Numerous swaths of the Boulevard in Seaside Heights may be declared areas in need of redevelopment, opening up the option for the borough to use its power of eminent domain to improve them, as part of a measure passed Wednesday by the borough council.
Seaside Heights officials have said that the Boulevard will be the primary focus of a town-wide redevelopment effort. Wednesday’s resolution passed by the council tasks the borough’s planning board with conducting a study and rendering a recommendation as to whether several lots between Franklin and Sumner avenues meet the legal standard as “blighted” and in need of redevelopment.
The lots include those where the former Merge nightclub stands, the steel structure that is the site of a failed construction project and undeveloped parking areas.
The lots included in the resolutions were recommended to be studied by the borough’s planner.
“Some are in a blighted condition and we’re looking to redevelop them,” said Mayor Anthony Vaz.
The two most recognizable lots – Merge and the steel structure – are owned by local businessmen John Saady and Vincent Craparotta. Craparotta was present at the meeting Wednesday and said he was waiting on changes to the borough’s building code before making a move on the property, which, before the economic downturn in 2008, was slated to be a complex of nightclubs, pool bars and banquet space.
“Before I do anything with that property and before I give up anything on that property, I want to see what the town is going to say, ‘this is what we’re going to do here,’ Craparotta said.
Borough Administrator Christopher Vaz said a determination that the lot is blighted and in need of redevelopment could work in Craparotta’s favor, insomuch as that type of determination means the land may not have to conform to the restrictions of the underlying zoning regulations.
“When I’ve spoken to developers, they want to know what the zoning is going to be in the future,” Craparotta told the council. “Developers need ex amount of units or spaces for them to come in. I’ve been sitting back and waiting to give my input to the planner to see if there are things we agree on and don’t agree on. Do I want the structure to stay the way it is? No. Do I want to take it down at this time not knowing what’s going to be there? No.”
Borough Attorney Jean Cipriani told Craparotta he would be given time to come up with a redevelopment plan for his property and be appointed the redeveloper.
“You would get direction and be able to be part of that conversation,” said Cipriani. “Just because it says eminent domain may be used doesn’t mean it will.”
“We want to rely on the redevelopment process and the overlay zoning and spot zoning that’s available, so a developer can come up with a really good plan that might make sense there, but not two blocks away,” Christopher Vaz said.
Since Anthony Vaz has been mayor, his administration has been pushing for redevelopment projects in town that would raise the image of the community and transform it into a family resort that would also become an attractive year-round community. A derelict motel has already been slated as the site of a senior citizen apartment complex, with the borough willing to exercise its eminent domain power to take the troubled motel if negotiations fail.
“We are a group of property owners and businessmen who have a vision,” Anthony Vaz said. “The developer has to make a profit, that’s common sense, and we have to look at individual projects. It all depends on what they’re presenting to the community, to make it a family community.”
A date has not yet been set for the planning board to take up the issue, though it is expected to be discussed soon.