NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ- On December 24, New Jersey Transit began pursuing a condemnation case attempting to acquire some of the land located at 120 Jersey Avenue as part of a $184,493,910 federal project to build a facility that will store and protect train cars.
According to the verified complaint from the New Jersey Courts online system, E-courts, NJ Transit has the authority “to acquire by purchase, lease, gift or otherwise, or by condemnation,” under New Jersey statute 27:25-13.
By definition, condemnation is the seizure of private property by a government for a public purpose. Eminent domain gives governments the power to take private property. However, the government must compensate the owner for seizing the property.
NJ Transit seeks to obtain the property in order to have an adequate facility to store its unused train cars from inclement weather. This is part of the “Delco Lead Storage and Inspection Facility projects.”
According to the NJ Transit, “The projects are designed to improve rail equipment storage and operations by developing the under-utilized Delco Lead Storage and Inspection Facility.”
Plans for a new Service and Inspection Facility and yard expansion for train cars are already set. Strategically located along the Northeast corridor in an inland area along New Brunswick and North Brunswick, the new facility will protect train cars from flooding and weather concerns.
Some more benefits from the project include the ability to inspect and service trains and quickly return them to service, following a weather disaster such as Hurricane Sandy. The project will be advanced with a grant awarded by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).
NJ Transit intends to acquire the land with a fee and interest. The first offer occurred on February 20, 2020, for $125,000. However, after careful negotiation, the purchase price was agreed to be $145,000.
However, the price must be approved by a Judge before the property is taken. The award amount is tentative pending the recommendation of a condemnation commission consisting of three individuals.
Appointed on February 23, the commission will consist of attorneys Robert Dato, Marcia Silva, and realtor Ron Dressel. The job of this committee is to examine the land and draft a report on their valuation of the premises. This is due on August 2nd, 2021.
Middlesex County Assignment Judge Michael A. Toto presides over the case. NJ Transit is represented by Rudy Randazzo of Riker Danzig Scherer Hyland et al, LLP located in Morristown, and Defendants being represented by Anthony DellaPelle of McKirdy, Riskin, Olson & DellaPelle, P.C.
Upon contacting Rudy’s office, they were able to give me a comment on behalf of NJ Transit. Apparently, “New Jersey Transit is working with all parties to finalize the proceeding.”
Anthony DellaPelle was also nice enough to comment on the case. He stated that “The case was filed and will be scheduled for a hearing before three court-appointed condemnation commissioners who will render an award of just compensation. That hearing has not yet been scheduled.”
Upon asking Anthony why banks such as Capital One and Wells Fargo were listed among the Defendants, he responded, “Banks are typically identified as parties in an eminent domain case because their mortgage interests are secured by the real estate for which a mortgage loan is given. The eminent domain case results in having the condemning authority (here NJ Transit) acquire fee title to the property condemned. By naming the lender(s), the property rights that the condemning authority acquires is free of those interests.”