Long Branch looks to collect fines from developer

Staff Writer

LONG BRANCH — The ongoing battle between the city and the developers of lower Broadway took another turn earlier this month as the city attempts to collect nearly $500,000 worth of fines amassed by Long Branch Partners for building violations.

City attorney James Aaron said a Superior Court judge has issued a judgment that the developers owe Long Branch at least $449,000 from failure to demolish numerous buildings despite requests by the city to do so.

“The court entered a judgment in favor of the city, and the city is in the process of attempting to work out a payment schedule of that matter with the developer,” Aaron said. “There is no timetable for a settlement.

“The city could settle this in 100 different ways that would have to be beneficial to the city or they can attempt to collect the money from these people and that could be a lengthy process depending on what assets they have.”

Aaron said that the city believes the $449,000 judgment was made in error and that Long Branch is actually owed $499,000. He said that the city has filed a request to amend the judgment to include the correct figure.

Diversified Realty Advisors, operating as Long Branch Partners, has plans to redevelop the 10 acres in the lower Broadway corridor, where development has been stalled for years.

In recent years there has been a contentious relationship between the city and the developers over back taxes, differences of opinion on the overall redevelopment and now fines over the failure to demolish certain structures.

Liens were placed on 51 properties owned by Long Branch Partners. The liens were sold during a Sept. 22 tax sale because property taxes were not current. Of the 51 properties in the tax sale, 18 went to six individual third-party investors, according to Business Administrator Howard Woolley Jr., and Long Branch had liens on 33 properties.

The current redevelopment plan, which dates to 2007, calls for the properties to be redeveloped as a mixed-use arts and theater district, with commercial space, residential and live-work units, office space and parking garages.

However, Mayor Adam Schneider has stated that the plan is outdated and would likely be amended.

Kevin Hayes, director of the Department of Building and Development, said the city issued notice of violations to the developers for “four or five buildings” that Long Branch Partners failed to adhere to. However, the buildings have since been demolished and no new fines are being accrued.

“All the buildings that were issued penalties for have subsequently been demolished, and now we are just dealing with the penalty aspect of it,” Hayes said. “There are currently no properties under notice of violation, so we are in the process now of the penalty collection phase.”

While the city attempts to collect the fine money, Aaron said during the Sept. 13 meeting the City Council is expected to review revised plans for the development.

In 2013, Diversified Realty assumed the first mortgage on the 51 properties in the lower Broadway zone after the previous developer, Broadway Arts Center (BAC), defaulted in 2010, and foreclosure proceedings were initiated by the mortgage holder. Foreclosure proceedings and litigation stalled the redevelopment for several years.

Shortly after taking over for BAC in 2014, Diversified Realty submitted a check for $412,000, the amount of back taxes owed to the city by the previous developer.

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