Upset Hopatcong local Residents and Businesses are heading to the Land Use Board Meeting this week to voice their strong opinions about the redevelopment plans for River Styx area. Note: The meeting was postponed.
While the Mayor and Hopatcong Borough Council has been working on plans to revitalize the River Styx area for years, and have always shared with the public the plans, progress and overall schedule. The latest move caught many residents by surprise.
- By sending certified letters from Borough to River Styx residents and business advising them that their property may be deemed "underutilized," possessing "obsolete characteristics", and they need to attend a public hearing.
- To help fuel the fires, the letters also used language "that subject to a Redevelopment Area Designation the Borough of Hopatcong could exercise the power of Eminent Domain to acquire property within the delineated area."
So, let’s take a minute to separate fact from fiction and really understand what’s happening.
Here is what you need to know:
1. Attend the meeting if you feel strongly on either side
Meeting: Land Use Board meeting
Date: July 19, 2016
Time: 7:30 PM
Location: Hopatcong Senior Center, Ryerson Rd, Hopatcong, NJ 07843 (Next to Quickchek)
2. Understand who is affected
- The area that is affected is River Styx Road and Durban Road, stretching from Lakeside Boulevard to Deane Road. Overall, this is 32.8 acres.
- This involves 41 properties and 24 different owners
3. Understand the purpose of the meeting
- The purpose of the meeting is to present the findings of the May 2016 Redevelopment Study Determination of Need, prepared by John Ruschke, the borough engineer.
- To allow the community to speak and inform the Land Use Board of their opinions, which will be forwarded to the Hopatcong Borough Council.
- This meeting is NOT to determine the final outcome, but rather to share information and gather feedback.
4. What is the Intent of the Hopatcong Borough Council?
- The Mayor and Council Members have said for years that the redevelopment designation is meant to help property owners and attract investors by encouraging growth in the River Styx area.
Alan Gilbert, States that the council people and mayor that I've spoken with have no intention at all of using eminent domain. It is unfortunately or fortunately -- however you look at it -- happens to be part of the toolkit that's available if we designate an area as a redevelopment area. And it's necessary to let people know that's part of what's available, even though there is no intention, as far as I can tell, to use that."
According to Council President Frank Padula, "Basically, (we want to) send a message out to the world that we're serious about doing some redevelopment here. We want investors to hear that we're willing to work with you, we're willing to talk. You've (got to) start somewhere. We're just trying to jump start the redevelopment that seems to have petered out down in that area."
- Through "Eminent domain" Hopatcong can become eligible for federal and state funds and can offer incentives to developers, investors or residents.
5. What is Eminent domain, and what does it mean?
- Eminent domain is the power of government to take private property for public use after compensating the owner.
- New Jersey Steps required:
- Determine the authority to exercise the power of eminent domain;
- Compel the exercise of such power;
- Fix and determine the compensation to be paid and the parties entitled
- Determine title to all property affected by the action.
Note: Hopatcong is only at the first step.
6. What happens next?
- After Tuesday's meeting, the Land Use Board will prepare its own findings and present them to the Borough Council. The council will review the recommendation from the board and may choose to designate the area in question, or any part thereof, as an area in need of redevelopment.
- The Land Use Board will then have to draft a redevelopment plan, which establishes goals and objectives of the municipality and outlines the actions to be taken to accomplish them.
- The redevelopment plan is then sent to the council -- where the public will be offered another opportunity to be heard -- which can adopt the plan by ordinance. The plan would be become an amendment to the borough's zoning.
Bottom line, if you are a Hopatcong Resident, the time to become informed and involved is now. Watch for future reports from Hopatcong Lake Regional News.