BOT designates part of 4th and Valley as condemnation area in need of redevelopment

SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — The South Orange Board of Trustees passed a resolution that makes part of the redevelopment property at Fourth and Valley a condemnation area in need of redevelopment at its Jan. 27 meeting, approving it with a vote of 4-0. Trustees Donna Coallier and Summer Jones abstained.

“As we did the Valley Street study that was authorized previously, all the areas were non-condemnation,” village President Sheena Collum explained at the meeting. “But with this particular parcel, we decided to insert the condemnation clause as a result of the developer being unable to make this project financially viable and get it built in a four-month period of time. In the event that this project does not move forward, it gives the municipality the tools to be able to condemn the site, pay the market value or the assessed value of what it may be and put it out to RFP for another developer.”

Collum explained that redevelopment law previously designated only condemnation areas in need of redevelopment but was recently changed to allow for non-condemned areas in need of redevelopment.

“Our entire Valley Street study is non-condemnation with the exception of the Fourth and Valley property,” she said.

In an email to the News-Record on Feb. 3, Coallier said she had questions about the resolution that were not answered in time for the meeting.

“I abstained because I had requested additional background on the matter which were not answered as of the time of the vote. Specifically, I was not provided a study and report that our materials referenced,” she said. “Without the background, I did not feel prepared to vote on this matter.”

In a Feb. 5 email, Jones also cited not having enough information.

“I abstained as I was not in elected office when the original resolution was passed by the Trustees in March 2019. When we received the resolution in our board packet, I was not provided with enough relevant information to make an informed decision. I felt like it would be irresponsible for me as a member of the board to vote in favor of this resolution without full knowledge,” Jones said. “It is important to note that all of the documents are made available on the South Orange website but at times we do not have enough time to go through older documents and try to understand the mindsets of all involved.”