Heights Council backs
$10M town hall plan
Thursday, December 14, 2000
By YUNG KIM
HASBROUCK HEIGHTS -- The Borough Council has voted unanimously to proceed with a $10 million, two-building project to replace the former municipal building, which was destroyed by a fire last year.
The project, widely known as Plan B, calls for the first structure to be built on the Boulevard. It will house borough administrative offices, a senior citizens' center, and a public library.
A second building would be built on the Hamilton Avenue site of the former municipal building and house the Municipal Court and Police and Fire departments.
Officials will use a $4.5 million insurance settlement from the loss of the former municipal building and more than $700,000 in state and federal grants to help pay for the project, Mayor William G. Torre said.
Borough officials will seek additional grants to help defray the cost of the project, Torre said. Officials will float bonds to pay for the remaining portion of the project.
"We worked really hard to try and satisfy everybody," Torre said. "But we realize we are not going to."
The plan is a compromise that replaced an earlier $9.7 million proposal to build one complex at the Boulevard site that would centralize the municipal departments.
The plan required the acquisition of additional properties from owners who wanted to keep their homes. Condemnation of the necessary properties was discussed briefly, but the plan was scratched after an outcry from the public. Residents also raised concerns about increased traffic.
No public comment on the proposal was heard before the council vote Tuesday night. The plan had been presented to residents in a series of meetings in September.
The Boulevard location was the proposed site of a senior center and library in 1998, but the project was postponed when the borough's 50-year-old municipal building burned down in December 1999 due to faulty electrical wiring.
The revised plan will require the acquisition of properties, but the land will be bought through "friendly sales," said Councilman Garrett R. Pepe, chairman of the building committee.
Pepe presented a report to council Tuesday recommending the two-building project with conditions, including "friendly" land acquisitions as well as efforts to help renters displaced by property sales.
Pepe also said "as many buffers as possible" will be included on the Boulevard site to protect adjacent homes from noise and that a proposed cul-de-sac will be moved westward to shield residents from the traffic flow.
The next step in the process is to present a detailed plan to a joint meeting of the borough Planning and zoning boards in February. Additional public comment will be heard at that time, Pepe said.
"We will make this project subject to the same rules as the general public," Pepe said. "There will be public comment at the meetings where people can say what kind of trees we should plant."