One Property Suitable for Development; Two for Sale
Wednesday, September 12, 2012 • 5:21pm
CHATHAM BOROUGH, NJ - One out of six vacant borough-owned lots has been deemed developable and two could be sold to neighbors next to the plots, according to the borough engineer and borough planner.
In an effort to increase tax revenues, the Borough Council had begun reviewing its unused property assets during the summer, specifically residential pieces of land where no houses exist.
One plot located at 57 Watchung Avenue is the only property that appears to have development potential, although there are sloping issues. The properties located at 72 North Hillside Avenue and 83 Chatham Street, both too narrow for development of a single family home, could be offered for direct sale to neighbors on contiguous properties.
Based on the 2006 property assessments, the borough could have potentially net more than $2 million for the six pieces of land. Each parcel had either unusual shapes, requiring variances or tricky circumstances, requiring easements. Some properties wound up having wetlands or were “too tight” in width, as reported by Borough Planner Susan Blickstein.
“There’s usually a reason why things are not developed,” said Borough Engineer Vince DeNave who appeared before the Borough Council at its September 10 meeting, accompanied by Blickstein, who explained why properties were nixed from the list. DeNave had also consulted with an environmental expert, he said. DeNave recommended that the council make a notation on the borough’s tax map on the specific properties that are not suitable for development and indicate that this investigation took place. It was learned from neighbors of these properties that the same investigation took place 10 to 15 years ago.
DeNave had presented the pieces of land that might have had development potential at the council’s July 9 meeting. Since that meeting, officials found that 184 Center Avenue is a habitat for Indiana bats, an endangered species according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Wetland issues were found at 16 Walnut Street and 62 Yale Street. A resident also pointed out that the Center Avenue and Yale Street properties are listed on the Milton Avenue Woods Greenway Extension and are listed on the Open Space and Recreation plan. Audience members could be heard calling out a triumphant “yeah!” each time a property was taken off the list.
The borough had planned to get the necessary variances and easements for the properties before putting them on the market to make them attractive to developers. If the properties had made it onto the tax rolls, it was estimated that each could bring the borough $12,000-$13,000 in yearly tax revenues.
The council granted approval to prepare 57 Watchung Avenue for review by the Board of Adjustment. An appraiser will provide the worth of 72 North Hillside Avenue and 83 Chatham Street to move forward on selling them. It will cost the borough about $5,000 to prepare the Watchung property for the Board of Adjustment; but, only a few hundred dollars to prepare the other two plots for a direct sale.
Councilman James Collander pointed out that taxes are the only revenue that is not stagnant. He said trying to unload the borough’s unused assets was an effort to defray the tax bill for residents.