At last Thursday’s Council meeting, Hopewell Borough council designated three sections of the Borough as “in need of redevelopment” and tasked the planning board to begin crafting redevelopment plans for portions of the Borough.
Over the course of this year, the planning board held public hearings at the Council’s direction to investigate whether the three areas should be considered “in need of redevelopment.” Designation of an area as “in need of redevelopment” is a statutorily defined land-use term that is much like rezoning and that aims “to rebuild or restore an area in a measurable state of decline, disinvestment, or abandonment… If used correctly, it can transform an underutilized or distressed area into an economically viable and productive part of the community,” according to the Redevelopment Handbook, A Guide to Rebuilding New Jersey’s Communities.
The three segments in the Borough are Areas A, B and C:
- “Area A” in the northeast part of town, situated on the southern side of the railroad tracks on Railroad Place and Somerset Street and includes the large “Hopewell 57,” the former Kooltronic site;
- “Area B” comprised of three parcels with common ownership that includes the “Castoro” Shell gas station at 71 East Broad Street, with frontage on East Broad Street, Maple Street and Columbia Avenue;
- “Area C” comprised of the Van Doren Lumber site, located at 24 Model Avenue, which was added at the request of the property owner.
Being in the “redevelopment” area does not mean that the area is immediately slated for development. Even if a property is in the plan, the current use can continue onward without interference. And the process can take a couple of years with many opportunities to participate through public meetings, Councilman David Mackie explained at the October council meeting. Beyond having more control over what kinds of development can occur in particular areas of the Borough, the benefit also includes tax benefits for the Borough and land owners.
At this month’s meeting, Council completed its deliberation as to whether to accept all, part, or none of the planning board’s finding that the properties all me the statutory definition.
“Redevelopment offers more flexibility for the town and developers because you can be more detailed but also more flexible with a redevelopment plan and there are a lot of options available that wouldn’t normally,” explained Councilman Mackie. “If the zoning is out of step with what a developer wants to do, there are an enormous number of hurtles and it is more difficult to have direct discussions with applicants… From a property owner perspective, there is more certainty as compared to getting variances… It is about mitigating risk and collaborating with the community to get something beneficial.”
Mayor Paul Anzano cited several examples of private development projects in the Borough from the past few years that have been desirable including Nomad Pizza, the Brick Farm Market, and the refurbished private residential barn off of East Broad Street. In urging the council to adopt the resolution for all three segments as in need of redevelopment, Mayor Anzano said, “We are now in a place that, in order to continue our vision of what the Borough should be, we have to nudge development and do this in furtherance of what we think the community should look like.”
Council next voted to direct the Planning Board to prepare a redevelopment plan for Hopewell 57 (the former Kooltronics property on Lafayette Street) within Area A and all of Area C (Van Doren Lumber site at 24 Model Avenue). Council determined that the planning board will not begin to craft a redevelopment plan until 60 days from the November 3rd date to provide for adequate notice and so that additional property owners could contribute to the discussion.