June 19, 2014 at 11:21 PM
SOUTH ORANGE, NJ (UPDATED) – Eight sites along Irvington Avenue are being proposed as redevelopment sites by two village committees.
The Irvington Avenue Corridor Advisory Committee met with the village’s Development Committee on Thursday night, and both committees approved the idea of studying “scattered” sites as possible redevelopment zones, as well as supporting a study designating the entire village as a rehabilitation zone.
Conducting the study to determine if the sites are eligible for the designation as an area “in need of redevelopment” is the first step in revitalizing the corridor, according to Sheena Collum, a member of the village Board of Trustees who serves as one of the board’s representatives to the IACAC.
If the Board of Trustees approves, the Planning Board would conduct the studies. Collum said that the investigation would be done under the Local Redevelopment and Housing Law. “Assuming (the studies) are authorized, (they) will be completed within three months,” Collum said.
In a recent presentation to the Board of Trustees, village planner Susan Gruel explained that property owners in a rehabilitation zone can receive short-term tax abatements for improvements to their properties. Projects undertaken in a zone designated “in need of redevelopment” can quality for up to 30-year tax abatement. In addition, the village can condemn property in a redevelopment zone.
Collum emphasized on Thursday that the eight parcels are primarily commercial property that would be most attractive to a developer and that historically the village has used condemnation as a redevelopment tool only once.
“I just want to be very, very clear, knowing that (this issue) is sensitive to homeowners,” said Clarke McCarthy, owner of 2 Great Kids on Irvington Avenue and a member of the IACAC.
“This is simply a survey to figure out what can be done,” said Doug Zacker, chairman of the IACAC.
Jon Vogel, a member of the Development Committee, explained it this way: “There’s a difference between discovering what (the area) ‘is’ and what (the area) ‘should be.’ We’re at the ‘what is’ stage.”
Collum said that the rehabilitation study would cost $3,000 and the redevelopment study, which is more involved, would cost $15,000. If the Board of Trustees gives the green light to the studies, she said, property owners in the proposed redevelopment zones would receive a packet of information from the board explaining the study in “layman’s terms.” If the studies are referred to the Planning Board, property owners will receive more formal notification as required by law, according to Collum.
In a related development, Collum reported that a grant proposal is in the works that would include South Orange, Maplewood and Newark would seek funding for “mobility” along Irvington Avenue in all three communities, making the corridor more accessible for pedestrians and bicyclists. According to Collum, Essex County would take the lead in the grant application.
UPDATED: 12:40 AM 6/20/14. Updates previous version to correct information about who will conduct redevelopment study.