Recently, the Cranford Township Committee passed a resolution designating a portion of North and North Union Avenues as a “Redevelopment Area in Need of Condemnation.”
While I recognize that the Township has a responsibility to provide affordable housing, our elected officials also have a responsibility to the residents, business owners and property owners in our community. Development needs to be appropriate and fair.
Responsible development retains the diversity of our business stock while allowing the Township to retain control over design standards and ensuring our land use principles stay intact. The physical look and feel of the storefronts define our downtown. The goal should be to attract and encourage individual developers as opposed to corporate developers who might be more likely to come in with higher density and bigger, taller buildings that cover more ground with a uniform look. You've heard it said over and over by the community--we don't want to be the next Hoboken. People move to Cranford to escape high density and an impersonal lifestyle. Cranford offers something different--a diversity in character that makes Cranford unique. Progress and preservation are not mutually exclusive. Both should be measured and appreciated.
We can achieve these goals without the use of Condemnation and Eminent Domain. The pandemic and its challenges are felt especially hard by our small business owners. The use of Condemnation as a tool should not be used where viable businesses are located. We need to work with these community contributors, not against them. Riverfront, the most successful development in Cranford history, was accomplished without the use of Condemnation or Eminent Domain. It can be done and done well.
The Local Redevelopment and Housing Law that is being called upon to make this designation enables designation as either a “condemnation” or “non-condemnation” area. Both enable the use of the same financial tools to encourage development--one with the power to use eminent domain the other without. If you do not intend to use this power, why include it here? Why not pursue designation as a non-condemnation area to remove the specter of eminent domain? The Township should be working aggressively to develop the property it owns in this area and seek a qualified developer for the rest of the properties.
I am strongly against the use of condemnation or eminent domain as a tool of change in our community. Past redevelopment projects prove there is no need to go down this path. Cranford is a highly desirable location for homeowners and businesses alike, as is obvious from both recent real estate activity and the low vacancy rate in our storefronts. Surely, we can continue our growth responsibly and smartly without the use of Eminent Domain.
Candidate for Cranford Township Committee