Berkeley Heights Council Adopts Ordinance Approving Purchase of Plainfield Avenue Property by Township, Sale Of Library Property to Church

Township Clerk Ana Minkoff reads the Ordinance title. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
The full Berkeley Heights Council and Mayor Robert Woodruff. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
Councilwoman Jeanne Kingsley and Michael D' Aquila recuse themselves from the hearing and vote on the ordinance because of their association with the Church of the Little Flower. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
The Berkeley Heights Council votes on the ordinance that will enable the action formerly known as "The Swap." Credits: Barbara Rybolt
Council members return to their seats after the public hearing and vote are over. Credits: Barbara Rybolt

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – The township moved one step closer to becoming owners of the Church of the Little Flower's Roosevelt Avenue property at Tuesday night’s council meeting.

The council, by a vote of 4-0, adopted the ordinance approving the purchase of property at 110 Roosevelt Avenue from the Church of the Little Flower and sale of the township library, at 290 Plainfield Ave., to the Church of the Little Flower. As they have previously, council members Jeanne Kingsley and Michael D' Aquila recused themselves from the hearing and vote because of their association with the church. The ordinance authorized the appropriation of no more than "$2,900,000, plus all adjustments to be made at closing," for this purchase. The amount will be funded through a $2.9 million bond ordinance passed earlier in the year.

No members of the public commented on the ordinance during the public hearing.

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This sale and purchase were originally called “The Swap,” when the concept was first presented to the public. At that time the plan was for the township to “swap” the library plus an undetermined sum of money for the Roosevelt Avenue property with the Church of the Little Flower.  The township would rehabilitate the buildings on Roosevelt Avenue and turn them into a municipal complex, in which the library and police department would be located, and do other work to make a space on the property for the Department of Public Works.  Later it was called “The Transaction,” but the plan was the same. The church would renovate the former township library and use it for religious instruction and other purposes.

Public meetings on the topic were held in 2014, then in June of 2015, in part because of vocal opposition to some elements of the plan, consultants recommended a new Municipal Complex be built on Park Avenue and the Roosevelt Avenue property be turned into a 100-unit townhouse development, with 80 market rate townhouses and 20 affordable housing units.

Almost two-and-a-half years later, the ordinance adopted Tuesday night, Nov. 21, should permit the township to put their plans into action. There has been incremental progress during those years. In July, residents learned the township library will relocate to the Little Flower Church Rectory when it vacates its current home, and the church would continue to use the building on Roosevelt Avenue for its religious school, until renovations of the library are complete.

 At the time, it was expected that the sale of the property would take place by the end of this year.

The council went into Executive Session at the end of the public meeting to discuss “contract negotiations – library.” Presumably the two parties are continuing to discuss details of the closing, including the date for the actual closing on the properties. It is still possible, although unlikely, that the sale could fall through.

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