Friday, November 25, 2005

Kings Temple Ministry Awaits Development Amen

Despite voicing concerns about a church group’s plan to build 10 homes, the City Council approved a resolution agreeing to the proposal and an ordinance giving initial approval to the sale of city-owned property to the group.

If given final approval next month, the group expects to begin work in January.

Stung by the failure of a private group to carry out development of 67 sites, the council worried at a Nov. 14 agenda session that the new Kings Temple Community Development Corp. might not be up to the task of taking on the 10-home project. New Century Homes completed only about half of the modular homes before the project fell apart. Kings Temple would receive 13 of the failed sites for $465,000 and they would be merged into 10 building lots.

New Century received exclusive rights to the 67 sites as part of a redevelopment plan to find new uses for 197 properties all across the city. The deal is now in litigation and the city needs court approval to release the 13 parcels for conveyance to Kings Temple. Liens and foreclosure proceedings connected to the sites would be settled by the sales price if the court approves the new proposal.

On Monday (Nov. 21, 2005) the resolution incorporating the development agreement was up for “consent” approval along with numerous other resolutions judged to be non-controversial. But as Rev. Gary Kirkwood and church members looked on, it was removed from the consent agenda for a separate, roll-call vote.

When the time came, the council voted 5-1 to approve the resolution, with Councilmen Ray Blanco, Don Davis, Cory Storch and Rayland Van Blake and City Council President Linda Carter voting “yes” and Councilman Rashid Burney voting “no.“

The ordinance also passed 5-1 with the same line-up. Final approval must still be given next month for the sale to take place.

After the meeting, Kirkwood said the group expects to receive financing from the New Jersey Redevelopment Authority. Most of the homes will be one-family, with some two-families. The community development corporation is the developer and can directly name a sub-developer, Kirkwood said.

The homes' construction will be a combination of stick-built and modular, he said.

The sites are located at 620 W. Fourth St.; 625-27 and 623 South Second St.1355, 1353,1351A and 1351 South Second St.; 504-04 and 506-08 West Second St.; 129-31 and 125-27 Elmwood Place and 228-232 and 236 East Ninth St.

The last two parcels are part of the Crescent Area Historic District and homes built there will require additional approvals by the Historic Preservation Commission.

Kirkwood said the group’s timetable calls for completion of all homes within 18 months.

After Monday’s votes, Kirkwood told the council, “I understand the city has experienced a bit of a problem in the past with previous developers.”

He said he appreciated the council’s “due diligence” in asking questions about the project, and promised the group would do “the best possible job” for the city of Plainfield.

--Bernice Paglia

KEYWORDS: development