LITTLE FALLS, NJ - The Little Falls Planning Board held a hearing and approved an application for the redevelopment of an industrial area in the Singac section of the township at its meeting on Aug. 3.

Board members approved a recommendation identifying a total of 15 parcels in the zone, which met the criteria for redevelopment and rehabilitation designation.

John Veteri, local attorney representing several property owners, formally requested a favorable resolution at the conclusion of the hearing for rehabilitating and revitalizing that section of the township. He assured the board that certain procedural requirements in order to proceed with the hearing were met. They included certified mailings to residents and business owners making them aware of the resolution, including providing public notice. 

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Also present during the meeting was Jeffrey Janota, Little Falls land use planner, who gave a PowerPoint presentation on the redevelopment study of the area. Janota is employed by the firm H2M, located in Parsippany, and has worked in the township as a planner for eight years. He highlighted study findings during the presentation. Among the investigation results was a study area analysis, redevelopment study process, and a redevelopment/rehabilitation study.

Three phases encompass the redevelopment/rehabilitation study. Phase 1 would entail conducting an investigation to see if the area would meet certain criteria. If so, the area would be designated for redevelopment and/or rehabilitation.Phase 2 consists of the preparation and adoption of the redevelopment plan. Phase 3 would entail selecting a redeveloper(s) agreement, negotiating the redeveloper agreement, and implementing the redevelopment plan. He also displayed a land use map and zoning map, which he said identified all the block and lots.

Janota also reviewed a map that designated criteria recommendations for all block and lots in the zone covering an area located between Dewey and South Grey Rock Avenues.

According to Janota, the area is currently classified as light industrial mix of small residential use and three commercial uses.

"It currently holds only one bar/restaurant with the remaining properties consisting of vacant buildings on the parcels," he said.

All 15 of the lots presented for recommendation were approved by the board.

"All of the lots within the study area met the criteria, which were approved and recommended. This is a non-condemnation redevelopment study which means no eminent domain is on the table," Janota explained after the meeting, adding that eminent domain refers to the power of a state or national government to take private property for public use.

 "The town cannot and will not pursue any eminent domain, which would mean taking the of property by the municipal town," he further added. "The town has said it would not acquire and would not purchase any of property privately owned. Any property owner or developer would have to come before the board for planned use for the site. When we do a redevelopment plan and designate what type of use it will be, the owner can then come in front of board and detail their plan."

Janota also said that redevelopment planning is typically used as an economic tool to reassess pertinent use in an area, and whether it would be better suited for something else. With the board's approval of the application, Janota would go before the council to receive final recommendations for approval. Specifically, the next step would identify uses of both the standards of open space requirements and overall design layout of the area.

"It may take several months and that's holds true with any town regarding any redevelopment agreement between property owners and developers," he noted. "The idea is to have a development plan that the township is comfortable with, property owners are comfortable with, and residents are comfortable with," he noted, adding that the redevelopment plan would be a hybrid between a master plan and a zoning ordinance. 

Mayor James Damiano also commented on the application after the meeting and said the area met the requirements.

"The Land Use Board has designated the Singac area 'An Area in Need of Redevelopment,' which is the first major step in promoting redevelopment in the township," he said. "I intend to actively pursue several more studies throughout the township to encourage development and increase ratables, while beautifying the town."