The state Assembly approved a pair of economic incentives that advocates argue will help New Jersey towns and cities stimie the effects of blighted, abandoned and underutilized properties within their borders.
The first measure – Senate Bill 1214 – would authorize towns to establish a so-called “land bank,” where they could purchase and acquire and then maintain, advertise and eventually sell abandoned properties.
Another measure – Assembly Bill 1700 – would let municipalities designate the often-time largely barren malls and office parks into “areas in need of redevelopment,” which would make them eligible for different types of local economic incentives otherwise unavailable to them.
Former-Gov. Chris Christie twice-vetoed measures similar to S1214, citing concerns that the legislation was not crafted with enough oversight and accountability.
“Many of which are sitting idle, pay no taxes, diminish property values, bring blight to neighborhoods and worse, creates an atmosphere for crime and violence,” Newark Mayor Ras Baraka told the Assembly Appropriations Committee last week, in his push for the land bank measure.
“In the city of Newark alone we have over one-thousand vacant and abandoned properties,” he added. “While these properties have been abandoned for years, the consequences are unbearable for the residents that live around them.”
The Assembly approved S1214 in a 52-24 vote Thursday along party lines, and it would now need the nod of approval from the state Senate. The Assembly approved A1700 Thursday in a 76-0 vote.
A1700 allows any mall, shopping plaza or professional office park to be eligible for the designation if they have less than 50 percent occupancy for at least a year. Under the designation, towns could use payments in lieu of property taxes, as well as eminent domain so that a private entity can redevelop the property.
“The landscape of our state is littered with abandoned, crumbling, and once-thriving retail centers and office complexes,” A1700 sponsor Assemblyman Ron Dancer, R-12th District, said in a statement Thursday. “These buildings place a significant burden on the surrounding communities, driving property taxes up and values down,” he added. “We need to help towns stimulate redevelopment and repurpose stranded assets in this era of online shopping.”