Borough Cracks Down on Delinquent Landlord - Again

| 31 Comments

Middlesex Ave Bldg 002.jpgThe property on 550-564 Middlesex Ave, next to Friendly's, is perplexing if nothing more. Final site plan approval had been granted to developer Ken McPherson of K&W Realty out of Bay Head in 2000. Construction started soon after. We're now approaching 2010 and still the building sits incomplete with long periods of no work at all.

 

On August 25th, Borough attorney David Frizell, sent the following notice to K&W:

mcpherson[1].jpeg

 

According to Councilman Peter Cammarano, the Borough has been taking legal action against K&W, as they have been able, throughout the lax construction process.  No one is happy about the vacant and sometimes rotting building, least of all the town administrators.  K&W responds to the Borough as the law requires, starting-up work and doing as much as needs to be done to satisfy requirements.  

 

The same developer owns the Blockbuster property and the strip that includes Carvel and LaRosa's, as well as the old Debbie Jacobs realty building on the corner of Main and Amboy, and others in town.

 

The questions seem to be, why would a landowner leave a project unfinished for years, letting go committed tenants in the process?  How does a vacant and sometimes rotting building smack in the center of town affect our redevelopment opportunities?  There appears to be a fine balance between setting regulations that make it easy to do business in town and yet providing recourse when actions result in a situation that isn't good for our town. 

 

McPhersonMidd Ave.jpeg   

31 Comments

Thank you Anne. We covered so much ground on this that I totally overlooked your earlier post. I would agree then what an expensive situation. Painful with no one yet happy. Glad it now appears to be moving forward.

I previously posted that they recently secured a new mortgage on this property.

So, I guess since no one else wants to respond to someone's questions, neither Teri nor Sons of Liberty, someone is being petulant?

Wow, I didn't realize that one should not provide information regarding questions posted on the internet if the question was not "addressed" to them. I must have missed Miss Manners' Guide to Internet Etiquette.

Perhaps there are other people who don't know that they can look up other people's mortgages on the County Clerk's website. Now, if they read this blog, they know that.

Not sure what is confusing or obfuscating about my earlier post. Pretty simple - I am curious why people care more about this alleged eyesore than they do about other similar sites in town. This site is closer to not being an eyesore than any of the others mentioned.

Eileen. I lean back every time you write. What are you saying? Did you answer my question? No.. Worse it was not addressed to you. I asked SOL is there or did they check to see if there is a mortgage on this place? Otherwise, it is an assumption. That's all. Stop confusing and obfuscating it serves no purpose. This is the last time I am ever going to respond to what you have to say directly. If you persist with me you are going to have one less person to spar with because I am not going to write here anymore. I see no purpose to what you say. You can write circular arguments with yourself. End of Statement.

Fairness, you can look up any mortgage in Middlesex County on the county clerk's website. It's public record.

Also, not sure what Sons of Liberty's post is meant to accomplish? We should punish La Rosa and Carvel because their landlord has an unfinished building?

I don't see how other landlords are hurt if he doesn't finish his building. Wouldn't it help other landlords if there are fewer empty stores for rent?

How come no one seems concerned about the abandoned gas station at Amboy and Rt. 27 or the boarded up house by Boro Hardware or the boarded up house on Hillside which is ownerd by the boro attorney and his partners?

Sons of Liberty, I agree with 95% of what you say, you made reference to mortgage costs? Do you have anymore specific knowledge then the rest of us how this structure is financed? I have no direct knowledge of how K&W financed either via mortgage or investors. The good news is that an article appeared today in the Home sinews stating that the builder is addressing the issues with the Boro. So now they are talking. Good for all.

