18 November 2008

The Myth of the Clean Northern Property

Hillsborough Township is one step closer to acquiring the 369 acre Belle Mead GSA Depot property from the federal government now that the Township Committee has introduced an ordinance to rezone the property and presented a plan for its redevelopment. This step was necessary in order to apply for a New Jersey Brownfields Grant - which will provide additional money to clean up the property. Most of the funds to be used for the cleanup will come from the federal government, which is keeping the $15.7 million purchase price in an escrow account specifically for that purpose.

This latest development comes at the same time that Bhrugesh Patel, owner of the "other half" of the GSA Depot, has filed a lawsuit against the township to have his 335 acres included in the redevelopment plans. This parcel - which some refer to as the northern section of the depot - was split from the township's section years ago, but both share their 50 year history as first a military and then a federal government warehouse and distribution facility.

The most interesting aspect of Mr. Patel's lawsuit is that he is making the claim that his property has the same environmental concerns as the township property, and would, presumably, need the same type of clean up operation.

Here is the quote from Roger Staib, spokesman for Patel's Hillsborough Properties, which appeared in a local newspaper:

”The significant environmental contamination (on Mr. Patel’s property) rose due to the unified use of the whole tract,” he said. “It crosses property lines, and because of that, both properties are included in an April 15, 2000, memorandum of understanding between the GSA and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, which governs the terms by which the GSA must remediate the entire depot tract.”

This makes sense for two reasons. First, Mr. Staib is correct, the property has a history of one unified use, with railroad tracks, warehouses, and other facilities throughout the property. Second, Patel's "northern section" is not all in the north! The two properties fit together like a puzzle, with the eastern part of Patel's property actually further south than the western part of the township property.

For years we have been told that Hillsborough missed its chance to acquire the "clean" northern section before Mr. Patel bought it. That we blundered and are now stuck with the "dirty" southern half of the depot. Now, Mr. Patel, through his spokesman, is admitting that his property is in the same condition as the township property!

Clearly the notion that there is a clean GSA Depot out there somewhere is a myth.

No comments:

Post a Comment