SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — The South Orange Planning Board has voted to recommend 13 blocks along Valley Street be designated an Area in Need of Redevelopment. They made the determination at their last meeting, Feb. 3, and the recommendation goes next to the Village Trustees.
The area studied covers 92 parcels over 16.4 acres with more than $56 million in total assessed value. Philip Abramson of the planning firm Topology went parcel by parcel explaining why each of them was included in the recommendation. Eight different criteria were used to assess the properties: substandard or unsafe, abandonment, vacancy, dilapidation, stagnancy, area has been destroyed by fire or natural disaster, urban enterprise zone, and designation is consistent with smart growth planning principals.
Themes emerged as each property was described individually. In property after property, the lots were often dilapidated and physically deteriorated; had faulty arrangements such as lack of parking; had obsolete features such as no driveway or no on site parking; were too close together to provide light or air between properties; or showed a dangerous pedestrian environment including having utility poles block the right of way and being out of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The evaluation included a public hearing, where one property owner stepped up to ask that the requirement to have commercial space on the first floor be optional on the side streets, as foot traffic is much lower there and a business may not thrive. While not making any promises, Abramson did say, "We're on the same page" as he understood "the quiet nature of these streets."
The next step is for the Village Trustees to take up the matter in a future meeting.