I read these strings and cannot help writing. It is not good to publish the letter. It will create defamation charges and further slow the process. KW Realty has more than enough cash to weather 9 years of uncovered mortgage costs. The local government has to be smart about incentivizing the landlord. Let's face it KW has mre to gain because they are big land owners in town and obviously can grease the wheels. I like the idea of assessing a penalty through real estate taxes and possibly issuing a tax lien on the property in question or the other holdings. It isnt a matter of constitional rights. Its obvious KW doesnt care to issue a public statement as a public and civic organization. Other landlords like myself are going to be hurt financially if this entity doesnt take action. The metuchen residents will also be affected by financial ruin as property values drop> If we really want to screw this entity there should be a class action lawsuit of metuchen residents to get this entity to move out of town if KW doesnt have the best interest of the town. It isnt socialism, it's democracy at its best. Call KW and voice your concern. Petition and boycott the businesses on their strip mall and maybe they would fix the unsafe parking lot concrete. Maybe we should all trip and fall and sue and maybe KW will pay more attention. Landlords are business people who should have some pride and honor and a sense of ethical conduct.

According to our Constitution, you can not just condem someone's property just because they annoy you. You don't like that the building is empty? Too bad, unless it is a danger, no one has a right to tell the landowner they have to do anything.

Property is the second greatest right our Constitution grants, right after personal freedom rights. I know that a lot of talk in Washington ignores that, but we shouldn't.

It's not that easy and it's also not accurate that the approval "expired." You can get extensions as long as you are still doing work, even if the work is proceeding at a glacial pace. A condemnation proceeding would cost taxpayers a fortune. Only the lawyers come out the winners then.

If you want them to condemn something - how about the abandoned gas station at the corner of Amboy and Lake? Nothing is going on there.

And as far a safety issue - the former Dodge dealership has electrical wires lying on the ground and one of the doors to the building is open.

What I don't understand is that it's been 7 years since the approval expired. Why are we even giving these clowns more time?

Just condemn the building and sell it off to another developer instead of losing tax revenue on prime real estate.

Just noticed there is a typo in the address on the letter. K&W Realty's address in the county tax records is 230 Main Avenue, Bay Head. So it's possible they did not receive the letter.

Excellent, I look forward to hearing the answer from Teri not you then we will know.

I can't answer that as I am not Teri. However, it would not surprise me if she cannot answer your question because she received the letter in the mail with no return address.

On the issue of using one project as leverage on another - I don't know if this is the case here but builders will often create a new company for each development. This way a problem with one development does not affect the others. One project can be stalled or go bankrupt while the others are unaffected. Jack Morris has dozens of LLC's named JSM at [Wherever], LLC. -- one for each project he builds.

A similar issue arose in another town where they were considering whether a contribution by a related company should be considered a contribution of the "applicant" in the context of the town's pay to play prohibitions. As I recall the court held that the contribution had to be made by the applicant company for it to count against the applicant. Typical NJ loophole.

And now back to my question, "Teri was that letter either open public records or a source that you can not identify"?

They discussed the alleged "rotting" of the building at a previous council meeting. This was before the brick was applied and the plywood sheathing was exposed to the elements for a long time and became discolored. They stated that the builder's engineer certified the sheathing was sound, and that was that.

Anne, okay now we are getting somewhere, first I heard that this builder had another project before the town. I assume the planning board. I gotta agree with you on that. Investors and payment streams aside if correct, the unfinished building should be used as a bargaining chip. I do not care whose money it is. If you do not finish the first then you ain't going to start the second

Anne and CinC, as to the Boro giving information, it is not clear to me how the letter came into Teri's possession. Teri needs to acknowledge how she came by that letter was it either open public records or a source that she can not identify to give weight to your statements. Then you can decide open government or something else.

Correct me if I am wrong, but I thought I read here that Metuchen was going to practice open government. I read the letter and it does not seem to be a big deal. I do not think it is embarrassing to the builder, does it have enough legal mumbo jumbo to require closed sessions.


In order to clarify, I don't believe Teri or Metuchen Matters embarrassed anyone as CinC posted, as a matter of fact, I love reading Metuchen Matters and believe they provide a great service to this town. As to Fairness's posts, I continue to wonder why, if the owners are again before the Planning Board on another project, the subject of the current unfinished building cannot be a bargaining chip in some way, and as to the letters, in my lifetime, I have NEVER seen or heard of Borough officials making public any letters that could be precursors of lawsuits until this past year and it makes me wonder why this is being done.

Anne, I hear you. Let's go over what you wrote. The Boro does not know what the problem is with the owner completing the building in a timely manner till, Boro Officials can sit down with them and find out.

