Township Committee unanimously agreed to look into the purchase of the vacant parcel of land along Route 130 between Riverton Road and Highland Avenue (also known as the Azalea Farms property) for potential business development.
The 4-acre property has been vacant for about 15 years, according to Deputy Mayor Anthony Minniti. The property was purchased about five years ago for a little more than $1 million, but the owner went into foreclosure and the land was on its way to a sheriff’s sale when the township stepped in.
When asked by a resident at Monday's committee meeting why they were thinking about purchasing the property, Minniti explained the township is trying to see if it can find a developer—the right developer—to turn the land into a ratable the township can earn some revenue from.
"The township only derives revenue on land that is improved," he said. "If we don't do anything, we're left to the whim of anyone who comes in ... When we have properties that are underutilized, we try to encourage redevelopment of them."
The township has submitted a letter of intent, which gives it 60 days to examine possible uses for the property and try to find an interested developer. Ideally, Minniti said, the township won't spend a dime on the land—which is worth an estimated $600,000; a good deal on Route 130 frontage, he said—but will instead find a suitable developer to purchase it.
"Hopefully we're giving it to a developer who's giving us the latest addition to our Route 130 corridor," he said.
Minniti said there are no specific businesses or uses in mind for the land, but suggested it could be a mixed-use commercial property, i.e. The Shoppes at Cinnaminson.
Cindy Pierson, former Pompeston Creek Watershed Association president and co-founder of the new Watchdogs of the Watersheds, said she's all for economic development, but told committee to be careful, because the land might not be suitable for certain kinds of development.
Pierson said a previous study determined the ground was unsuitable for the placement of asphalt, because it would prevent stormwater infiltration.
In other economic development news, committee also unanimously created the Department of Community and Economic Development, with township administrator Frank Locantore as its director (and sole member).
The idea, Locantore said, is to centralize all the various points of contact a business owner needs—construction, zoning, etc.—under one position.
By creating the position, Minniti said the township is hoping to create an "enhanced customer experience" for potential new (and existing) businesses.
What would you like to see at the Azalea Farms property? Tell us in the comments below.