Seaside Park has taken possession of the Desert Palm Inn property through eminent domain, however the cost of the acquisition has yet to be determined. Still, work is being completed to secure the property and, on Thursday night, the borough council voted in favor of contracting with an engineering firm to study the environmental conditions at the site.
The property, plagued by frequent calls to law enforcement, property maintenance issues, code infractions and safety violations, was recommended last fall to be declared an area in need of redevelopment, a formal designation that allows the borough to use eminent domain to acquire a blighted property. Its owner opposed the taking despite overwhelming evidence presented by an engineer who authored a report that led to the recommendation. The borough followed through, filing its eminent domain claim shortly after. Under state statutes, as soon as a municipality orders the taking of an eligible property under eminent domain, it becomes public property. But despite the deed being transferred immediately, a property owner can dispute the appraised market value determined by the town.
Indeed, the matter remains pending in the courts. The state’s eminent domain statutes provide for a judge to appoint three-person commission, made up of an attorney, realtor and appraiser, to determine a final fair market value for a given property. Only the value of the property is at issue in such a proceeding; the taking itself has already been completed.
“You have a negotiation,” explained borough attorney Steven Zabarsky, who is not personally representing the borough in the Desert Palm case. “If it doesn’t work out, you file your taking under the statute with the court, and there is a hearing on what amount of money is proper to be paid. It’s pending litigation.”
Over the last week, the borough began securing the property.
“They were boarding up the windows and security doors,” said Borough Administrator Karen Kroon. “We’re just securing the site so there’s no vandalism or unwanted guests.”
The council on Thursday night voted unanimously to hire T&M Associates, an engineering firm, to conduct an environmental assessment, geophysical study and asbestos identification survey on the 51-unit motel. Ultimately, borough officials expect the motel to be demolished, and such a study is required to determine any environmental remediation or asbestos mitigation that would be required.
The property, after the initial matters are settled, will receive specifications determined by the council for redevelopment, and bids will be solicited for the purchase of the property by parties who must comply with the specifications.