Which is the problem namely, that the owner of this building have made themselves non-available to talk, which resulted in this letter. Now, it is all speculative up to that point what the problem is as to non-completion. I am betting finances there is a difference in funding vehicles between one project over another. The others can be golden and this one not why let's try money and who is behind it on each project.

However, to get to common ground the building owners have to respond to inquires and to date they have not as of the September 21 Boro meeting.

It was noted in that meeting that they sent people to work on the building for three or four days, but I still did not hear of a formal response back. They are not talking. Anne, how do you get them to respond? They were contacted verbally by Cammarano with no response and the next thing was this letter. The Boro put forward to the owner it options. And yet, no apparent response. What makes anyone think that they would get a nice letter after that? Anne, the builder is arrogant for what ever reason they have chosen to be arrogant by non-response.

I am a little unclear if your discussion with Bill about letters is about this letter to the builder or the letter about Triangle Park. But, it does not matter. Terry how did you get the letter? If you say "I can not reveal my sources" well that says it all. If you say open public records then we also know.

I have to tell you Anne, if I owned the building and I took 8 years to complete it for what ever reason, I would not be surprised to find hostility from the Boro of Metuchen. I have to say the letter delivered a clear message if nothing else tell us what is going on.

I don’t think Teri embarrassed or chastised anyone in public; I personally like the way she reports. I frequent that area and I often wonder why such a nice looking building, in such a nice location is not finished. I think the comments posted are chastising but people have the right to post their opinion.

As far as I can tell, there are no obvious financial issues with this corporation that would cause them to not complete this building in a timely manner, as I previously stated they just secured a mortgage for this property and in 2008 refinanced other holdings in our municipality securing quite a large amount of monies. They have also recently bought additional property on Graham Avenue adjacent to properties they own on Main Street and from what I have heard gone to the planning board with a new project. I do not know the family who are the principals in this corporation so I really don't know how they could be motivated, but obviously there must be some common ground that could be achieved without litigation. I personally have a real issue with posting the letter, when the famous "Triangle" letter was posted on the Borough Web site I even asked Administrator Boerth who authorized it (he said he had no idea) and I told him I felt it was not the thing to do and as I stated in my previous posting it was in bad form. You don't get people to do the right thing by embarrassing or chastising them in the public forum. Obviously, the best solution would be to find someone to arbitrate a quick solution so we can move on. I doubt the owners are happy with a threatening letter and the fact that someone in Borough Government obviously leaked this letter in order to facilitate even more public outrage , I know I wouldn't be.

Anne, this is the second time that an article has been posted on this building on this web site in the past month. I am wondering why? To recap, at an August council meeting Councilman Peter Cammarano raised the whole issue about this building. The building owners had been non-responsive to answering his questions as to getting the thing completed. Councilman Cammarano suggested the abandoned buildings provision of NJ code. Someone else suggested to start assessing it as a ratable.

Council instructed both the Boro Attorney and Boro Administrator to take action. The options included sanctions and rating/assessing the building. The Boro has not been charging assessments. I personally can not accept that as a taxpayer. But, that's what generated this letter to the building owner. Unlike the Triangle Park issue, I do not see it published on the Boro Web site, so maybe Terri can tell us how she got it.

Was someones eye off the ball on this whole thing, I think so. As I wrote several weeks ago, no litigation please but start assessing the building.

Tell me, what are your ideas on getting the builder to complete and open this building in yours or my lifetime? Where I grew up, I know all about steel skeletons in Long Branch and Asbury Park and when other builders ran into financing problems. It ain't pretty and it took from 1966 to 1985 to get one building like that completed. Thank God, this building is at the 90% plus stage.

A vacant building is an attractive nuisance and could be dangerous. But, that's not the thing that bothers me. Why does everyone complain and complain about vacancies on Main St and hold Borough Hall responsible for those? But here they are trying to do something about a vacancy on another very prominent (if not more prominent) street in town and people don't agree. What do potential business owners think of town when a building sits half-finished for so many years? What sort of structural problems, not to mention mold, will future tenants be dealing with because so much of the frame was exposed to the elements? I don't know the answers to all of that but I do think it's wrong. Landowners, especially those of commercial properties, play a role in the commercial success of our town and should at the very least be responsible for meeting building requirements.


