Friday, June 17, 2016

Planning Board Approves Two "In Need" Studies

The Planning Board approved two "in need of redevelopment" studies Thursday and assured several property owners present that there are many more steps before any development takes place.

The studies will go to the City Council, which may then ask the Planning Division to create redevelopment plans, but officials stressed there will be no use of eminent domain to acquire properties. Another concern was the finding of brownfields status on several properties, but Planning Division Director William Nierstedt said the state Department of Environmental Protection determines brownfield status, not the city.

The first study, made by Scott Bauman of the Planning Division, found the E. Paul building on South Avenue to be in need of redevelopment based on findings that it was obsolete and a detriment to the neighborhood, among other issues. It met five of the eight state redevelopment criteria, although even meeting one was sufficient for the "in need' designation.

The Royal Apex building, also known as the Rushmore Building, was removed from the study Thursday as it is being redeveloped to contain 850 self-storage units.

No one came forward to comment on the E. Paul building designation.

Michele S. Delisfort of the Nishuane Group presented the second study, on a 25.6-acre tract bordered by North Avenue, Berckman Street, Leland Avenue and the Raritan Valley Line railroad. Of 15 parcels, seven have industrial uses and three are commercial. A post office and lot owned by NJ Transit are exempt and two lots are vacant. Fourteen are designated as brownfields by the NJ DEP.

All the properties met one of the Local Redevelopment Housing Law "in need" criteria, being in an Urban Enterprise Zone.Twelve met another one having to do with brownfields, obsolescence, substandard structures and other detriments. Eight had environmental issues in addition to sites and buildings in need of improvement.

Business owners commented and asked questions on this study. John Bruno of Wall Street Auto Exchange asked what was next and the answer was the study goes to the City Council, which may then ask Planning for a redevelopment plan. Another person cited the recent proliferation of apartments along the rail line and "whether that's where Plainfield wants to go."

Nierstedt explained new zoning designations that allow for increased density around railroad stations and said, "Do they point toward mixed use as others have done? Absolutely!"

But he said it does not "in any way, shape or form" affect one's ability to do business. He noted many redevelopment areas have not changed since approvals, due to not having the wherewithal to build or for other reasons.

A man who said his business was his sole means of support was reassured that eminent domain will not be used if a redevelopment plan is approved. Peter Fleck questioned how the designations were done, saying his business has "the prettiest building in Plainfield." Delisfort said the firm did exterior examinations, looking at the structure and the lot. In answer to his question on the brownfields designation, Planning Board Chairman Ron Scott Bey said there is no change until a sale and then the property must be remediated.

"The bottom line is that this study does not affect DEP status," Nierstedt said, again adding there will be no eminent domain.

"You decide at a future time when to sell your property," he said.
After the meeting was adjourned, Nierstedt, Scott Bey and others lingered to chat with the business owners. 


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