WESTFIELD, NJ — The municipal government is looking at redevelopment for 5.5 acres of property on the town’s border with Garwood.
The redevelopment plan includes five parcels. The largest of the properties encompasses 4.13 acres at 421-449 South Avenue East and is anticipated to have 156 housing units, including both market rate and affordable units, the town’s affordable housing plan shows. Mandated for that property are 12.42 affordable units; however, in sum, 24.43 affordable units are slated for the entire 5.5 acre tract, the affordable housing plan shows.
Mayor Shelley Brindle said that that while the affordable housing plan dictates development in the area, declaring the properties a non-condemnation area in need of redevelopment will give the Planning Board more power over the development.
“What we do like about it in general is it gives us a lot of control over the property,” Brindle said. “Like any redevelopment agreement, it gives us control over aesthetics and setbacks.”
The Town Council had directed the Planning Board to determine if the area could be determined in need of redevelopment under the state’s housing and redevelopment laws.
“The Mayor and Council are considering a non-condemnation area in need of redevelopment, which would not authorize the municipality to exercise the power of eminent domain to acquire property within the area,” writes Town Planner Donald Sammet in an email.
In a report prepared for the Planning Board, Sammet looks at building conditions, land use, zoning and master plan policies along with tax and building records.
“It is my opinion that all properties meet the criteria necessary in order to be declared an area in need of redevelopment,” Sammet writes.
The preliminary investigation report details conditions of five parcels on South Avenue east and one on Windsor Avenue, the report states.
“The properties include buildings once occupied by Sevell’s, [which] operated auto body repair and auto and truck repair businesses; abandoned light industrial buildings; and a lot containing tow storage, landscaper equipment storage and trash hauler vehicles and dumpsters storage,” Sammet’s report states.
Brindle noted that the residential component of the development is mandated in the town’s affordable housing plan as per an agreement with Elite Homebuilding. In 2018, the council approved the town’s Housing Element and Fair Share plan in accordance with a settlement in a builder’s remedy lawsuit.
The mayor hopes to develop the property in ways that set it apart from the borough next door.
“It needs to feel different from Garwood,” Brindle said. “It needs to feel like something people would expect when they come to Westfield.”
The Planning Board is anticipated to hold a public hearing before declaring the area in need of redevelopment. That hearing is set for Monday, Jan. 6, at 7:30 p.m. in the council chambers of the Westfield Municipal Building, 425 East Broad St. Click here to read the full preliminary investigation report from the town planner.
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