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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.

Tax Levy

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. , 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.

Auction

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."

MOCK August 13, 2012 at 10:33 PM
This and a couple of others have been deemed non-buildable lots. That is different from town-owned buildable lots. Just to keep that in mind during discussion.
corkie ziegler August 14, 2012 at 11:34 AM
Has anyone who supports building a house on such a small and oddly shaped lot considered the impact of the construction on the FOUR heavily traveled crosswalks that children from ALL levels of schooling (Washington, St. Pat's, CMS, CHS, and Lafayette) use during the day on what is already a VERY busy street? It is about safety, not about aesthetics. There are parking ordinances regarding how close one can be to crosswalks, and the busy intersections of Chatham Street and Lafayette Avenue cannot handle construction trucks, children, and speeding cars safely. Oh, did we mention losing 6 or more beautiful shade trees in order to build on that space?
ProfessorP August 14, 2012 at 01:00 PM
I think Mrs Freeman is saying is it would be better to raise taxes than to ruin the value of the area by building a house on a lot that is too small. The lot in her case is less then 50" wide with her house on one side and a sidewalk on the other, and at some point 150 plus or minus feet long. There is no way to maintain the set back on Lafayette Ave. Would this benefit the existing tax payers in that area? Why not sell the property to one of the adjacent homeowners for a couple of thousand dollars and let them pay the taxes on the land and maintain the property which the boro has the obligation to do now.
GarageRock August 16, 2012 at 01:53 AM
Keep your opinions to yourself, "Sir"...stop posting on every article...you look like the neighborhood idiot.
Sir August 16, 2012 at 01:55 AM
TrashMan, look in the mirror. You are a 2 bit clown.

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