Owners of abandoned homes in North Bergen may have to forfeit their property if an ordinance introduced at the last Board of Commissioners meeting is adopted.
“It’s been a recurring problem in many parts of North Bergen,” said Mayor Nicholas Sacco at the April 13 meeting. “We even had a case where [an abandoned] building at Columbia Park burned down and someone inside was sleeping.”
Over the last six months, Township Administrator Christopher Pianese said he took a hard look at actions the township could take against some of these homes. He found an ordinance adopted by the city of Hackensack which falls under the Abandoned Property Rehabilitation Act of New Jersey.
‘Now we have to refund taxes, they’re not even paying taxes on the property, we lose the ratable, and we’re not even getting a tunnel out of it.’ – Christopher Pianese
“There was never really any leverage to deal with the bigger issue, which is the property itself and the direction it is going,” said Pianese.
The ordinance will be up for public hearing and adoption on April 27 at 11 a.m.
If passed, homeowners who do not rehabilitate their properties could have them taken away by the township.
Absentee owners could lose houses
Sacco said there were around ten properties that might fit the ordinance’s qualifications.
Properties that are vacant, have a risk of fire, are found unfit for human habitation, are subject to unauthorized entry, have vermin present, or have a dilapidated appearance among other conditions would be affected if the ordinance is passed.
The owners of these properties and any lien holders or others with a financial interest in that building would be notified that they have 60 days to submit a “plan of action” for remedying the problem and that if they do not do so, the township will do the necessary work.
If the property owner does not reimburse North Bergen for the work done by a specific deadline, the township may go to court, forfeit the bond or loan for the work completed, and by doing so take ownership of the property.
After doing this, the municipality may sell the property or own it.
Township lost ratables on failed ARC Tunnel
Through two separate ordinances, the commissioners approved 2010 tax refunds to NJ Transit on two properties the transit company purchased for the Access to the Regions Core tunnel.
The tunnel was cancelled last year and $20,928 in taxes NJ Transit paid before their tax exemption was in effect are owed.
“Now we have to refund taxes, they’re not even paying taxes on the property, we lose the ratable, and we’re not even getting a tunnel out of it,” said Pianese.
Sacco said that if a prospective Amtrak tunnel follows the same route the ARC was planned for, NJ Transit might keep the property, and North Bergen will continue to receive “nothing.”
UEZ renewal, just in case…
Although the future of the Urban Enterprise Zone (UEZ) program under the Christie Administration is unknown, the commissioners renewed their UEZ status through a resolution at the meeting.
Mayor Sacco can now enter into a contract with the state of New Jersey to extend North Bergen’s UEZ designation while the fate of the program is determined in Trenton.
Since the township has had a UEZ for 15 years, under state regulations they must renew their status, which can only be extended on a one-time basis for a period of 16 years.
The program allowed businesses in urban areas to charge reduced sales tax (3.5 percent) to attract customers. A portion of those funds was returned from the state to the municipality to clean up blighted areas, and pay salaries for police protection and maintenance of the zone.
More street lights in town
Through four resolutions, commissioners approved installing street lights on 73rd Street, 82nd Street, Newkirk Avenue, four on Bergen Turnpike, and seven separate ones on 28th Street.
Tricia Tirella may be reached at TriciaT@hudsonreporter.com.