A township plan to market the site of its now-defunct Sewerage Authority near Cove Road School by rezoning the parcel to commercial use and attempting to sell the building and parking lot to the highest bidder, has been halted.
At the Township Committee meeting Tuesday, Mayor David Tinker looked out at the large number of concerned residents and announced he was making a motion to reject the proposed zoning change. It was quickly seconded by Deputy Mayor Michael Sachs.
"I'd like to let the residents know we heard you," said Tinker, to the energetic applause from residents who had previously said they feared the rezoning of the parcel would lead to a drop in property values and an unsafe increase in traffic.
"Probably somewhere in the future we're going to come back and talk to you. We've got to figure out somehow how to use that building and that property. But trust me, we won't make the mistake of not including you in our deliberations."
For 36 years the office building was used at 16 Brookside Avenue. Six years ago it was abandoned when the Sewerage Authority was dissolved. It has since fallen into disrepair, been used as a hang-out, and is now the temporary site of construction equipment. The township saw an opportunity to sell off an underutilized asset. In 2012, the land was assessed at $464,000 and the building, $321,600, according to county records.
The school board was offered first dibs, but according to township officials, they could not find a suitable use to justify its purchase.
Under the Business Professional Zone, the parcel could have been a bank, child care, community center, computer training, municipal offices, or offices for a lawyer, doctor, accountant, research lab and even a funeral home. Numerous people spoke out against the zoning change at the August 7 meeting.
On Tuesday, the mayor said the governing body would make a point to consult with residents when it went back to the drawing board. "We want to talk to you and have your buy-in," he said.
Tinker said he wouldn't forget to consult with Bertha Sumick, who made an eloquent plea at the meeting.
Sumick's remarks, from the official minutes reported by the Township Clerk, are re-published below.
I come as a friend. I am a concerned resident of Hazlet just like all my neighbors are. I have lived in town for 43 years and many of neighbors have been here for 52 years. It doesn’t matter if they only moved in three years ago. We all have a vested interest in Hazlet.
When most of us could have left already many times but we love the town and this is our neighborhood. This is where our friends are and we wanted to stay for our children and our grandchildren. We are concerned not afraid but concerned not only about our property values but about our quality of life.
I understand and I do appreciate the position that you are in with the responsibility of the budget of the municipality and trying to keep taxes within reason. I truly do understand that. Property values just are not worth much right now. God knows when they are going to be. In the meantime we are trying to keep our heads above water.
When it truly comes down to the bottom line of how much money this property will actually bring it is not going to be all that much. We don’t ask for much but as residents in this residential zone and I understand when I moved in it was a working Sewerage Authority. They were very good neighbors but for the residents of the community and for our children and grandchildren I would like to see the building razed -- and if the property cannot be sold, just leave it as open space.
I understand all the work and thought you put into this but I am concerned about tomorrow and the future. Will it go from one to three stories? What will it be? I am really concerned and I don’t think the township will make that much money on it and I think we deserve better.
We went from the Sewerage Plant to the Sewerage Authority building and we would like it to be better. We would really like to see the building gone and [turned into] open space.