The much-anticipated study of redevelopment in Bayonne from 2015 to the present is officially underway.
At its July 20 meeting, the City Council passed a resolution authorizing a study to be conducted on the number of redevelopment units built and the occupation of those units. It was the first meeting of the new council consisting of City Council President and Third Ward City Councilman Gary La Pelusa, First Ward City Councilman Neil Carroll, Second Ward City Councilwoman Jacqueline Weimmer, City Councilman At-Large Juan Perez, and City Councilman At-Large Loyad Booker.
The study comes in the wake of the pause on most major residential redevelopment by Mayor James Davis amid the 2022 non-partisan municipal election. Davis initiated the pause, which will last until the completion of a study to gauge the impact of redevelopment in the city.
Carroll, who had been requesting the study in months prior, made an announcement at the July 13 council caucus meeting that the resolution would be adopted soon. Law Director Jay Coffey read the resolution into the record at the July 20 regular meeting, further delineating the specifics of the study.
On the resolution
The resolution recognizes that Bayonne underwent a period of substantial commercial and residential property growth since 2014, after real estate investors determined that the city of Bayonne is “a worthwhile place” to promote the construction of multi-unit residential dwellings. Per the resolution, Bayonne “benefited greatly from this development,” particularly on the eastern half of the city.
Now the city has decided it’s time to develop empirical data in order to determine whether the residential dwelling units being built are being rented, sold, and or utilized. The resolution reiterates that the Davis Administration called for a pause on new residential development until the empirical data is gathered and analyzed in the form of an “absorption study.”
The city’s Tax Collector, Tax Assessor, Redevelopment Counsel, Real Estate Value Index Evaluation Expert, and Financial Analysts including NW Financial, will gather the data necessary to complete the study. Per the resolution, the City Council agrees with the administration that a study is necessary at this juncture, and that the city of Bayonne is to intelligently approach and analyze the need for future similar development.
The resolution also states that City Council firmly supports the pause in residential redevelopment until such time as the administration is able to complete the study.
The absorption study will look at: the total number of new residential dwelling units and multiple dwelling developments built in the city of Bayonne after January 1, 2015; the number of said units that are actually occupied; the number of units that are unoccupied; the number of new units that are expected to come in multi-unit developments over the next 24 months; the amount of tax and other revenue realized by the city of Bayonne as a result of multi-unit residential development completed after January 1, 2015; and the amount of tax and or other revenue the city would have realized if these properties were not developed.
The study will take approximately 60 to 90 days, Coffey said. Although it was thought that the study may go back as far as the beginning of 2014, it will actually encompass residential units constructed in the city since the start of 2015 to the present.
“We’re expecting that we’ll have a finite number of how many were built, how many are occupied, and how many are unoccupied,” Coffey said of the study.
Studying other impacts of redevelopment?
During the pubic comment on the resolution, former city employee and outspoken resident Gail Godesky took issue that the study did not look at the impacts of redevelopment on traffic or the school district. Coffey explained those studies could be conducted later and that they may be unnecessary depending on what this first study says.
“If you take it in steps, if it turns out this initial study says these units are lying afoul, that they’re empty and not being rented, there’s no reason to go to the next level because you wouldn’t need it,” Coffey said. “Once you have all that data, you can then determine whether you want to dive deeper into school age children, parking impacts, etcetera.“
Coffey continued: “If we found out that 30 percent of the units are not renting, what’s the great beck and call for more residential units if they’re not being filled? If it turns out they’re 100 percent occupied, that would justify why these things are getting built. And then we have to determine the impact on the city. That’s when you need to dive deeper into the number to figure out what is the impact on our school system, what’s the impact on our life.”
In terms of parking problems caused by new residential units, Coffey specifically referenced a 2011 ordinance which limits residents of multi-family units in the new residential buildings to only park on-site as opposed to on the street. Coffey said that those residents are not allowed to get a parking permit, but acknowledged some do park on the street illegally anyway and at that point it’s a matter of enforcing the ordinance.
Coffey also pointed to additional fees being charged to use the on-site parking in the aforementioned buildings as being the catalyst for residents there to park on the street. “The real answer is to incorporate the rental for the parking spot into the base rent. Then the tenant is not getting a bargain by parking on the street. You want to incentivize them to park in their own buildings. It’s a mindset that’s got to change.”
In response to Godesky’s questions as to why construction is still occurring on some redevelopment projects in the works, Coffey noted that “we can’t just stop places in the middle of building,” but that they would be included as part of the study.
What’s next for Bayonne…
Coffey said the council would hear the findings of the absorption study at a public meeting following the conclusion of the study. La Pelusa confirmed the findings would be made public.
“This will help us moving forward to see how aggressive we want to be,” La Pelusa previously said of the study. Soon the city will know if the data supports allowing Bayonne’s redevelopment boom to continue unabated or pausing it as the city catches up with its growing population.
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