Property owner plans suit against Renaissance

The only property owner who didn’t sell to the developers of Renaissance at Rahway plans to file a federal lawsuit against them, the city and Redevelopment Agency.

Michael Jones of Rahway told the Planning Board at its meeting Tuesday night that the project has affected his ability to rent the property and make a living. He also claimed to not have received notice of a meeting in September which city officials disputed.

Renaissance received preliminary and final major site plan approval Tuesday night.

Jones owns the property at the corner of East Grand and Monroe streets, where a bait and tackle shop vacated the commercial space more than a year ago and he said he’s been unable to rent it. The property also includes two apartments and a loft he uses as an office.

“I understand the importance of creating and maintaining a viable community but not the detriment of the existing property owners,” Jones told the board during the public comment portion of the application. The looming threat of eminent domain from the Redevelopment Agency the past five years made it nearly impossible to rent the property, Jones said, after no problems for 14 years as an owner. He said he was open to relocating to another similar property but one was never found.

City Planner Lenore Slothower responded that there were numerous public hearings before the Planning Board, Redevelopment Agency and City Council to satisfy the requirements of declaring a redevelopment area. In addition to fair market appraisals, the applicant went to “great expense,” she said, to work around Jones’s property.

In an interview after the meeting, Jones said he was willing to sell the property and relocate but a similar site was never found for him. The developer, Pompton Plains-based Capodagli Property Company, offered him $350,000 in fall 2006, according to Jones, who had his property appraised for $675,000 at that time. The Redevelopment Agency offered him $375,000 last April.

Jones purchased the property for $60,000 in 1990, according to PropertyShark.com. The site is assessed at $147,500 and had almost $6,500 in property taxes in 2006, the most recent year available.

Last summer, Renaissance came before the Redevelopment Agency with revised plans for 88 rental units. The Jones property was removed from the redevelopment plan last fall and the project received a variance and site plan approval from the Planning Board in November.