HOPEWELL BOROUGH: Council focuses on redeveloping RR station area 

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By Frank Mustac, Special Writer
Hopewell Borough officials are continuing the process of classifying some of the commercial and residential properties near the borough’s historic old railroad station as areas in need of redevelopment.
The borough Planning Board on March 2 discussed a draft report of the preliminary investigation, and Borough Council talked about the same issue a day later.
In October 2015, the council amended a resolution authorizing and directing the Planning Board to undertake a preliminary investigation to redevelop the area that includes land parcels on Somerset Street to the east of the train station.
Mayor Paul Anzano said the several properties identified by block and lot numbers in the resolution passed in October are “underutilized,” and that he envisions the redevelopment process to be a collaborative effort between developers and borough officials.
The idea, the mayor said on March 3, is for “the property owner to come to us to talk about redevelopment.”
“It’s totally intended to be friendly and interactive.” Mr. Anzano said.
Language was added to the amended resolution passed in October specifying Hopewell Borough will not use eminent domain powers for redevelopment purposes.
The mayor said that the resolution states that “no condemnation” is involved.
Designating an area in need of redevelopment, as stipulated under the state’s Local Redevelopment and Housing Law, can provide incentives for landowners to update buildings and facilities on their properties if those properties meet certain requirements.
Some of the requirements are that buildings on a property be in a state of disrepair; facilities on those properties are old and out of date; and buildings and other structures on a property have been destroyed by fire or other natural calamities.
The Local Redevelopment and Housing Law also provides a mechanism by which zoning can be changed for particular properties.
The redevelopment process Hopewell is undertaking, said Borough Councilman David Mackie, is a mechanism to see whether parcels match the state redevelopment law.
However, there is nothing in the process that compels a landowner to even take part, he said.
“There is no coercion here,” Mr. Mackie said.
Mr. Mackie said the Planning Board is looking at setting a date for a public hearing on the redevelopment process, with a possible date of April 6. Councilman Mackie also serves on the Planning Board.
The Borough Council, by consensus, indicated it will also hold a public hearing, which is yet to be scheduled.
“The public will shape the plan with us,” said Frank Banisch, professional planner for the borough. “The interaction with the landowners is (also) very important because they will help us to identify the answers.”
The borough, he said, is not trying to “alter the configuration of the neighborhood,” but is trying to “augment it.” 

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