WAYNE, NJ – The first of two public hearings were held Monday night during the Passaic County Board of Commissioners meeting. It was regarding a small tract of land in Wayne that the County wishes to sell to a private developer. 

The lot curves around the Church Lane jughandle on Hamburg Turnpike, and abuts six residential properties whose addresses are on Furno Place, David Scott Drive and Church Lane.

Passaic County Administrator Anthony DeNovaPassaic County purchased the lot in 1993 in order to put in the jughandle.  What land was left over became this small misshapen lot that was ‘land-locked,’ meaning no streets could access the property. For the County it was useless, and as described by Passaic County Administrator Anthony DeNova, as “more of a liability.”

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DJK Properties, LLC offered to purchase the wooded property from the County. As explained in the notice of public hearing sent out to neighbors, “the purpose of this proposed sale is to provide the adjacent, contiguous landowner with additional property to construct parking to support the operation of adjacent property.”

The Passaic County Department of Planning and Economic Development produced an economic and environmental impact report regarding the sale. In the report it stated: “There will be no significant negative impact to the public as a result of the proposed sale, and will only be a benefit because DJK Property, LLC will now be able to develop the resulting 0.933 acre site into a parking lot to support the activities of an adjacent properties.”

The neighbors nearby believe that this is the final purchase in a much longer strategy and are putting up a fight. They have formed a group called the Coalition to Save the Church Lane Woods.

In a letter read off during the public hearing on Monday night, Coalition founders, Giovanni and Rosemary Colella wrote: “This proposed sale would NOT be in the best interest of anyone in the neighborhood except DJK properties LLC, which obviously has a bigger plan in mind to develop 967 Hamburg turnpike and adjacent properties they already purchased under other LLC’s (Konner property management LLC), and under his own name (David Ezra) on Hamburg Turnpike.”

According to the Colellas, David and Julie Ezra, through multiple LLCs, own all four lots on Hamburg Turnpike between the Church Lane Jughandle and Furno Place.  The “bigger plan” that the Colellas refer to could be that the new parking lot would serve a much larger commercial property that might be built if all five lots were merged into one.

“Anybody with common sense can look at the properties [that the Ezra’s own] and can see what's going on, it's a game of monopoly,” said Hans Hogan who lives on Furno Place, adjacent to three of the Ezra’s properties.

Julie Ezra called into the public hearing to defend the purchase.  She said: “Our main reasons for purchasing the parcel is to assemble it with our property to create more value for our property. I respect the concern and confusion about how the parcel will be used, but we currently have no plans drawn up to develop the property. Although, that is a potential in the next two to five years.”

This is what the neighboring landowners fear.  Instead of a quiet, wooded lot that acts as a noise buffer to Hamburg Turnpike, and presents a peaceful setting to their back yards, they worry that all of the properties will be combined into some bigger commercial property with lights and noise that will devalue their properties.

No action was taken Monday night, nor were there any substantive comments from the Freeholders since this hearing was mainly for the public to comment. Another public hearing will be held on December 8, and the County will be accepting additional public comments via email on the potential sale until December 22. 

Should the sale go through, the next step for the Ezras if they want to develop the wooded land into parking lot is to go before the Wayne Planning Board to get a variance.

TAPinto will be following the developing story.