Monday, September 14, 2009
Banners and signs at 400 East Front Street indicate the sales model for 63 condos is now open there. The condo complex, which has a senior center and veterans' center on the ground floor, is likely to be up for discussion tonight as City Council members are being asked to vote on a tax abatement allowing condo purchasers to pay only 40 percent of city taxes.
In May 2008, Dornoch Plainfield LLC received City Council permission to place a sales office on a city-owned lot across the street from the project. The agreement was for seven months at $500 per month. However, the trailer office was only dismantled last week, according to blogger Dan Damon.
A review of documents signed Jan. 4, 2007 reveals that the city sold the land to the Union County Improvement Authority for $1 in order for the authority to develop it. In turn, the UCIA sold it to Dornoch Plainfield LLC. Among terms of the agreement, the senior center was to be completed by two years from the issuance of a building permit. As verified by Construction Official Joseph Minarovich, that would be October 2009.
No closings on residential units were to take place until the senior center was complete, as indicated by a temporary or or permanent certificate of occupancy for the center. At that time, Dornoch was to sell the center to the city for $1.
The Veterans Center was to be sold for $1 to the city "upon the sale of all 63 residential condominium units."
According to City Administrator Marc Dashield, 13 to 15 units are currently under contract for sale.
Dornoch Plainfield LLC was not referred to in a proposed agreement for the city to permit negotiations on a tax abatement. Instead, the agreement was with P&F Management. It passed on first reading July 20, but was not brought back in August for second reading. The ordinance was discussed in executive sessions before and after the Sept. 8 meeting, but not in the public portion. It is expected to come up tonight. The meeting is 8 p.m. in Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave.
In the January 2007 documents, the two-bedroom residential units are described as ranging from 1,170 square feet to 1,390 square feet. However, in real estate articles on the project, they are described as ranging from 1,120 to 1,289 square feet, a reduction of from 4 to 7 percent. The sales price has varied from about $300,000 initially to $199,000 in a May 2009 ad. It is now being described as being in the mid-$200,000s.
Councilman Adrian Mapp, who said he voted "yes" reluctantly when the ordinance passed on first reading, has come out vehemently against the tax abatement. Mapp published his questions and Dashield's answers on his blog Saturday along with his commentary. Click here to read it.
Officials were supposed to be reviewing the January 2007 documents last week. Considering that the UCIA is headed by Union County Democratic Party Chairman Charlotte DeFilippo and that the UCIA office building at Park-Madison has yet to comply with all the Planning Board conditions in order to receive a permanent certificate of occupancy, any behind-the-scenes discussions may not exactly be collegial. The Park-Madison building received a temporary certificate of occupancy in 2005 and has been in use ever since, despite the unfulfilled Planning Board conditions raised in 2006.