EDGEWATER — The owners of the former Hess Corp. terminal, who are proposing to build a large residential and retail complex on the River Road properties, are threatening to sue the Borough Council over its decision this week to begin acquiring the land through eminent domain.
Monday’s “vote is the latest of a long line of actions taken by the borough that is certain to lead to more litigation at an even greater cost to Edgewater taxpayers,” Irina Elgart, an attorney representing the developer, wrote in an emailed statement. “Edgewater taxpayers cannot afford more litigation and certainly cannot afford to pay the true market value for this property.”
The Borough Council on Monday took the first steps toward appropriating $25 million to purchase the 18.7-acre tract at 615 River Road. The council plans to use the space for the borough’s Department of Public Works, parking space and parkland.
In her statement, Elgart accused Edgewater officials of retaliating against 615 River Road Partners LLC — a development partnership comprised of The Maxal Group, EnviroFinance Group and O’Gara 615 Holdings — because the company filed an earlier lawsuit, which the partnership lost, against the borough’s Zoning Board of Adjustment that was related to a now-defunct development proposal for the same land.
Joseph Mariniello Jr., the borough’s attorney, accused 615 River Road Partners of posturing on Wednesday and he said the borough is prepared to take the matter to court.
Hess sold its Edgewater terminal, the largest undeveloped waterfront property north of Hoboken, to The Maxal Group, a real estate and private equity firm, and EnviroFinance Group, a land reuse and redevelopment company, in 2014 for $26 million.
The owners have since completed a multi-million dollar environmental cleanup of the property, Elgart said, but she declined to give the cost of the remediation. Elgart said the site is now worth multiples of Edgewater’s offer. She also declined to give an estimated value for the land.
“The owner intends to fight the borough’s right to take its property and believes that the record will show that the borough is proceeding in bad faith,” Elgart wrote.
The developers are set to appear before the borough’s zoning board before the end of the month to present two redevelopment applications for the east and west sides of the property, which spans both sides of River Road and two zoning districts.
A proposal for the 13.9-acre waterfront tract asks for permission to build 1,253 residential units, 44,650 square feet of retail space and 1,649 parking spaces spread among three high-rises ranging in height from 23 to 25 stories.
The 4.8-acre tract on the west side of River Road would include two towers with 619 residential units, 18,000 square feet of retail and 1,100 parking spaces.
Together, the projects are projected to house 3,719 people, add 149 students to Edgewater’s kindergarten through sixth grade school district, generate $13 million in tax revenue for the borough and produce hundreds of new trips by cars to and from the complex during peak hours, according to studies commissioned by 615 River Road Partners.
Edgewater is currently working with a court-appointed master to determine how much housing it must promote for low- and moderate-income residents.
Mariniello, the borough attorney, said Edgewater officials are taking their obligations seriously but they are mindful of where such housing might be built.
“We know that we have needs that are going to have to be met down the road but we don’t think this is the right location to put all these units,” he said.
The residential and retail complex being proposed by 615 River Road Partners would be a disaster for Edgewater, Mariniello said.
“It’s an absolutely absurd development of the property,” he said. “It’s a project that would debilitate the town from a traffic standpoint, from a school standpoint and it’s right in the middle of town.”
Article By: Svetlana Shkolnikova, Staff Writer, NorthJersey.com
Photo Credit : AMY NEWMAN/northjersey.com file photo