Many residents have asked questions about why the Township purchased 2 properties on Franklin Ave. Several have raised questions about what will happen to these properties and why hasn’t action been taken already. The following will help to address those questions.
What Are the Underlying Issues That Gave Rise for the Need to Make These Purchases Necessary?
In both cases the intent of each owner was to sell their property to a developer who planned to demolish each property and build large mixed used buildings adding well over 125 apartment units. Today, our schools are facing overcrowding issues and parking is limited in our business district. So, it was clear the Township needed to step up and take control by purchasing these properties.
It has become abundantly clear given these issues, that your Board of Commissioner’s just can’t sit on the sidelines and hope that the right outcome will just happen. We must act selectively taking action, when it’s imperative to do so, to help our businesses and schools.
Why the Davis Building?
While there remains public debate over the way to solve school overcrowding, it’s clear owning land adjacent to our Middle School makes it possible to expand this facility should town residents support that action. Your Board of Commissioners working together with the Board of Education purchased the Davis Building. This property is large enough to offer several possible options. For example, it could accommodate 21 classrooms which would allow our 6th graders to move to the middle school and ease space limitations at our Elementary Schools.
The purchase price was $897,000 and we do not have any outstanding debt at this time.
Until recently, we collected rents, to offset any property tax loss, which have been placed in a trust account totaling over $180,000. After a recent fire the building will now need to be demolished. The money is the trust will offset the costs demolition and improvements to the site until school expansion matter is decided by voters.
Why did We Purchase the Ciccolini Furniture Store?
Bob Ciccolini informed the Board of Commissioners that he was about to sell his property to New York apartment developer for $3,500,000, but after some discussion he was willing to entertain an offer from the town.
Your Board of Commissioners were united in our view that it was a critical purchase in order to advance business improvement, preserve public parking critical for our business district and stop the construction of well over 100 apartments on this site.
The purchase price was finalized at $3,425,000. This is a valuable property and with right plan we being sold generating significantly higher tax revenues.
How Were the Purchase Prices Determined?
In both cases independent appraisals were obtained to determine the purchase price. In addition, the purchase price determination is not based on the current assessed value but, by law, must be made on the allowable use of business property and not its assessed value. In both cases, the ability to build apartments significantly increased the purchase price of both properties.
Do We Have a Plan to Improve this Property?
Yes, our plan for this property is straightforward!!
- We expect have it declared in need of redevelopment or rehabilitation making all of the costs for architects, engineers, planner and lawyer fully reimbursed by the ultimate buyer of the property and not us as taxpayers. This will require a review by the Planning Board.
- Prepare a request for redevelopment recommendations from interested buyers to explore a range of redevelopment options, inclusive of advancing new business and civic uses, preserving public parking and managing schools impacts.
- Drive transparency and inclusiveness by holding community meetings to hear valuable feedback, and build support for preferred options before we act.
- Sell the property to the preferred buyer.
When will we see development on Ciccolini Property?
The Commissioners are just as anxious to get moving on this exciting redevelopment project. A significant reason for the delay was Township litigation regarding Affordable Housing. This litigation stems from an initial demand that the Township must build over 500 hundred affordable housing apartment units. The Township objected to this demand and initiated litigation. As a result, the Ciccolini property had to sit dormant until our litigation with Affordable Housing was resolved.
Good news!! Our settlement with Affordable Housing was finalized in December 2019. The outcome requires that 55 affordable units are to be built on the ON3 site and we do not have a future obligation to build these units anywhere else in town. Therefore, the Ciccolini property can now be developed without this constraint.
The Commissioners have now authorized the Planning Board to proceed with a Blight Study of the Ciccolini area. DMR Architects have been hired and are highly accomplished when it comes to this work. And yes, the $21,000 fee is fully reimbursable.