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Monday, November 23, 2015

Development: Land lust raising its ugly head again?

Since this map was made in 2010, the Sears project is
moving to completion with an addition containing more
apartments and retail, and the Red Cross Building renovation
on the other corner of Grove Street is under way.
Parking in Lot 9 is essential to the success of both.

Two items on tonight's Plainfield City Council agenda make me wonder whether land lust is raging again in the Queen City.

The first is a "discussion" item placed on the agenda by Council President Bridget Rivers and billed as "Conveyance of Block 47[sic], Lots 7 and 9 to Housing Authority."

This is the public parking lot at Central Avenue and West 2nd Street that snakes through to Front Street alongside the Pueblo Viejo restaurant.

I wrote about this public parking lot in last week's post on parking issues (see here), as public access to parking in this lot is key to residents who will be living in the Sears building renovation and expansion and the Red Cross building renovation -- both of which are currently under way.

As resident Alan Goldstein pointed out in a letter to Council members (see Olddoc's post of it here), there is a potential conflict of interest (the HAP chair is the daughter of an interested party) and HAP cannot purchase a property and the City cannot sell a property which is not part of a redevelopment plan.

We learned after the last go-round with this deal that HAP's executive director had not consulted his board about the proposal, and that it was all tangled up with HAP's so-called "independent" nonprofit CDC.

However suspect the conversation is, I do not think -- as Goldstein does -- that this is a quid pro quo.

However, there is a reason to worry, and that is found elsewhere in the agenda, with Resolution 446-15, the sale and developer's agreement for the South Second Street property between Plainfield and Grant Avenues.

The really troubling item here is the sales price, noted by Bernice (see here) as $250,000 -- that's for a parcel in excess of 5 acres.

You may recall that the Park-Madison parcel, which was only four acres -- though in a choicer location, was sold to the UCIA for $1 million, "as is", with the UCIA responsible for soil remediation.

And that was more than 15 years ago! Are we to assume that real estate values have gone down so much over the past 15 years?

Plainfield taxpayers have a right to know how this sales price was arrived at.

And to my mind, the real worry is that if some plan goes forward involving Parking Lot 9 on Central Avenue, the so-called "developers" will want a lowball price like that of South Second Street.

City Council's special meeting gets under way at 7:00 PM tonight in the Council Chambers / Courthouse at Watchung Avenue and East 4th Street.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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