Municipal officials in Keyport will undertake a study of more than 50 vacant properties in the borough that may eventually be determined to be in need of redevelopment.
“These are derelict properties,” Borough Administrator Stephen Gallo said during the Aug. 21 meeting of the Borough Council.
During that meeting, council members unanimously passed a resolution authorizing the Planning Board to conduct a preliminary investigation of 53 parcels throughout the 1.4-square-mile community. The conclusions that are made in the investigation could help to determine if the vacant parcels will undergo redevelopment, officials said.
Gallo said the vacant properties database lists 53 parcels that may be in need of redevelopment. He said the database initially identified 150 properties that could be in need of redevelopment, but 97 parcels have been revived by the owners, he said.
“A significant number of properties have returned to productive use,” he said.
Gallo said the majority of the 53 parcels to be examined are owned by corporate entities and banks. Residents and non-residents may own all or portions of certain parcels, he said, noting that municipal officials are not sure who the owner of each individual parcel may be.
Gallo said vacant parcels around town have entered “zombie status” and said the abandoned properties are no longer being maintained by the owners. He said the parcels are in “varying conditions.”
Gallo said corporate entities that own vacant parcels have no intended use for the properties as far as officials are aware. He said properties remain vacant due to damage caused by superstorm Sandy in 2012 or due to their abandonment after the purchaser could no longer afford the mortgage payment.
“Originally, our vacant property registration was approximately 150 properties and now we only have 53 because we worked very hard to incentivize the owners to move their properties. These are the hardcore (properties) … owned by banks … that nobody really cares about,” Gallo said.
He said borough employees are continuing to expend resources maintaining the vacant properties by removing snow and weeds from them. The use of municipal labor can be taxing on Keyport’s resources, he said.
“The properties are either abandoned by their owners or are in disrepair … We are requesting these studies be done with condemnation powers. That would (allow) the borough to seize these properties and (offer) them to a new owner who may want to rehabilitate them.
“In the past, other communities have found that when owners and banks are advised they could lose their property, it gives the owner the interest to move forward and redevelop (the property) themselves,” Gallo said.
He said the Planning Board will conduct a public meeting after the investigation concludes to discuss the findings of the study and to make note of any vacant parcels that are determined to be in need of redevelopment.
“In many instances, there are tax liens on these properties that exceed the value of the properties. … When you find yourself in that type of conundrum, nobody is going to buy the property because the bank wants to get all of its money. This gives us the power to say to the bank, ‘You are getting what the appraiser says it is worth.’ The idea is to get rid of these vacant properties,” Gallo said.
In a roll call, council President Matthew Goode and council members Collette Kennedy, Sophia Lamberson, Joseph Sheridan and Victoria Pacheco voted to conduct the study of the vacant properties. Councilman Isaiah Cooper was absent from the meeting.
In other business, council members approved the dates for two upcoming events.
The Keyport Fest will be held on Sept. 22 and the Keyport Music Festival will be staged on Oct. 20.