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Board Recommends Downtown Condemnation Area In Emerson

Planner Brigette Bogart addresses the Emerson Land Use Board as Attorney Doug Doyle looks on. Photo Credit: Lorraine Ash
Emerson property owner Debbie Agnello addresses Doug Doyle, borough redevelopment attorney. Photo Credit: Lorraine Ash
A crowd of people at the Thursday night meeting of the Emerson Land Use Board at Emerson Junior-Senior High School. Photo Credit: Lorraine Ash
Emerson resident Rosella Cordero told the Emerson Land Use Board that living in a condemnation redevelopment area makes it difficult to plan ahead for her family. Photo Credit: Lorraine Ash

EMERSON, N.J. — At a meeting that drew upwards of 100 people Thursday night, the Emerson Land Use Board voted to recommend that the Borough Council designate a portion of the central business district as a “condemnation redevelopment area.”

The board voted 7-0 in favor of the recommendation.

Its members agree with Planner Brigette Bogart that the 1.9-acre area meets state requirements for the designation.

Those requirements include underused lots, deterioration, and obsolete layout and design.

“In general, the properties have a deleterious impact on the surrounding areas,” Bogart concluded.

The Borough Council could vote on the designation – and other more minor aspects of the borough’s redevelopment plan – as soon as its Dec. 20 meeting.

The 1.9-acre portion of the downtown area in question runs along Kinderkamack Road extending from Lincoln Boulevard south to Linwood Avenue.

That’s a fraction of the 34-acre redevelopment plan that encompasses the borough’s entire central business district along Kinderkamack from Stop ’n’ Stop south to the Oradell border.

The project has been discussed since 1999.

In 2004, the 1.9 acres was also designated as a condemnation area.

But a new development proposal from JMF Properties has caused the borough to review the matter again.

The JMF project includes a four-story mixed-use building with 147 housing units, some of which would help Emerson meet its affordable housing requirements.

Thursday’s vote by the land use board came after a public hearing at Emerson Junior-Senior High School. Business owners and residents in the zone expressed frustration, concern, and anger.

“Have you even considered the impact on the property owners? The impact of having them under the threat of redevelopment for 13 years?” asked Debbie Agnello, who owns 188 Kinderkamack Road, home to the Cork and Keg.

She directed her question to Doug Doyle, the borough’s redevelopment attorney.

“Did you ever consider the impact of not being able to get tenants?” Agnello added.

Rosella Cordero, a Chestnut Street resident, came with her husband to say she was worried about the impact of potential condemnation on her family.

“Am I going to have to start looking for another property?” she asked the board. “What am I going to do? It’s not that simple.”

The condemnation designation does not mean that all properties in a designated area will be condemned, experts say.

It means the properties can be condemned in the event they are needed to accommodate a new development.

Property owners have 45 days to challenge the move, Doyle said. They would have to take action up to 45 days after the Borough Council approves the condemnation area, if it does so.

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