Government

Borough Council Continues Discussion on Open Space Acquisition

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NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ – The Borough Council continued its discussion on whether to purchase a parcel of land adjacent to Veterans Park at its Monday, Sep. 11 meeting. The council decided that more information is needed in order for it to reach a decision.

The borough has three options: not buy the property at all; buy the property, subdivide it and sell a portion of it; or purchase the property with Green Acres money, Mayor Al Morgan explained. If the borough were to use the Green Acres funds, the lot would become deed restricted “for eternity”, Borough Administrator Doug Marvin said.

If the borough decides to purchase the property and sell a portion of it after a subdivision, it would have to follow the normal protocol. The sale of the property would have to be conducted by sealed bids or thorough an auction, Marvin explained. He also brought up a potential fourth option which might allow the borough to utilize state open space grant money for only the portion of the land that the borough intends to keep. The other parcel would have to be purchased with borough funds.

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The borough should request the appraiser to appraise the parcels as if they were already subdivided so as to enable the borough to determine the value of the corner lot – which it wants to keep; and the adjacent lot – which it wishes to resell, Marvin suggested. The entire parcel is less than one acre in size. The parcel that the borough intends to resell – if it decides to go ahead with the purchase first – is occupied with an existing two family home.

“Let me just play devil’s advocate,” Councilman Robert Robinson said and asked why doesn’t the lot’s current owner subdivide it and sell the parcels separately. My sense is that the owner is purchasing a number of these types of properties and then resells them, Marvin said. “I am a little suspicious,” Robinson said. It seems like a simple thing for the current owner to do – sell the corner piece to the borough and the other half to a developer, he pondered. Council President Gary Kapner explained that the owner probably doesn’t want to get too involved, instead he plans to “flip” the property as soon as possible.

Morgan wondered if there is some kind of oil or natural gas leak on the property. “I don’t want to get stuck with another greenhouse,” he said referring to the Ping Wang property. In order for the borough to purchase any properties with Green Acres funds it has to have two appraisals and a proper engineering report which will address any leakage issues, Marvin said.

The council is not here to purchase and sell properties, “but we do want that corner piece of property,” Robinson said. He noted that the borough does not wish to remove properties from the tax roll and owning the parcel with the existing two-family house would not add value to the borough.

Councilman Jim Madden asked if there are any other permitted uses for the property with the existing house. He explained that many residents would like to see a teen center somewhere in the borough. Could this be considered here? He asked the council. Marvin said that the existing house is in a poor condition and would have to be knocked down.

Robinson also wanted to find out the recent selling price of the property. Marvin explained that the property is valued at approximately $300,000 which suggests a market value of $575,000 - $600,000.

The council asked Marvin to provide more information prior to making a decision.

“Let’s not make this overly complicated. You got a simple parcel of land, if we want it and the price is right and fair we will do it. If not, you don’t,” Councilman Michael Gennaro concluded.

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