HOPEWELL BORO: Redevelopment plan awaits council’s decision

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By Frank Mustac, Contributor
Now that the Hopewell Borough Planning Board has officially designated a number of properties in town as “areas in need of redevelopment,” the borough council has the responsibility to give its final approval.
The council, which met Oct. 6, engaged in a lengthy discussion on the matter, but because Mayor Paul Anzano was not present, postponed its decision until the next scheduled council meeting on Nov. 4.
The properties in question are divided into three areas:
Area A includes properties fronting on Railroad Place and Somerset Street.
Area B includes three parcels in common ownership with frontage on East Broad Street, Maple Street and Columbia Avenue.
Area C includes the Van Doren Lumber Yard at 24 Model Ave.
“It is my understanding is that the council has the option of acting on all or part of the Planning Board’s recommendation,” said Councilman David Mackie, who also serves on the Planning Board.
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requirements are that buildings on a property be in a state of disrepair; facilities on those properties are old and out of date; and buildings and other structures on a property have been destroyed by fire or other natural calamities.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.
Mr. Mackie suggested there may be some in the community who believe that Hopewell Borough is “targeting certain properties for the wrecking ball.” That sentiment, he said, was not the case.
The next step for the council to take is to decide whether to accept the Planning Board’s property designations in whole or in part, according to Hopewell Borough Administrator Michele Hovan.
After that, she said, the board will create a redevelopment plan based on the council’s suggestions or for the council itself to create a redevelopment plan.
If the Planning Board goes with the latter option, the council’s proposed plan would need to be reviewed by the board before approval.
A redevelopment plan, Councilman Mackie said, “can be as prescriptive or as flexible as you want it to be.” A property owner, however, is not obligated to redevelop their property, Ms. Hovan said.