EAST BRUNSWICK — The Planning Board will determine whether a designated area on Route 18, roughly extending from Eggers Street to West Ferris Street, meets the criteria of an area in need of redevelopment.
At the Nov. 10 meeting, the Township Council approved a resolution authorizing the Planning Board to conduct an investigation of the designated area, describing the motion as the first official step in the process for redevelopment of that area of the township.
Plazas such as the Loehmann’s plaza and the former Gap plaza, according to Mayor David Stahl, are included in the designated area.
Jeffrey Lehrer, the township redevelopment attorney, explained it as the beginning of a long, involved process in thinking about the larger picture for the area.
According to Lehrer, there will be a hearing — or, possibly, a series of hearings — at the Planning Board level, where property owners, stakeholders and the public can comment.
“The Planning Board ultimately makes a determination whether they think [this area] meets one or more of the criteria for an area in need of redevelopment,” Lehrer said. “If they conclude that it does, they will then refer a resolution back to this council.
“The council then ultimately adopts a resolution if it so chooses to actually declare the area a designated area in need of redevelopment.”
At that point, Lehrer said, the council can have its own professionals prepare a redevelopment plan, or refer the preparation of a plan to the Planning Board.
“They would then, through their professionals, develop a plan that would ultimately come back to the council,” Lehrer said. “It’s only the council that can approve it by ordinance.”
Some of the criteria for an area to be designated as in need of redevelopment include buildings being substandard or unsafe; abandonment of buildings intended for commercial use; and buildings with lack of ventilation, light and sanitary facilities, according to state law.
Councilman James Wendell, council liaison to the Planning Board, explained in a Nov. 11 interview that the council is not seeking to use the option of eminent domain to condemn any of the properties.
“We are in no way looking to put fear into the property owners that are in these areas,” Wendell said. “We actually want the property owners to look at this as a positive thing for their properties.