At the end of May’s Municipal Land Use Board (MLUB) meeting, Victor Vinegra from Harbor Consultants – the Borough Planner – spoke on the record about potential plans with what is commonly known as the Ryan Property. It is series of parcels of property along the New Jersey Transit Roselle Park train station on West Lincoln Avenue between Locust and Chestnut Streets; it excludes the parking lot for the train station which is property of New Jersey Transit. For years there have been rumors and talk of developing the Ryan Property, which tax records show to be in total of almost 1¼ acre, but nothing has been built.
Mr. Vinegra stated that before becoming the Borough Planner he worked with the Ryan family designing, surveying, and base mapping for the property at the train station and that he recently brought some family members, specifically Michael and Pat Ryan, into his office to discuss the status of their development. Mr. Vinegra mentioned that, now that the economy is looking better, the Ryan family might want to need some help to team up with professional developers.
He recommended that instead of going through the application process and having appeals filed, perhaps it might be better for the Ryan family to work with the municipality through the Municipal Land Use Board to arrive at some kind of consensus on what would be beneficial to all parties involved. He notified the Board that the Ryan family responded that they were going to ‘chew on it’ in regard to the suggestion.
MLUB member Diane Kurz asked Mr. Vinegra if the Ryan property was a candidate for a Transit Village. The Borough Planner answered that he does a lot of the transit village work for other towns and the benefits to a municipality is that it gives some planning money but those funds have been exhausted.
“We would call it the ‘Roselle Park Train Station Redevelopment Plan’,” Mr. Vinegra explained, “Just as the Board has done with the [Romerovski] property which was a redevelopment plan so you could take the same thing you did with Romerovski and apply it to that plan.”
Mr. Vinegra reiterated that the Ryan family could partner with another developer since such a development would not be a ‘run-of-the-mill’ work and would be expensive. He remarked, “It’s something that I’ll speak to the mayor about.”
The plan, as the Borough Planner proposed, would be to designate the area as “An Area In Need Of Redevelopment” which would eventually create a link from the train station to the downtown district on Chestnut Street. No additional mention was made of the resulting costly litigation that ended in 2009 after the Romerovski property was designated as a redevelopment area. That property owner, Israel Braunstein, entered into a partnership with professional developer AvalonBay Communities; that resulting partnership, in turn, sued the municipality under a “Builder’s Remedy” lawsuit and settled with the borough at a cost-to-date of over $1,400,000 to taxpayers.
Ms. Kurz asked, “If something like that were to start to be developed, just give me a ballpark idea of how long that kind of development takes?”
The response from Mr. Vinegra was three (3) years from planning approval till completion of construction.
Ms. Kurz openly stated that she recalled seeing development plans years ago but did not remember why it did not progress anywhere. MLUB President Loren Harms, who himself is a former councilman, stated that the proposal from the Ryan family at that time was too high and that density was an issue. When Ms. Kurz remarked that she thought the issue had more to do with the property owner wanting apartments and the municipality wanting condominiums. Mr. Harms responded that it was not the case and the reason had to do with density and height restrictions.
During the discussion, the topic of Senior Housing and the Ryan family asking why they could not build up to five stories like Domus Corporation is allowed to build was broached. Mr. Vinegra commented that he told the Ryan family the restrictions and cost to build up to federal specifications (due to federal funding for senior housing) would be prohibitive.
Mr. Vinegra ended his presentation by saying that the Ryan family might be interested in starting a dialogue with the municipality again, “I think they want a little bit more density and get the project to gross more but we would have to sit down with them to look at it.”
“That would be up to the Borough to consider”, added Board President Loren Harms, ending by stating that anything that the Board can do to start expanding the project would be a good thing.
“It’s a shame that it’s just sitting there,” remarked Mr. Kurz, referring to the Ryan property.
“Yeah, It’s worth a lot,” Mr. Vinegra concurred.