By DON STINE
Rumors that Neptune plans to use the power of eminent domain to acquire flood-prone businesses and residential properties along the Shark River are false, township officials said earlier this week.
“There is no proposal for the eminent domain taking of these properties. Eminent domain is not an option,” Township Business Administrator Vito Gadaleta said.
According to Gadaleta, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) just released flood maps that list 21 properties in Neptune that are eligible for buyouts under the state Department of Environmental Protection agency’s Blue Acres program.
The program provides municipalities with funding to purchases some flood-prone properties but only if the property owner is willing to sell. The properties must also abut other township or public lands, such as the Shark River in these cases.
“There is no eminent domain process under the Blue Acres process. Everybody, both the township and the owner, have to be willing to participate in the program if the property is to be acquired and then preserved as open space,” Gadaleta said.
He said a meeting with the 21 property owners is scheduled for tonight, July 25, in the Township Committee chambers at 7 p.m. to provide more information to any interested parties. State DEP officials will also be on hand.
“We expect most owners to attend and find out how the funding process works if they wish to sell their properties and everybody has to be willing sellers. These are properties we have determined could be acquitted for flood mitigation and that the township feels is in its best interest to acquire them as open space,” he said.
Current Trends, a hair salon at 27 S. Riverside Drive, is up and operating again after the business was destroyed during Superstorm Sandy. It is one of the businesses listed on the revised FEMA flood map and eligible for the Blue Acres program.
Salon owner Toni McCudden said she understands the Blue Acres program and has already met with township officials on the issue and will attend the next meeting.
“It is a state buyout and I have the option to say no,” she said.
McCudden said that at some point the state will make her a monetary offer for her property.
“I was told I have the right to negotiate and it is an offer I do not have to accept,” she said.
And Neptune officials said they are happy to have businesses, like Current Trends, stay in business.
“Neptune is proud of the fact that businesses, like Current Tends, have worked so hard to come back and we are glad to see her business remain. But the property owner always has the Blue Acres option,” he said.
“People have the option to offer their property for sale and the township has the option to decide if wants to buy it- but it is not automatic and we both have to agree on the transaction,” he said.
Bishop said the township will consider properties that abut other municipal or public properties and be then annexed into them.
“If there are three properties in a row and only the middle property wants to sell and the others do not, then there might not be any advantage to us purchasing it,” he said.