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Freehold Borough officials set sights on community’s rehabilitation

FREEHOLD – The borough’s elected officials have declared all of Freehold Borough – all 1.93 square miles of the community – to be an area in need of rehabilitation.

Borough Council members took that action by passing a resolution during their meeting on Dec. 20.

According to njplanning.org, “The general purpose for designating a rehabilitation area is to encourage the renovation or reconstruction of existing structures; to eliminate substandard structural or housing conditions; and arrest the deterioration of the area and potentially offer tax abatements on improvements for a period of five years. Once designated a rehabilitation area, tools to encourage rehabilitation can be put into place, including reconstruction design standards and potentially a property tax abatement program on improvements.”

The determination by the council members will allow municipal officials to use the powers provided by the New Jersey Legislature under redevelopment law to rehabilitate Freehold Borough, but the initiative will not include the use of eminent domain (condemnation), according to the resolution.

Council members had previously referred their intended action to declare Freehold Borough to be an area in need of rehabilitation to the Planning Board for review and recommendations. The members of the Planning Board reviewed the council’s proposed resolution at their Dec. 8 meeting.

During the board’s review of the matter, Borough Engineer William Wentzien supported a determination that all of Freehold Borough could and should be declared an area in need of rehabilitation, according to the council’s resolution.

Wentzien’s finding was based on the fact that a significant majority of the town’s housing stock is more than 50 years old and that a majority of the water and sewer lines serving or located in Freehold Borough is at least 50 years old and in need of substantial repair and maintenance.

Based on the council’s proposed resolution and the analysis provided by Wentzien, the Planning Board members recommended that all of Freehold Borough be deemed and declared an area in need of rehabilitation.

According to the resolution, the members of the Borough Council subsequently determined a program of rehabilitation may be expected to prevent further deterioration and promote smart growth and overall development in Freehold Borough.

According to njplanning.org, “After adoption of the resolution by the governing body (Borough Council), it is then required that the Department of Community Affairs commissioner review and approve the rehabilitation designation.

“The commissioner must receive a copy of the resolution designating the area in need of rehabilitation … for review.

“If the area in need of rehabilitation is not located in an area where state laws or regulations encourage development or redevelopment, the designation cannot take effect. The commissioner has 30 days to approve or reject the rehabilitation area designation.”

Freehold Borough has a population of just under 13,000 residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

In other business, the council members passed resolutions authorizing interlocal service agreements with Freehold Township. Each resolution states that the specific agreement noted in the resolution will be beneficial to taxpayers in both municipalities.

Freehold Township will continue to provide Freehold Borough with health services, substance abuse prevention and counseling services, parking spaces at the Schibanoff Road commuter lot, information technology services, licensed water treatment plant operational services and automotive services.

The Township Committee in Freehold Township authorized the same agreements in November.

And, council members authorized a contract with the engineering firm Mott MacDonald for the preparation of an emergency response plan related to Freehold Borough’s ongoing water treatment plant project.

According to a resolution, the contract with Mott MacDonald for its services is not to exceed $7,000.

The planning and construction of a new water treatment plant that will serve the borough has been ongoing since 2015. The new treatment plant is under construction on Waterworks Road in Freehold Township.

The emergency response plan was required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, according to the resolution.

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