Council moves forward on arts housing measures

The City Council passed a series of measures last month to move forward with a proposed affordable housing development geared toward artists at the former Elizabethtown Gas building.

Ordinance 3-13 — introduced Jan. 14 and up for final approval on Feb. 11 — would execute a financial agreement between the city and the AFHDC for the affordable housing project, for a term not to exceed the agency’s mortgage for the project, with an annual fee to be determined as a percentage of annual gross revenues, not to exceed 20 percent.

The city would collect between $33,000 and $38,000 based on 6.2 percent of a projected $617,000 in gross rents, according to Redevelopment Director Peter Pelissier. That percentage was requested by the developer but is still under negotiation with the Redevelopment Agency, he said, adding that the length of the mortgage has not been agreed to yet. The property is currently assessed at about $500,000, making for an annual property tax bill of about $30,000. The Redevelopment Agency is negotiating the purchase of the site at Central Avenue and Hamilton Street from AGL Resources, the parent company of Elizabethtown Gas.

Also up for final approval at the Feb. 11 council meeting will be an ordinance (O-3-13) to amend the redevelopment plan. Representatives of the Actors Fund Housing Development Corporation (AFHDC) are expected to appear at one of the February council meetings to address questions about the proposal.

A resolution (AR-4-13) also approved by council declared the project will meet an existing housing need and that the Redevelopment Agency will make a mortgage loan to the AFHDC, which will construct, own and operate the 69-unit facility.

Ordinance 2-13 would amend the Central Business District (CBD) redevelopment plan for Block 167, Lot 1 (the former Elizabethtown Gas Building), stipulating permitted principal land uses and permitted bulk standards (including up to 75 units per acre, a maximum four stories/50 feet, and minimum lot area of 30,000 square feet), and minimum number of parking spaces (1 per unit, with a maximum 0.33 spaces per unit provided on site).

The AFHDC initially proposed 60 units but has since increased the idea to 69 units and the organization recently came before the Redevelopment Agency with survey findings it believes show very strong demand for artist housing. They told the agency that additional low-income housing tax credits for Hurricane Sandy-affected areas are included in legislation that was considered by the House of Representatives on Jan. 15. Original development costs were estimated at $15 million, based on the 60-unit plan, including subsidized low-income housing tax credits of 4 to 7.5 percent.

Exec minutes provide few details on settlement

With no public comments from any parties involved in the settlement and release agreement with the former city administrator, we turn to the minutes of two executive sessions last month that led to the deal.
Continue reading Exec minutes provide few details on settlement

Taxi companies seek $1 fare increase

Rahway taxi companies have requested a $1 fare increase, which would be the first hike in more than seven years.

In a Dec. 17 letter to Mayor Rick Proctor and “Councilmen,” Station Cab and Rahway Taxi seek an increase of $1 in each of the three zones within Rahway. A ride within Zone 1 currently is $4; Zone 2 is $5, and Zone 3 is $6. An increase of $1 would be an average 20 percent overall. Rahway senior citizens would continue to receive a $1 discount on fares.

“This rate increase is consistent with our increased cost of doing business and should take effect as soon as possible,” according to the letter, signed by Thomas Maye of Station Cab, Inc. and Howard Sager of Rahway Taxi. They cited changes since the last rate increase was approved in November 2005, such as the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rising 18 percent and the cost of gasoline going from $2.25 per gallon to $3.29 per gallon — a jump of 46 percent.

Zone 1 is essentially from the train station to the borders of St. Georges Avenue, West Hazelwood Avenue and Lawrence Street; Zone 2’s borders are Madison Avenue, West Scott Avenue, Route 1 and the city’s southern border; Zone 3, basically covers everything outside of Zone 2 to the city’s borders. This Google Map might give a better visual description of three zones than those explanations in the municipal code.

Increasing taxi fares would require City Council to amend the city code. The earliest a fare hike could take place might be April; if the governing body introduced an ordinance at its next meeting in February, a public hearing and final approval would be at the March 11 meeting and take effect 20 days after approval.

Water’s Edge to rise over next several weeks

Meridia Water’s Edge, a 108-unit project under construction between the library and Rahway Plaza Apartments, will begin rising significantly over the next month.

The five-story building should top out within the next five weeks, according to construction manager Jim Wendell, who briefed the Redevelopment Agency at its Jan. 9 meeting. Trusses are ready to be shipped and the building will be “really going vertical in the next four to five weeks,” he said. “It’ll really be coming alive.”

The development being built adjacent to the Center Circle complex originally was scheduled to be completed by May, and groundbreaking occurred last spring.

Lot B: A street runs through it

Monroe Street would stretch across Main Street between two five-story apartment buildings and connect with West Cherry Street in a concept plan presented to the Redevelopment Agency last month.

Continue reading Lot B: A street runs through it