Planning Board Backs St. Bart’s Redevelopment Designation

For Union County HAWK

SCOTCH PLAINS — The planning board on Monday gave its unanimous assent to a report by its planner that found that a segment of the St. Bartholomew Church property met the criteria to be deemed an Area in Need of Redevelopment.

Harbor Consultants, the board’s planner, was authorized five months ago to conduct the study of the piece of property, which measures about 100 feet wide and extends from Westfield Avenue to the rear of the church’s property and includes part of the front parking lot, a segment of the rear parking area, the baseball field and the Fatima House that was built 72 years ago and served as a convent from 1950 until 2020. The intent is for the church to lease the land to a private developer who will rehabilitate the existing building and expand it to a 35- to 40-unit apartment building that would be age-restricted and likely occupied mainly by parishioners who wish to be able to walk to church for weekly mass and other activities.

At the board’s meeting on Monday night, planner Michael Mistretta reviewed his study of the 2.2-acre strip of property, saying it met three criteria set out in state local redevelopment and housing law for declaring a property as being an Area in Need of Redevelopment. One is that the existing building is substandard, unsafe and dilapidated inside and outside. A second criteria is that the present condition of the building is “detrimental to the safety, health, morals or welfare of the community.” The third is that designating the property as being an Area in Need of Redevelopment would be consistent with smart growth planning principles set out by the state.

Mr. Mistretta noted that there is a flood zone, the edge of which is slightly off the western end of the property, but he said it was not on the property itself.

The township council is expected to accept the board’s findings and declare the property in question as an Area in Need of Redevelopment, and then authorize the drafting of a redevelopment plan.

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