Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Netherwood Redevelopment Study Reduced

A proposed “in need of redevelopment”study of more than 90 properties around Netherwood train station has now been reduced to just 16 parcels, including the city’s Public Works yard.

The new study proposal will be up for a vote at the City Council meeting 8 p.m. Wednesday (Oct. 18) in Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave.

When the scope of the Netherwood study became known in May, business owners voiced fears of displacement and job loss in the largely industrial section along the train tracks. The new study area spares many established businesses, but the steps from a study to a redevelopment plan for the 16 parcels may be expedited, officials said at Monday’s agenda session.

The city named the Union County Improvement Authority as its redevelopment entity in August 2006 and it is now shepherding numerous projects through the steps of “in need” studies, redevelopment plans, conditional naming of developers and formulation of redevelopment agreements. The steps depend on approvals back and forth between the Planning Board and City Council. Up until Monday (Oct. 15, 2007), no mention had been made of any shortcuts in the process.

After the meeting, Councilman Cory Storch, who is the council liaison to the Planning Board, said attorneys disagree on how strictly municipalities must adhere to the formal redevelopment process.

The 16 parcels include two off North Avenue between Berckman and Richmond streets, the city yard and and 10 properties on South Avenue between Berckman and the intersection of central Street and two large lots on South Avenue between Richmond and Berckman streets.

UCIA attorney Ed Boccher gave an update on redevelopment projects Monday, reminding the council that while the authority is the redevelopment entity, “We are your agent.” The council has received briefings in closed session and all redevelopment approvals have been made in open public meetings.

In commenting on the five-phase East Third/Richmond proposal, Boccher said the redeveloper has been in close communication with property owners in one phase. He said he expects to have a draft redeveloper’s agreement for action by the November council meeting.

Capodagli Property Company proposes 352 residential units in five buildings at East Third and Richmond streets, with 700 parking spaces at ground level. The Pompton Plains company plans to phase in development, starting with the former Cozzoli Machinery site.

Boccher also said he expects to have a redeveloper’s agreement for the Teppers II site on West Front Street next month, in addition to the Marino’s site on West Front Street. The Marino’s developer, AST Development of Lavallette, needs more financing, he said.

The report Monday put a positive light on what seemed last month to be a stalled situation with Marino’s and the East Third/Richmond tracts. Conditional designation, first for 90 days and then for two 60-day extensions, had expired for both AST and Capodagli.

Among projects in Plainfield, the privately-funded Dornoch proposal for 63 condos above a senior center at 400 East Front Street is the only one to move to the construction phase. Others are still in the study or planning stage.

After Wednesday’s regular meeting, the City Council will go on hiatus until after the Nov. 6 general election. The schedule will resume with an agenda session Nov. 19 and a regular meeting Nov. 21.

--Bernice Paglia


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