Does anyone else think our little town is becoming a bit too litigious when it comes to citizens and property owners? Unsafe and abandoned? How many citations have been issued pertaining to safety? Are they up to date on the payment of their real estate taxes? They obviously have the buildings insured as they quite recently secured a new mortgage on the property according to the county clerk records. Has the owner been approached by any members of the council or town government as to what if any the problem is? Is it really necessary to “air the dirty laundry” by actually publishing a letter from our legal counsel again? I was appalled the last time a letter from our Borough Attorney was plastered upon the Borough Web Site. Seems to me that could be considered bad form, particularly when legal issues are held in closed session as a rule. Am I the only one that seems this is all very bizarre?

You forgot Frizell's boarded up house on Hillside. How is that not abandoned and unsafe? Been like that for awhile now. Bushes all overgrown and nasty.

Have heard he is not the best landlord when it comes to maintaining his properties. The sidewalk by his other building is all covered with bird doo. But I guess he doesn't have to worry about getting fined by the town.

I'm not defending the guy, just pointing out that there are other "eyesores" and "abandoned and unsafe" buildings in Metuchen that the town has done nothing about for decades. And I forgot the abandoned gas station at the corner of 27 & Amboy Ave.

The town isn't doing such a great job caring for property that it is responsible for either. Centennial Park and the Dismal Swamp parcel are unusable. The slopes along Grove Avenue near the underpass look like they are finally getting some attention but it isn't happening very fast. As some else already pointed out, the playground at Hampton Park is terrible - lots of fallen branches and broken glass.

Judging by the amount of litter I pick up on walks, and all the water bottles that are left abandoned at the fields, many people just don't care how the town looks.

There was a great old barn on that property next to Friendly's, which luckily I got a few photos of before it was demolished.

Since we live here, I have gotten pretty used to seeing some of these unfinished projects, empty lots, and poorly kept buildings. But when friends or family from out of town come to visit, they often say how surprised they are by some of this, considering "what a nice town" Metuchen is and how much potential it has.

The same guy knocked down 2 perfectly fine 1880s houses on Main St then proceeded to dump construction debris there, until the town told him to stop. Also owns the eyesore strip mall on 27. How about fixing up the rt 27 side of that. 10 years to erect a building that isn't even close to being finished? IMO it's way past the time to defend K&W.

That does seem counterproductive. If you order him to stop work, how is he going to finish?

What about the six "abandoned and unsafe" houses on Central and Middlesex? A fence was erected - like that will keep the teenagers out. Why weren't those houses torn down along with the supermarket?

If MacPherson puts a fence up around his building, will that make it "safe"?

Or how about the old restaurant supply building on Highland? That has been vacant for what seems like decades.

Last year the zoning or planning board allowed an applicant to amend a 20 year old resolution that he had supposedly been violating that entire time, so it would seem the borough in general is flexible about these things.

Also saw a case in the paper regarding a property in Monroe or maybe it was Old Bridge, where a builder had received approvals for a project 20 years ago but never started it, and the court ruled the approvals were still valid.

The bulding isn't being finished, so the town's answer is to order him to stop working?

Wasn't work not being done the problem in the first place?

My two cents, the building isn't an eyesore, it is a new building, so it shouldn't be unsafe. What is the big deal?

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Recent Comments

  • Fairness in People: Thank you Anne. We covered so much ground on this read more
  • A. Sardone: I previously posted that they recently secured a new mortgage read more
  • EileenDover: So, I guess since no one else wants to respond read more
  • Fairness in People: Eileen. I lean back every time you write. What are read more
  • EileenDover: Fairness, you can look up any mortgage in Middlesex County read more
  • Fairness in People: Sons of Liberty, I agree with 95% of what you read more
  • Son of Liberty: I read these strings and cannot help writing. It is read more
  • ClearThinking: According to our Constitution, you can not just condem someone's read more
  • EileenDover: It's not that easy and it's also not accurate that read more
  • msabinoe: What I don't understand is that it's been 7 years read more

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