by Scott Levine
I am concerned about the Mayor and Town Council’s pending
Resolution Number 14-102 and 14-013.
These resolutions provide authority for the Mayor to swap two buildable Pine Lake
Park lots (100 x 100) for
three non-buildable lots on Route 70 (in front of Holly Oaks, adjacent to
Manchester Self Storage). The Pine lake
Park lots are assessed
for $60,000 each and comparable lots are for sale up to $75,000. These two lots can be built on tomorrow.
The lots the Mayor proposes to take in return are within a stream corridor deemed C-1 by the state Department of Environmental Protection due to a tributary of the Toms River that runs along the property. As a result of the C-1 classification, a 300 foot buffer is required wherein development cannot take place. As a result, a large portion of the lots are not buildable.
At a recent Town Council meeting,
the Council indicated the C-1 classification was a mistake because there is not
an active tributary on the property.
While this may be true, there is no indication the Mayor or Council has
actually contacted the DEP to correct the classification.
Before we give two buildable lots away, shouldn’t we investigate whether the classification can be corrected. If the classification is a mistake, wouldn’t the current landowners (both of whom are professional land developers) have made efforts to correct the discrepancy and develop the land along Route 70? Obviously, if the land could be developed, it would be worth more money than a Pine Lake Park lot.
Resolution 14-012 references that the land they intend to acquire will be used to relocate the hockey rink at the municipal complex. The same hockey rink the Mayor has allowed to fall into disrepair and has not been used in many years. The same hockey rink that in 2008 was included in a bond ordinance to relocate that has not been relocated.
If the purpose of the land swap is
to find a new location for the hockey rink, the costs to do so would include
labor to remove the rink, labor to re-construct the rink, costs to repair the
rink from five years of disrepair, two buildable lots with an in-house assessed
value of $120,000 and the costs to develop the newly acquired land.
Should the DEP dispute the Mayor and Town Council’s contention that the C-1 classification is an error, due to the 300 foot mandatory buffer, the only area to place the rink would be immediately adjacent to Route 70, not an ideal place for our kids to be playing hockey.
What is the purpose of giving away valuable assets in
exchange for property that we may never be able to use. If the Mayor genuinely wants the Route 70
land to relocate the hockey rink, I believe the costs outweigh the
What would be most appalling
for Manchester Township residents is if the Mayor was
using this land swap as political patronage. It shouldn’t escape notice that
one of the owners of the Route 70 lots paid $90,000 in 2007 for property that
cannot be fully commercially developed. It should also be noted that this same
owner is a steadfast campaign contributor to the Mayor. It should also be noted that this same
landowner owns two other adjacent lots on Route 70.
If Manchester lobbies the state DEP to change the C-1 classification, that same landowner - - campaign contributor - - will benefit at Manchester’s expense. I’ll let you decide if this is simply a coincidence. Either way, Resolution Number 14-012 and 14-013 are not in Manchester’s best interests.