Bond ordinance increased for building removal

The City Council this month unanimously approved an amendment increasing a bond ordinance by $85,000 for work related to the demolition of an East Cherry Street building last year.

At its Jan. 9 meeting, the governing body amended an ordinance from $200,000 to $285,000 (an increase of 42 percent) for work that included demolition of 65 E. Cherry St., which occurred in May (after the facade collapsed last February) and was paid for via a $75,000 emergency resolution in June). The ordinance also included funds for improvements to Lot B on Main Street.

City Administrator and Redevelopment Director Peter Pelissier said the increase was needed for additional engineering costs to shore up the sides of the neighboring buildings, and ensure that when the building was removed, the adjoining basements were not affected. The city has placed liens on the work for the property, he added.

Developer Dornoch Holdings purchased the property for $65,000 from the Parking Authority and more than four years ago had proposed renovations to the Planning Board but those never went anywhere.

Sheriff’s sale on Riverwalk units next month

A $5.255-million sheriff’s sale on the remaining 19 unsold townhouses at Riverwalk is scheduled for Feb. 8, Redevelopment Agency attorney Frank Regan reported to commissioners at their meeting earlier this month. Bank of America likely will purchase the 19 units at the sheriff’s sale and then look to sell them, Regan told commissioners.

Foreclosure on the 19 unsold units began in late 2009. A total of 86 units were built, with a plan to add more on an adjacent parcel that never materialized. About two dozen Riverwalk units that are owned won judgments on their tax appeals last year, seeing their assessments reduced by as much as $20,000 and their taxes by $1,000.

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Well, check this out: A study by the National Trust for Historic Preservation claims that retrofitting an existing building to make it 30 percent more efficient will “essentially always remain a better bet for the environment than a new building built tomorrow with the same efficiencies,” according to The Atlantic.

New concept for The Savoy site to be presented

A new concept plan for the defunct Savoy project — likely to be several times larger than the 36 units originally envisioned — is expected to be presented to the Redevelopment Agency next week.

Continue reading New concept for The Savoy site to be presented

Agency closes on sale for Water’s Edge parcel

The Redevelopment Agency last month closed on the $1-million sale of a three-quarter-acre parcel where a 108-unit rental complex will begin construction this spring. Pompton Plains-based Capodagli Property Company will undertake the project under the name Meridia Water’s Edge Urban Renewal, LLC.

Continue reading Agency closes on sale for Water’s Edge parcel

Rahway Rising Happy Hour next week

Back by popular demand — and far too long in the making — the next Rahway Rising happy hour will be next Thursday, Jan. 26 at Nancy’s Towne House.

The groupies tend to start arriving around 6 p.m. Hope to see you there. Anyone with an interest in having some fun, maybe chatting a little about redevelopment, or just meeting your neighbors. All are welcome.

We’ll also be raffling off two tickets to The Rahway Taste of Spring. Maybe afterward we’ll all hit up the Mayors Council on Rahway River Watershed Flood Control meeting at 7:30 p.m. in the library.

Interest in Wheatena site

City officials were scheduled to meet last week with a developer interested in the former Wheatena site.

File photos

City Administrator and Redevelopment Director Peter Pelissier told the Redevelopment Agency last week that he and Redevelopment Agency attorney Frank Regan were scheduled to meet with American Properties last Thursday. The company, which has several developments around the state, previously had expressed interest in the property, according to Pelissier.

Matzel & Mumford recently terminated a redevelopment agreement for the 8-acre parcel at the corner of Elizabeth and West Grand avenues, where it once had planned as many as 300 units before scaling back to 130 units and ultimately dropping the project.

Auto parts store seeks renovations

After a plan to create a park at the site didn’t pan out, a downtown auto parts store is looking to add an apartment to its second floor.

Norwood Auto Parts, at the corner of Monroe and Essex streets, aims to renovate its second and third floors to create a residential component to the structure while also including some flood protection measures.

Pat McElduff of Norwood Auto Parts came before the Redevelopment Agency Wednesday night with an application to add a 1,400-square-foot, loft-style apartment on the second floor of the building, which isn’t currently used for anything. The plan is to essentially create high ceilings by combining the existing the third floor, which only encompasses part of building, McElduff said. The garages might be used by contractors, such as plumbers or electricians, he said.

Given the topography of the site, Norwood Auto Parts has flooded regularly during big storms, McElduff said, and seems to be getting worse. Though the water comes and goes quickly at the site, there was still three feet of water after this past summer’s storm, he said. As part of renovations, the floor would be raised about two feet and some flood protections would be added to the building’s foundation, including a rubber membrane.

The building has been an auto parts store since 1955 but started as a temple. In 2010, the city had explored using some state Green Acres dollars to acquire the site and create a park but it was not economically feasible.

The Redevelopment Agency was receptive to the concept presented by McElduff at a December meeting and asked for a formal application to be presented. The agency is expected to pass a resolution at its February meeting to allow the renovations within the redevelopment plan, which then also would need to be amended by City Council to include the plans.

The two properties that make up 125 Monroe St. (Block 321, Lots 3 and 4) were acquired in 1991 and have a property tax bill in excess of $15,000, on an assessment of about $265,000, according to property records.

Council rejects pair of mayoral re-appointments

The City Council tonight unanimously rejected two re-appointments proposed by Mayor Rick Proctor amid several others that were approved, while also dismissing a local “pay-to-play” ordinance.

Rejected were the re-appointments of George Wagenhoffer, a Republican, to a three-year term on the Alcohol Beverage Control Board and Josh Donovan to a four-year term on the Zoning Board of Adjustment. However, two other re-appointments to the Zoning Board — William Hering (term through 2015) and Paula Braxton (alternate, 2013) — were approved. In a separate resolution, Ray Lopez was approved to fill a vacancy on the Zoning Board through 2012.

City Council members had no comment, not even any comments unrelated to business on the agenda, which they sometimes offer in their end-of-meeting reports. Council President Samson Steinman, who pulled the affected resolutions from the consent agenda, declined to comment on the failed re-appointments following Monday night’s meeting. (The consent agenda allows the governing body to combine routine resolutions into one vote but a council member can pull them out to be voted on separately, as was the case with several tonight).

Among the appointments that gained approval were two to the Parking Authority (James Walker, 2015, and Eric Kabel, 2016), one to the Planning Board (City Councilman Sal Mione, through 2012), and another to the Redevelopment Agency (Matt Dobrowolski, unexpired term through 2014).

When Ordinance O-3-12 (“Pay-to-Play”) came up on the agenda, 3rd Ward Councilman Jerry Scaturo and 4th Ward Councilman David Brown both pulled their sponsorship of the measure, which was set at last week’s pre-meeting conference. Neither addressed the move publicly. A copy of the four-page ordinance can be found in this Google Document file. The mayor had mentioned pay-to-play in his State of the City message last week (another Google Doc).

The mayor and City Council, all Democrats, have been at odds over the last half year or so, over a number of items, including reducing his salary and other staff appointments in the mayor’s office.