Vacant Lots Discussion Postponed Amid Concerns
Neighbors say they would prefer to pay higher taxes and see the open space preserved.
As Chatham Borough officials evaluate six lots for potential development and sale, neighbors of at least one of the lots—83 Chatham St., at the southeast corner of Chatham Street and Lafayette Avenue—plan to protest any plan to build on the land.
Amanda and Mike Feeman live at 81 Chatham St., adjacent to the vacant lot. Amanda Feeman said she plans to attend the Sept. 10 Chatham Borough Council meeting to make sure the council knows the potential negative impact of building on the lot at 83 Chatham St. The meeting was postponed from Monday night.
Niamh O'Byrne and Lisa Bussinelli live on Lafayette Avenue near the Chatham Street intersection. Like Feeman, both women are opposed to any sale of the lot for development.
The women object to the development partly because of traffic safety and the odd shape of the lot. To read about these objections, click here.
Feeman said developing the lot for its potential impact on the municipal tax levy seems "shortsighted" to her. "They're focusing on the lots as a way to impact the local tax revenue, but what they're not thinking about is that if there's a house, people with children will move in," she said. "If those kids are going into the public schools, they'll add to the increase in school population, and that will eat into the tax revenue. ...
"I would rather pay increased taxes to care for the trees," Feeman said. "I feel that right now the town is making short-sighted decisions that are going to have long-term ramifications."
Buying and Selling
The Feemans are in the process of selling their house and moving to one around the corner on Watchung Avenue. The morning Chatham Patch published an article detailing the possible development of 83 Chatham St. and five other lots in the borough, Feeman said a buyer for her house backed out of the sale.
"It wasn't the only reason, but it was a reason," she said. "Now the second buyers are concerned about the potential construction, as well they should be. ... If you build on that lot, you're basically turning this into Center Street. ...
"But I'm not just concerned about this because I'm selling my house," Feeman said. "My kids are still going to live in this town. They're still going to have to walk this corner. I think it's a bad thing for the town, not just for this house."
A lot of similar size on the north corner of Lafayette Avenue and Chatham Street, across the street from 83 Chatham St., was deemed non-buildable and sold to the adjacent residents over 40 years ago. Feeman said she was willing to purchase the lot next to her house and asked DeNave for a price.
Purchasing the property would open up the potential for expanding the house at 81 Chatham St., which has three bedrooms and 1,800 square feet, according to Zillow.
"If we bought that lot, we could probably put on a den or a garage, maybe expand the driveway, but we wouldn't get another 1,700 square feet," Feeman said.
DeNave said each of the six vacant properties, including the lot on Chatham Street, could still be "auctioned as non-buildable lots to adjoining owners." He said, "More work [is] required to determine if they could be auctioned as building lots."
"If you have these adjacent properties, before you go doing something you should offer the lots to the people who live in the houses and give them a chance to buy them," Feeman said.
Further public discussion of the potential development on the six vacant lots has been postponed to the Chatham Borough Council meeting on Monday, Sept. 10.
"I believe it is important to have some more mapping prepared so that both the council and the public can better understand the intention and the process, should it move forward," DeNave said.
"I did receive a request from the owners of 83 Chatham St. with regard to purchasing the property some months ago, however, until the value of the property is established through this evaluation, the Council can not move forward," DeNave wrote in an email to Chatham Patch.
Additionally, DeNave said, "Only certain size properties qualify for direct sale. In the case of all that have been mentioned to date, I believe that auction is the only legal way to dispose of the property."