Geiger said, referring to a neighboring town at the base of the George Washington Bridge, which has allowed high-rise construction. "And we certainly don't want to mar the Palisades, which we all care about, just so that LG's corporate executives can have a nice view of the Manhattan skyline."

LG has countered that a redesign of the already approved site plan would cost the company millions and be extremely time consuming (after recently concluding a multiyear approval process) during a time when New Jersey needs jobs. Nevertheless, LG spokesman John Taylor said company officials remain open to discussions with the community over their concerns.

"We're moving ahead as planned at this stage, but we are hopeful there will be an opportunity to explore a reasonable settlement," Taylor said.

A section of the company's website dedicated to the controversy, called "Fact vs. Fiction," says LG's environmentally certified proposed building is being misrepresented by opponents as a tower atop the Palisades, when it is actually wider than it is tall, located on private land a quarter-mile from the protected cliffs, and would be "barely visible above the tree line...unlike many taller existing structures already on the New Jersey side of the river."

Geiger's group and a coalition of environmental groups and elected officials from New York and New Jersey have united under the banner Protect the Palisades. They say the proposed building, at 143 feet, will breach the tree line and irreversibly alter the view of the Palisades — undoing a century of efforts to preserve the steep cliff formation, which runs along the New Jersey side of the river and crosses the border into New York state. They are urging LG to replace current development plans for the 27-acre site with a low-rise complex that stays within the height limits of its corporate neighbors.

Englewood Cliffs Mayor Joseph Parisi is on record as supporting LG's expansion, saying the town can't afford to lose the taxes and jobs that the company generates. He recently urged both sides to reach a compromise over the height controversy. Parisi did not return messages for comment.

The fight is also continuing in the courts, where an appeal is pending of a Superior Court judge's decision to uphold the 2012 variance granted to LG, allowing it to exceed the town's 35-foot height limit.

Geiger says her group is working to make sure the borough does not approve an amended master plan that allows for future high-rise development. She said so many residents signed up to speak at the last meeting that officials had to postpone it.

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