Revote needed on Sayreville open space purchase

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Scott Jacobs
Lou Vega, of Howell, spends some time fishing at the Sayreville John F. Kennedy Park on May 25.

SAYREVILLE – Members of the Sayreville Borough Council will need to vote again on an ordinance authorizing the $1.43 million purchase of open space near a municipal park after its adoption was vetoed by the mayor.

Mayor Kennedy O’Brien’s veto of the ordinance was announced during the governing body’s Sept. 9 meeting. The ordinance, which council members previously voted to adopt on Aug. 19, authorizes 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.

O’Brien was not present during the Sept. 9 meeting due to a medical emergency.

Borough Attorney Michael DuPont stated that in order for the council to overturn the mayor’s veto, it is statutorily required for all members to be present. As Councilman Dave McGill was absent from the meeting, the governing body voted to carry the ordinance to Sept. 23 on the recommendation of DuPont.

A new council vote on the ordinance to uphold or overturn the veto may be held on Sept. 23.

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 given the option to purchase it as open space from Kaplan Companies.

The purchase, if approved by the council, will be covered by the borough’s open space trust fund, according to the ordinance.

While the ordinance received praise from residents who spoke at the Aug. 19 meeting for preserving open space and representing a decrease in the amount of units that were planned to be built at Kaplan Companies’ development, others voiced concerns about potential contamination on the site.

Among the residents who supported the purchase, Jim Robinson said on Aug. 19 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, in response to Robinson’s comments, stated on Aug. 19 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.”