After many delays and debacles, Fair Haven officials are on the cusp of securing a bigger funding source through which the borough can purchase the riverfront property at the end of DeNormandie Road for public use as a park.
Borough Administrator Theresa Casagrande announced that Gov. Chris Christie had sent a letter confirming that Fair Haven has been chosen as a recipient of a state Department of Environmental Protection's (DEP) Coastal Blue Acres matching grant which is to be used to purchase the $1.3 million, one-acre property on the Navesink River.
Per matching grant terms, the borough would have to bond for the entire amount to show good faith to the state, and then would be given back half, or $655,750. It's standard procedure for a matching grant.
Though a firm purchase decision has not yet been finalized by the borough, "approval of this grant is a very big accomplishment for the borough which the public is entitled to know about," Casagrande said at Monday night's Borough Council meeting.
"I think it's fair to say at the very least this will allow the governing body to consider this grant award as part of its overall decision of whether or not to purchase this property."
According to the DEP website, the Blue Acres grants are used to "acquire storm-damaged property for storm protection and recreation and conservation purposes."
Fair Haven's plan for some time has been to demolish the home on the property, known as the Charles Williams estate, that dates back to the pre-Civil War era and turn it into a public access area on the river.
There had been cloudy title issues surrounding ownership of the 1-acre property that needed to be cleared up before a sale of the property originally owned by one of the first African-American families of the borough since the mid-1800s could take place. The current status of those issues was not discussed last night.
Casagrande broke down the cost of the estimated $1.3 million acquisition project, for which the state grant would cover half, or $655,750:
- land cost — $1,217,500, as per a previous contract;
- survey — $3,000;
- appraisal — $5,000 costs already incurred by borough;
- preliminary site assessment — $5,000;
- title work — $12,000;
- demolition — $29,000;
- other related costs, such as grading, seeding, top soil soil erosion and engineering — $40,000.
The total project cost estimate is $1,311,500. The funding total is based on appraisals already received for the project, Casagrande said. The state's Blue Acres program will grant up to 50 percent of that amount, or the appraised value.
In order to accept this grant, the borough will have to decline the original $325,000 Green Acres grant award that it was allocated for the project. The decline, Casagrande said, is "a no-brainer" considering the difference in the slated award amount.
The matter is now up for discussion in a borough executive session.
The Blue Acres funding for the project, Casagrande pointed out, is contingent upon the passing of a legislative appropriation for the program, "the timing of which is still not known," she said. "I don't believe it will be an issue that it will be appropriated. It's just a matter of when they decide to do so."
Until that time, the borough will not give up the current Green Acres grant, until the Blue Acres is secured with the legislative approval.
The announcement was met with applause by council.