SAYREVILLE – More than four acres of open space near a park in Sayreville has been purchased by borough officials for $1.43 million.
On Aug. 19, the Borough Council adopted an ordinance authorizing the acquisition of the 4.54 acres on Ernston Road from K-Land Corp. (Kaplan Companies). The parcel, located near Kennedy Park, is intended to be used for open space and recreation.
According to the ordinance, the purchase will be covered by the borough’s open space trust fund.
The parcel was previously intended to be used as part of Kaplan Companies’ Camelot at Sayreville II development, one of the residential developments being constructed to help Sayreville meet its affordable housing obligation. When first presented to the council for approval, the development proposed the construction of 300 residential units, with 45 units designated as affordable housing.
Following negotiations between the borough’s representatives and Kaplan Companies in state Superior Court, Camelot at Sayreville II was reduced to 150 units, with a minimum of eight units designated as affordable housing. Through the reduction of the development, the parcel would no longer function as part of Camelot at Sayreville II and the borough was able to purchase it as open space from Kaplan Companies.
The ordinance received praise from resident Jim Robinson, a former chairman of the Sayreville Planning Board, who thanked borough officials for reducing the size of Camelot at Sayreville II and purchasing the parcel as open space.
“[The reduction] is a tremendous savings to the taxpayer,” Robinson said. “The 150 decrease in the number of apartments at the Ernston site alone will mean between 100 and 200 fewer kids in our schools, a savings of at least between $1.4 million to $2.8 million each year. The amount of money you’re spending on this property is a one-time expenditure.
“In the 1980s, we put this property in the PRIME zone (public, recreational, institutional, municipal, educational) so it would be reserved for … not apartments,” he continued. “My own personal preference is that it stay as it is, a heavily-forested habitat that many wild animals live in. My neighbors and I thank the council, we thank you [Borough Attorney Michael] DuPont for your hard work, and we thank [Kaplan Companies President Jason] Kaplan for agreeing to the settlement.”
Responding to concerns about potential contamination on the parcel, Robinson stated that the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has not reported it as contaminated and if there were contamination, it would be remediated by Kaplan Companies. Robinson noted that the contamination concerns stemmed from a railroad track abutting the property, but the length of the track next to the parcel is less than 1,000 feet.
“The site is virtually the same from [1974 and 1930],” he said. “I ran a report of DEP contaminated sites in the area and there are five. This is not one of them, however. And most importantly, the agreement provides in the event there is contamination on the site, Kaplan will need to remediate it. So this is really a win-win situation. If we do nothing and it’s contaminated, it stays contaminated.”
Resident Arthur Rittenhouse, whom Robinson noted was one of the residents discussing the issue of possible contamination on the parcel, stated that his concern was that testing was not performed on the site prior to its purchase and despite the small size of the railroad track, it may have still brought contamination onto the parcel.
“My concern was to possibly have some sort of testing done before,” Rittenhouse said. “To test before we buy something or enter into an agreement doesn’t seem to be what the borough likes to do. With the railroad track going through there for so many years, that could be over 50 years worth of contamination of things flowing down. Even though it’s 1,000 feet, there’s a small section of contamination on the next lot, which is not even 1,000 feet. So contamination even within that could affect the people who are using that if it does become a park.”
Further support for the ordinance was voiced by resident Ruth Ann Mahoney, who requested that the governing body authorize the purchase of the open space.
“I’m hoping you [the council] are all in favor of this purchase,” she said. “It is so very important to this town to keep some open space for all of us and in the future. We don’t need the apartments. The contamination will get cleaned up if it’s contaminated and if not, it will stay with its trees.”
Following comments from the public, council members unanimously voted to adopt the ordinance.
Contact Matthew Sockol at email@example.com.