Borough officials in Seaside Heights are still hopeful that they can acquire the former Village Inn and Travelodge motel through negotiations, but are prepared to take the property by way of eminent domain if negotiations prove unsuccessful.
The council approved a pair of ordinances this week that provide for the potential taking of the property through eminent domain and a funding mechanism to finance the taking. Borough attorney Jean Cipriani said the redeveloper of the property, Walters Group, will reimburse the borough for its acquisition costs up to $3.5 million.
Walters is planning to build a 92 unit age and income restricted apartment complex at the site. The complex will encompass the motel property as well as the adjacent Seaside Lumber yard.
“The redeveloper was able to get a negotiated deal with the owner of the lumber yard,” Cipriani said. “The borough was not involved with that.”
The motel is one of several in town that was owned by Sandipkumar Patel, known as “Mr. P,” who is now serving time in federal prison after pleading guilty to charges of tax fraud and falsifying immigrants’ visas. It was included in a widely-circulated Star-Ledger article last year that included accounts of undesirable tenants, including sex offenders, living in the borough’s motels year-round under a county-run housing program.
“The whole area, around that area, will improve for blocks,” said resident Peter Smith. “It will make a drastic difference in that whole side of town, having nice people living there.”
The project will be funded through Superstorm Sandy grant funding, with qualifying storm victims from the borough having first dibs on apartments once it is built.