WEST ORANGE, NJ — The West Orange Township Council passed a resolution March 8 approving a deed transfer of a small, undeveloped tract of land from the estate of the property’s deceased owner to the township.
Voting 4-1 in favor of the resolution at its March 8 meeting, the council allowed Tobie, Peter and David Williams — acting on behalf of Ferne Williams, who the land deed states died Feb. 6, 2014 — to donate 33 Beverly Road to West Orange for $1. Only Councilman Joe Krakoviak voted against the property transfer.
Now that the land donation has been approved, Jack Sayers, the township business administrator, said the property will be included in West Orange’s Recreational and Open Space Inventory, which must be submitted to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Green Acres Program whenever a request for funding is made; however, the property will not serve as parkland or any other public use. Sayers said the land, a strip of woods with a stream running through it that is less than 1 acre, cannot bear buildings.
“There’s nothing you can do with it,” Sayers told the West Orange Chronicle in a March 11 phone interview. “It’s just going to be left as open space. You can’t construct anything on it.”
Beverly Road is also a private street accessible to property owners only, which would seemingly prevent people from visiting the land in the first place.
The fact that the land essentially cannot be used by the township is the reason Krakoviak voted against the resolution. The councilman told the Chronicle that he did not believe taking a property off of the tax rolls was in the best interest of West Orange, especially when the land is not going to serve much benefit. According to the West Orange property tax site, 33 Beverly Road is being charged a total of $494 for the first two tax periods of 2016, or $988 for the full year.
“In these tough times, every dollar helps,” Krakoviak said in a March 9 email.
Krakoviak also objected to the fact that, by taking over ownership of the property, the township is allowing the more than $1,200 in delinquent property taxes owed by the Williams family to go unpaid, thus denying West Orange another revenue source. But Sayers said at the council meeting that the family stopped paying taxes upon entering negotiations to donate the property, so the town was aware that those taxes would not be paid.
Evidently, the rest of the council did not share Krakoviak’s financial concerns. In fact, council President Victor Cirilo said the less than $1,000 per year being lost by taking on the property is a “drop in the bucket” considering the township operates on a $74 million budget.
And while the land will not be used for anything in particular, Cirilo pointed out that preserving any amount of open space is a township priority. Even if it costs a “minimal” amount to maintain the property, he said absorbing the land will be a good thing in the long run.
“This piece of land is something that we can save for future generations,” Cirilo told the Chronicle in a March 11 phone interview.
This is not the first time the Township Council has approved a land donation to the town. Most recently, Ridgeway Park was created using land granted to the township by the Life Christian Church.
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