RARITAN, NJ - Following months of planning, the Raritan Borough Council introduced an ordinance Tuesday night to accept a redevelopment plan for the property at the corner of Second Avenue and Third Street.
Councilmen Andrew Sibilia and James Foohey voted against the ordinance.
The redevelopment was first discussed in January, and, in June, the council voted to name the area, called Block 81 on the tax map, in need of redevelopment. This ordinance is the next step in the process, which now goes to the planning board to consider the redevelopment plan itself.
The borough has been considering a proposed apartment complex on the property, and the developer had requested the area be considered in need of redevelopment. The matter was considered by the planning board, which recommended that it indeed be named in need of redevelopment.
Jeff Lehrer, attorney for Raritan in the matter, said this new ordinance is essentially a zoning ordinance for that particular area.
“There is an introduction by council, and then it is referred to the planning board for a determination of consistency with the master plan and then it comes back to the council for adoption,” he said.
Kevin Codey, of JMF Properties, spoke for the developer, saying that the apartment complex proposal is similar to what was initially discussed in January, with the exception of a lower number of units being proposed.
The unit count, Codey said, has shrunk from 306 to 284, all based on a recent survey of the property.
The proposal, Codey said, is for a four-story building with studios, one-bedroom apartments and two-bedroom apartments. The building will also include a club room, media room, fitness center, virtual fitness center, yoga room and pool.
This proposal has not been approved at this time, and still needs to go before the planning board for approval, which will happen if the redevelopment ordinance is officially approved at the next borough council meeting, Nov. 22.
Raritan Mayor Charles McMullin said he put together a coordinating committee in June to keep a watch over the project and look at issues brought up by the council and the planning board regarding the proposal. He said the committee fully supports the redevelopment plan, and only recommends that eminent domain be an option if it becomes necessary.
“We are absolutely not going to pursue eminent domain, and the committee is of the view that the private market will get rid of the need for eminent domain,” he said. “But we should keep the language, otherwise it could potentially make the borough start the whole process all over again.”
The developer is looking to purchase the homes currently on the property at Second Avenue and Third Street in order to build the apartment complex.
Eminent domain was discussed at the beginning of the proposal because of one property owner who did not want to sell his property to the developer preparing the apartment complex. In the end, the owner did sell, and the developer has said that there are verbal agreements with all the property owners currently on the site.
“There have been no closings yet on the properties, that’s why we want to keep the language in about eminent domain,” Lehrer said.
The redevelopment ordinance will now go to the planning board for consideration before it returns to the borough council for final approval.