Auto parts store could make way for park

The Planning Board Tuesday night endorsed an application to the state Green Acres program that puts in motion a plan that might turn an auto parts store into a city park.

The City Council will hold a public hearing Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. regarding the possible acquisition of Norwood Auto Parts at 125 Monroe St. for use as a public park.

Former city planner Lenore Slothower, who’s been retained to do some grant work since retiring last year, told the Planning Board that the owner of Norwood Auto Parts approached the city administration earlier this month about the possibility of buying the property because of issues with stormwater flooding.

The city would apply to the State Green Acres program for funding that would cover about 75 percent of the $1,005,000 estimated cost. Another $221,000 would be sought from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to cover the remaining quarter. Preliminary estimated costs include appraisal, acquisition, relocation assistance, demolition and remediation, if necessary, among other things.

Union County’s hazardous mitigation plan must be approved by FEMA before it can be eligible for the federal funding and county officials are working to expedite that approval, she said. Deadlines loom for both the state funding and federal FEMA dollars, requiring Tuesday’s special meeting of the City Council.

The 0.1588-acre site at the corner of Monroe and Essex streets, about a block from the Rahway River, was acquired in 1991 for $257,000, according to Assessed at $222,800, the annual property tax bill runs about $11,000.

The Monroe Street neighorhood, including the PSE&G substation across the street, has been mentioned in the past as a potential redevelopment area. The city in May 2009 opened Myron Ross Park, another park along Essex Street, this one a few blocks south, off East Milton Avenue.