Redevelopment plan for former Seahorse Express property could be heard in December

The plan was reworked after objections from the Alessi Organization and the Bayonne Golf Club

The former Seahorse Express property in Bayonne is slated to have a public hearing on the redevelopment plan for the site at the December meeting of the Planning Board. The site is located at 69-73 LeFante Way, in the Constable Hook industrial area of the city.

In February, the City Council passed a resolution authorizing the Planning Board to conduct a redevelopment study of the area. The site was designated an area in need of redevelopment by the board in June, followed by the council that same month. At the same time, the City Council directed the Planning Board to draw up a redevelopment plan.

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In July, the City Council introduced an ordinance that would have referred a redevelopment plan to the Planning Board for a consistency review with the Master Plan. The ordinance would have also authorized the adoption of the plan by the council after the review by the board.

The proposal was initially slated for a consistency review with the city’s Master Plan before the Planning Board on August 9. After that, the City Council was set to adopt an ordinance approving the redevelopment plan on August 17.

However, the plan was put on hold at the Planning Board meeting at the request of City Planner Suzanne Mack. She said that since the plan had been noticed to the public, some “responsible parties in the area” raised points that the administration had previously not considered and asked it be adjourned.

The Planning Board adjourned it, and following that, the City Council had postponed the public hearing and adoption of the ordinance in August, September, October, and November. The board must conduct the consistency review before the council can give its stamp of approval.

In November, City Planner Suzanne Mack told the Bayonne Community News that the redevelopment plan is tentatively scheduled to be before the Planning Board in December. She said that, while it was slated for a consistency review, there were many changes made to the redevelopment plan since the ordinance was introduced, so it may have to be reintroduced as redevelopment plan before the Planning Board.

Mack confirmed the intention was for the site to remain industrial in area. It is located in an industrial area being in Constable Hook, surrounded by other industrial uses, as well as the South Cove Commons shopping center and the Bayonne Golf Club.

Objectors’ concerns heard and changes incorporated by city

According to Mack, the delay was the result of two objections from the Alessi Organization that owns the shopping center and another from the Bayonne Golf Club. They took issue with aspects of the redevelopment plan, and thus, the city sat down with them to work it out.

“There were two lawyers that raised issues,” Mack said. “One was from the Alessi Organization next door on LeFante Drive and the other was the Bayonne Golf Club. The golf course is more germane being the fact that it’s right next to them.”

Mack said the golf course had some existing agreements regarding views and easements, and had asked their planned and lawyers get involved. The city coordinated with them, as well as the Alessi Organization, to resolve any issues.

“They asked that their planners and their lawyers get involved, and they did,” Mack said. “They came up with very good suggestions. It was one of these things where the neighbors got together, which they hadn’t before, and decided what would be in the best interest of all parties.”

Regarding the Alessi Organization, Mack noted they were more concerned about traffic. Also operating on LeFante Way, they were concerned where vehicles would enter the site from.

“They wanted to know whether the traffic would come in through the shopping center side or if the traffic would come from Avenue J,” Mack said. “So the Alessi’s issue was where’s the traffic going to go, and the golf course was what’s the view going to be like?”

In addition, there were a number of other minor changes, involving where the air conditioning units would go on the top of the building and how much noise it would make, and whether or not a blank wall would face the golf course, among others.

“They’re those kinds of things,” Mack said. “There were more than a dozen changes and once you get to that point, it’s questionable whether you have to reintroduce it or you could still do a consistency review.”

Another, perhaps more major change, was the permitted building height. It was 80 feet in the initial plan, but Mack said that after consultation with the golf course, the height was reduced to 50 feet to preserve views.

The Planning Board will likely hear the redevelopment plan on December 13, at 6 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall at 630 Avenue C. For more information, go to bayonnenj.org.

An aerial shot of the former Seahorse Express property.

Redeveloping the former Seahorse Express property

The 6.42 acre site is owned by North Hook Associates, LLC, and is currently home to a two-story building totaling approximately 67,516 square feet. Formerly occupied by Seahorse Express, a business that specialized in heavy machinery and transport for many years, the property has been vacant for approximately 10 years.

The initial redevelopment plan intended to revitalize this vacant underutilized industrial site and reverse its ongoing stagnation. According to the proposed ordinance, “The redevelopment area is a gateway to the heavily industrialized area of Constable Hook, which is experiencing a surge in redevelopment activities. The Council supports this redevelopment renaissance and has authorized the redevelopment plan in the interest of furthering this trend.”

The site to the west is the South Cove Commons shopping center, to the north is the Bayonne Golf Club, and to the south and east are other industrial properties. Some surrounding “desolate” and “derelict” industrial sites and other neighboring areas are also seeing revitalization, akin to what is being proposed at this site.

A new warehouse facility is under construction at the Delta Self-Storage site across LeFante Way, another new warehouse is planned on the adjacent lot at the Accem Warehouse at 63 Hook Road, and warehouse renovations have been approved for Royal Wine at 63 LeFante Way, according to the redevelopment plan. The South Cove Commons shopping center is also currently undergoing renovations and is the subject of an “ambitious redevelopment plan,” according to the redevelopment plan.

The former Seahorse Express site is zoned for heavy industry, as well as some light industrial uses, and will remain that way under the redevelopment plan. In fact, the redevelopers have already made clear their intentions, with attorney for the redeveloper Michael Miceli previously telling the City Council that they want to build a new warehouse on the property.

“They want to knock this building down. It’s really dilapidated… We’re getting to the redevelopment plan stage… This will be a nice new facility,” Miceli said, confirming the site would likely be redeveloped into an industrial warehouse.

The owners had been trying to better the property, working to remediate the contaminated brownfield land with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, according to Mack. The site was badly flooded during Superstorm Sandy and other storms, with the former Seahorse Express building suffering damage that is “financially infeasible” to repair. Additionally, the flooding also unearthed contaminants in the soil, making remediation necessary.

Mack previously said the owner is looking to keep their business in the city. However, the site could only be further remediated and redeveloped with a redevelopment designation. Following that designation and approval, the redevelopment plan now needs to be approved. After that, the redeveloper will likely need final site plan approval from the Planning Board.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com.

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