Anwar Qarmout discusses the Disruptive Tenant Ordinance. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Cory Stoner shows the conceptual drawing for the Railroad Right of Way area. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Thea Unhoch proposes a senior or community center by the Railroad Right of Way. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
John Ragsdale supports the town on the Disruptive Tenant Ordinance. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Development of the Railroad Right of Way Considered
Tuesday, July 24, 2012 • 12:02am
NEWTON, NJ – A discussion took place and concept drawings were viewed Monday at the Town of Newton Council Meeting, for a proposed redevelopment of the Railroad Right of Way, near the Moose Lodge.
Town Engineer Cory Stoner said a potential developer has inquired for more information on the 1.08-acre tract in question, which is currently mostly used for truck parking, and to line up participants for holiday parades.
“There are a couple of different options with what the town could do for sale or lease,” Stoner said.
“It [the tract] was looked at several times, at one time for townhouses, and assisted living,” Stoner continued.
One candidate was local landowner Anwar Qarmout, who owns several tracts of properties, and was under negotiations. Qarmout is currently no longer under negotiations.
Stoner said the problem with the lot is it is one acre in size, and is a linear property.
The concept drawing included three buildings nestled in between lower Spring Street and Diller Avenue, with parking along the current right of way, with the proposed lot connecting with the lot at the D.M.V.
A speed table would be implemented within the conceptualized lots to slow down drivers.
The three suggested buildings would be 8,000, 6,000, and 4,000 square feet each.
The buildings would be used for office space, an assisted living facility, and, a new Moose Lodge structure.
Councilman Kevin Elvidge suggested the right of way should be expanded on, with property owners contributing a part of their properties in order to increase space.
“For access into these buildings, you should have some kind of thoroughfare,” Elvidge said.
Stoner was concerned if the area was too open, cars would go faster.
Stoner had Town of Newton Tax Assessor Scott Holzhauer run numbers to determine what is best for the town, whether a lease or a sale.
“It’s cleaner to sell it outright,” Holzhauer said.
Four out of five council members advocated the idea of leasing the property.
During the public portion of the meeting, resident Thea Unhoch suggested the town keep some of the property for their own use, for a senior or community center.
In other business:
· Town of Newton Attorney Mark Hontz led the continued discussion about the Disruptive Tenant Ordinance. The topic was first brought to the public at the end of May, when Town of Newton Police Chief Michael Richards appeared before the council about it. Hontz said there are two different ways to regulate the ordinance. One is to hold the landlords responsible, the other is through statutory regulations. “It’s a multi-layered process, “Hontz said. Hontz has been working with the League of Municipalities to determine the best way to handle boarding houses. There are currently three in town, two which have required on an average of two to three police calls weekly due to complaints about the residents’ conduct. If the statutory approach is taken, the town could regulate the boarding houses through their own license and inspection process, something the state currently oversees. It may require an additional part-time employee on an as-needed basis to handle. “I don’t want to add another layer of bureaucracy,” said Thomas S. Russo, Jr. Town of Newton Town Manager. Russo said the there are difficulties with the state assisting, as well as the landlords, and, nuisance calls come in for the same properties. “It always seems to be the frequent flyers causing disruption to those minding their business,” Russo said. He plans to reach out to Hopatcong and Sussex Borough, area municipalities with boarding houses. Hontz has reached out to the Borough of Belmar, NJ, a community handling the boarding house issues as well. Qarmout approached the council during the meeting’s public portion, suggesting the town sit down with the three landlords and give them incentives, or rezone the buildings for apartments instead. “The people who have apartments are different than those in the boarding houses,” said Qarmout. Councilwoman Kristen Becker said all possibilities have been exhausted and the landlords have not been coorperative, which is why the town is considering this approach. Resident John Ragsdale supported the initiative. “I want to thank you all for your time and looking into this,” Ragsdale said. “When you license this locally, you’ll have more influence than you think.”
· The town is coordinating the town garage sale, August 3, 4, and 5. Permits are available in the town clerk’s office, and the town will add participating residents to the map, and advertise their sales. The cost per permit is $12.