The Millville Town Council on Tuesday, Sept. 28, approved the purchase of about 12 acres of land located across from the Evans Park at Millville, for a total of $3.44 million.
Uses for the land could include extra parking for the park, park-and-ride service to beaches, open space, and potentially a location for a new library or a police station, according to Mayor Ronald Belinko.
At their workshop meeting this week, the council voted on four separate contracts for the land, all of which was once owned by the Dukes family and was being sold by various entities within the family.
The purchase includes four parcels:
- 4.24 acres, seller listed as Wolfe Properties LLC, identified a vacant lots 1-4 Dukes Dr., Millville, tax map parcels 134-12.00-400.01, 134-12,00-400.02, 134-12.00-400.03 and 134-12.00-400.04; with a purchase price of $1.06 million;
- 4.21 acres, seller listed as Nancy D. Wadley, Harry H. Dukes III and Dorothy D. Rader, located at the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Dukes Drive, tax map parcel 134-12.00-401.00, with a purchase price of $1.484 million;
- .39 acres, seller listed as Dorothy D. Rader, vacant lot on north side of Dukes Drive, tax parcel number 134-12.00-398.08, purchase price $97,500; and
- 3.2 acres, sellers listed as Dennis Rader and Dorothy D. Rader, with an existing home on the property at 32550 Dukes Dr., purchase price $800,000.
The properties had been listed for a total of $3.9 million.
Belinko said the purchase follows future plans laid out in the Town’s most recent Comprehensive Plan update, approved two years ago. The purchase, Belinko said, gives the council “a very good chance to really put the town of Millville on good footing for the future,” he said.
He said the council had had “several” executive sessions in which they met with the owners of the land, which followed Town Manager Deborah Botchie’s outreach to one of the owners of the land when she saw that it was for sale.
Town Solicitor Seth Thompson said the Freedom of Information Act allows municipalities to meet in closed session with sellers “so that the Town doesn’t lose any negotiating power” with potential competing buyers for a property.
The council approved each purchase separately. All but one were approved 5-0. Council Member Steve Maneri was the sole “no” vote on the purchase of the property at the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Dukes Drive, but it passed 4-1.
“That piece of land we do not need,” Maneri said.
Town Manager Deborah Botchie had said before the votes that that parcel could be used as a park-and-ride location from which residents could get rides to the beach.
Maneri, however, said, “That’s great you want to take people down to the beach,” but, he asked, “Has anybody thought about how much a year it costs to do that? You don’t do it for free. Nobody’s going to give you a permit for free. We’re going to have to pay for a lot of things here. We got to start looking into this,” Maneri said.
Maneri also expressed concerns about the condition of the existing home, which is currently being rented.
Thompson said the sale comes with a contingency related to inspection of the home.
“Your point with respect to costs going forward is certainly an important one,” Thompson told Maneri. “Even as things remain open space, they tend to cost money,” he said.
“I don’t think the council would be irresponsible enough to be moving forward if we didn’t think we could afford it as a town,” Mayor Ronald Belinko said.
Botchie told the council that the Town has taken in nearly $2 million in real estate transfer tax funds in the past five months, and the Town is on track to recoup the land expenditure within two years. The Town will pay cash for the land; there will be no mortgage.
One parcel — the one sold by Wolfe Properties LLC — had already been divided into four lots upon which homes could be built. Now that it will be owned by the Town, no houses will be built on that parcel, or any of the three others. One of the parcels is currently being farmed, and the Town could continue to lease that property to the farmer until the council decides on how to best use the property.
Two residents present at the meeting expressed hope that the Town will utilize the property in ways that are in the best interest of the town.
“I commend the town council for this undertaking,” David Moeller said. “It’s a great opportunity. Millville is really coming into its own,” he said. But he urged the council to “tread carefully” and not be overly quick to decide how to use the land. “I ask that we take our time and do it smartly,” he said.
Another town resident, Dennis Hartline, agreed.
“Time is your friend here,” Hartline said, adding that he feels it was “a small miracle to get something of this size right in the heart of town.”
“It’s an opportunity we’ll never see in our lifetime again,” Belinko said.
Deputy Mayor Sharon Brienza commended Botchie for “having the wherewithal” to pursue contact with the owners of the property and to “grab it while the iron’s hot. I think this is a tremendous opportunity for the Town. My head is spinning with the different possibilities,” Brienza said.
“Right now, it’s a blank slate,” Botchie said.
Council Treasurer Barbara Ryer said she is “very happy” about the pending purchases. “We need more green space,” she said, while agreeing that the land acquisition goes a long way toward fulfilling the Town’s plans for smart future growth. Land, Ryer said, “is a sound investment.”
Thompson said he expects settlement to take place on the properties around the end of the year.
The next Millville Town Council meeting will be Oct. 12 at 7 p.m.