The last order of business during the first Mayor & Council meeting of the year was Resolution 38-16. Council unanimously voted to designate eight (8) parcels along West Westfield Avenue as an area in need of redevelopment; all just 17 days after the Municipal Land Use Board (MLUB) determined that the area, termed the “Study Area”, met the criteria and three days after the MLUB memorialized the decision with their own resolution.
The properties – from 218 to 256 West Westfield Avenue – include Surgent’s Elite School of Gymnastics, the former Domani’s restaurant, DJ’s Limo Service, and Skinner & Cook. Their parcels are Block 314; Lots 6 through 12 and 14.
Four months earlier, at the September 3rd Mayor & Council meeting, the governing body directed the Municipal Land Use Board (MLUB) to conduct a preliminary investigation to determine whether the eight properties qualified as an area in need of redevelopment. At that same meeting Neglia Engineering, the borough’s engineering firm, was contracted to undertake the investigation for $15,470.00 through Resolution 243-15. On December 17th, Joseph P. Baumann, Jr. was appointed to perform Special Counsel services for the project in the amount of $10,000. A special MLUB meeting was called on December 21st to hold to hearing and have Neglia Engineering present its report and testimony. The MLUB voted unanimously to recommend the Study Area to be an area in need of redevelopment. Then, on December 30th, Resolution 346-15 appointed Neglia Engineering to prepare the Redevelopment Plan for $26,500. In total, the borough’s engineering firm was paid almost $42,000 for work related to the designation of an area in need of redevelopment.
The resolution from the municipal governing body is the final phase needed in order to have the as-yet-unnamed developer begin formal talks with property owners. The resolution does give the power to apply eminent domain but no steps taken by the municipality to enforce that clause at this time. What remains to be determined is if the development will be fully residential or mixed use with commercial retail space below and residential units above. The latter would be preferable to many since they would bring ratables without impacting services as much as a fully residential development.