There is so much going on in the eminent domain world these days. This time, in New Jersey.
Recently we read that Palisades Park Borough officials are discussing acquisition of property by eminent domain for a new borough hall. If you are familiar with the area, it is the lot located on Fairview Street. Right now there is some activity going on, in the form of preliminary environmental testing of the land to be seized for the project, to ensure that there is no contamination of the land (this is New Jersey after all…sorry we are New Yorkers and are biased towards our home State). If there are any issues with the Phase I environmental testing, then soil samples would be taken to fully assess the condition.
According to borough attorney John Schettino, the current property owner is in the process of obtaining an appraisal so that a price could be negotiated before the borough determines if they should forcibly acquire the property by eminent domain. We bet a lot hinders on the environmental study…
Borough Administrator David Lorenzo commented that it a “very, very preliminary discussion” because the “piece of property came up and it was noted as being of interest.”
Back in September, the council passed an ordinance making eminent domain a possible option to purchase the property. They also passed a bond in September for $5.2 million in case they need it to buy the land. This would be in order to construct a municipal building if and when decided upon. Other issues also need to be reviewed including traffic flow and emergency services. One issue that’s not on the table are tax increases.
What is behind the eminent domain talks? Why is a new building needed?
Lorenzo commented that the current building is getting older. “As the… town grows, we would not be responsible if we didn’t look into what the borough could be in the future. With a new building, we could include the police department, the fire department, the school board, the health department all at one location.”
Another factor for the discussion, at this point, is that New Jersey Transit intends to build a light rail station in town near Fairview Street. It would have a parking lot to accommodate more than 200 cars from the railroad tracks to Grand Avenue.
Mayor James Rotundo said that the state would be willing to work with Palisades to possibly build a parking structure in the area to help accommodate the cars. As with many projects, this could take months in planning and execution.
Some residents are not happy about the plans and some say it’s all too ambitious. They worry about the traffic and having all of the emergency services that would often encounter delays.
At the very least, the old building needs improvements…but we’ll leave that for another post.