Old Bridge revives Redevelopment Agency, focuses on future planning

Kayla J. Marsh

By KATHY CHANG
Staff Writer

OLD BRIDGE — With the revival of the township’s Redevelopment Agency, township officials hope to enhance future opportunities and bring in significant ratables to the township.

Arthur Haney, chairman of the agency, said he has been involved with the agency for two years.

“We have been dealing with a lot of interest in Old Bridge by developers, talking to a number of them,” he said.

Haney noted that even though they are an independent agency, they have Ward 6 Councilwoman Lucille Panos as one of their commissioners.

“We work closely with the administration and the township’s Planner Sam Rizzo to enhance future opportunities [to bring in] significant ratables to help the tax impact,” he said.

Haney, along with Mayor Owen Henry, Business Administrator Christopher Marion and the agency’s attorney Kevin McManimon, of McManimon, Scotland & Baumann, LLC, presented a broad overview to the Township Council at a meeting last month on what they have been up to for the past 15 months since its revival.

“The Redevelopment Agency in the town of Old Bridge plays an important role in our present and our future,” Henry said. “It identifies areas of [the] town that need that kickstart, areas that are depressed and areas that for some reason haven’t been developed because of reasons that we don’t know. We want to correct problems, make these areas redeveloped, make them profitable for the town.”

Henry said that four years ago when he came into office, the agency fell apart and disbanded.

“I was met with resignations and people just leaving,” he said. “We then started the process of filling vacancies, and I am proud to say we have a full complement of redevelopment commissioners.”

There are seven commissioners, who include Joseph Dunn, Glenn D’Antuono, Kenneth Farina, Stephen Florek II, Nora Schmitz, Haney and Panos.

Six commissioners are nominated by the mayor and approved by the council, and the acting executive director of the agency is Stephen Mamakas, who serves as the executive officer of the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development.

Henry said it was not an easy task to put the Redevelopment Agency back together.

“We are a better town because of the efforts over the last few years with the Redevelopment Agency,” he said.

The goals of the Redevelopment Agency are to provide needed public improvements, encourage rehabilitation and repair of deteriorated structures, increase the tax base and attract business investment.

The agency is currently looking at five projects  –– the Crossroads/Deep Run project in the area of Marlboro Road, Route 9, Texas Road and Route 18, which was the former Olympia and York company property; the RPM development concept on Marlboro Road; Habitat for Humanity of Greater Middlesex at 200 Laurence Parkway; the 299 A Texas Road project, which is owned by the township; and a project in the area of Runyon Road/Kennedy Boulevard, Bordentown Avenue, Cheesequake Road, Old Water Works Road and Browns Road.

“Typically, what [redevelopment] boards do is identify an interested developer for a site and designate that party as a conditional redeveloper,” McManimon said. “The Redevelopment Agency board will be negotiating with that party for that site.”

McManimon said the parties will be trying to identify what is going to be built on the site; any other terms that will govern what will be built at the site; how and when it is going to be built; and any other obligations to fulfill by the Redevelopment Agency or the municipality with respect to the development of that property.

“All of those terms ultimately are going to be memorialized in a redevelopment agreement,” he said. “That is a contract that will govern how the site gets developed. The first step in doing that is identifying the party we think is going to develop the site. That’s why we call it a conditional redeveloper. It’s a relatively preliminary step that signals who we are going to be talking with.”

McManimon said this is in advance of negotiating the comprehensive redevelopment agreement.

The preliminary step allows the developer to have some level of comfort and gives the Redevelopment Agency the ability to ask the redeveloper to fund an escrow account, he said.

“[The escrow account will] be used by the Redevelopment Agency to fund costs associated with professionals, [a] legal appraiser when necessary, land-use planner when necessary and engineering and environmental consultants as issues come up and it becomes necessary for the Redevelopment Agency to engage in a professional to guide them through the process,” McManimon said.

The escrow account funded by the developer will help keep the municipal and Redevelopment Agency costs down and help move projects down the field.

“We’ve done that with the Crossroads Deep Run project,” he said. “We are in the process of negotiating a redevelopment agreement with the designated redeveloper.”

McManimon said the parties are exploring a variety of uses including residential, commercial, retail and a hotel/conference center.

For the RPM development concept on Marlboro Road, the Redevelopment Agency has designated a conditional redeveloper, executed a funding agreement and is currently negotiating a redevelopment agreement.

“The project will potentially include residential units and is part of the township’s affordable housing plan submitted to the court,” McManimon said.

The redeveloper will apply to the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency for low-income housing tax credits for the proposed 72 units, which are all affordable units on Marlboro Road and East Greystone Road.

For the Habitat for Humanity of Greater Middlesex project, the redevelopment agency has designated a conditional redeveloper, executed a funding agreement and is currently negotiating a redevelopment agreement.

“The project will include residential units,” McManimon said.

For the property at 299 A Texas Road, the Redevelopment Agency has designated a conditional redeveloper, executed a funding agreement and is currently negotiating a redevelopment agreement.

“The proposed project will include luxury, senior residential units and amenities,” he said.

For the project in the area of Runyon Road/Kennedy Boulevard, Bordentown Avenue, Cheesequake Road, Old Water Works Road and Browns Road, it has been designated as a redevelopment area and the planner is drafting a redevelopment plan to apply to the area.

“The Kennedy project within this area will potentially include a warehouse,” McManimon said, noting the project is a similar project to one in North Brunswick.

Contact Kathy Chang at kchang@gmnews.com.