And Monday night’s meet & greet with Mayor Carl Hokanson, the head of the municipality addressed several issues on development in the borough and specifically spoke on what is commonly known as the Sullivan property.
The mayor stated that he plans to use eminent domain – if necessary – on the 4½ acre property where Chestnut Street ends on Westfield Avenue. The first step to having development at that central location is to prepare a redevelopment plan for that location. This step was taken for the former Domani’s site further west along Westfield Avenue last year with Capodagli Property Company (CPC) being named the developer for the project in June of this year. That development, called Meridia At Roselle Park, is in the preliminary stages of construction.
Mayor Hokanson stated when asked, if the goal was to use eminent domain for the Sullivan property he responded, “Once [the redevelopment plan]’s approved by the Municipal Land Use Board, then it comes back to us, then we do it, and then we go into eminent domain, unless he decides to sell.”
The mayor stated that the Thursday night, December 29th, municipal meeting will have on its agenda a resolution to appoint Neglia Engineering, the borough’s engineering firm, to prepare a redevelopment plan naming the Sullivan property An Aera In Need Of Redevelopment. The Sullivan property consists of two (2) parcels of land – Block 610, Lot 1 and Block 610, Lot 3.
Eminent domain is a mechanism available to a government agency that allows it to condemn private property and provide just compensation to the owner so it can be acquired in accordance with the law for public use. In this case, if pursued by the governing body, it would have to show that it meets the requirements for public purpose or public necessity over the rights of a property owner, in this case, NJ Redevelopers, LLC.
Sal Garcia, the owner of MAS Development Group as well as a principal of NJ Developers, bought the property in March of 2011. The property was demolished in 2013. Up until January of 2015, the property remained vacant reportedly due to an ordinance passed in June of 2010 – Ordinance 2298 – which prevented parking between the sidewalk and a building in the B-2 District; the zone where the Sullivan property is located. Such an ordinance would prevent most retail use of that location.
In January of 2015, Ordinance 2298 was rescinded by incoming mayor Carl Hokanson’s administration. In September of that year, a site plan application was presented to the Municipal Land Use Board (MLUB) which was denied by the board; it had an AutoZone and three other unnamed types of businesses with no residential use. Since that time no other application has come before the MLUB and it has been stated by officials that Mr. Garcia has been in litigation with a silent partner. Currently, the property – which has been called the most valuable piece of real estate in Roselle Park – remains vacant with the exception of Enterprise cars that sit in the lot.
By comparison, Meridia At Roselle Park, a development that was approved to begin construction at the old Domani’s site on Westfield Avenue that sat unused for seven years before it was designated as An Area In Need Of Redevelopment. In 2014, then property owner Dominick Glynn was approved by the MLUB for a 27-unit complex (link). That development never materialized but now approval has been given for a 213-unit apartment development that will have retail space on the first floor.
The Sullivan property was one of 11 listed in the MLUB’s review of the borough master plan this year (link).
Mr. Garcia was contacted for this article and, through his office representative at MAS Development Group, stated he has no comment at this time.
The special year-end municipal meeting is scheduled for Thursday, December 29th, at 6:15 p.m. at the Roselle Park Municipal Complex located at 110 East Westfield Avenue.