An upscale borough atop The Palisades could be using eminent domain to meet their affordable housing obligations and the move could add some public greenspace along one of their main roadways.
During their June 9 meeting, the Mayor and Council of Englewood Cliffs voted to advance an ordinance to eminent domain property at 800 Sylvan Avenue. Senlac Partners has plans to develop the 28.75-acre parcel once home to Unilever following a legal settlement reached with the borough last year.
The proposed development would include 450 housing units, 90 of which would be designated as affordable housing. That allowance was dictated via a court order after affordable housing advocates took Englewood Cliffs to court over existing zoning that they claimed heavily restricted opportunities to create affordable units in the borough.
The mayor and council’s introduction of the ordinance was initiated to stop that plan, instead calling for the borough to purchase the property at the “fair market value” for public use. The ordinance claims that borough officials have “raised serious public health and safety concerns” over the proposed project including fire and police protection problems, traffic and circulation issues, and sewer and water challenges.
The borough’s alternative plan included in the ordinance calls for 120 affordable housing units at the site, which the ordinance says “represents a greater benefit to the community” than the developer’s proposed 90 units. In addition, Englewood Cliffs would construct a new municipal center on the property plus a commercial building for office and research space.
Two synthetic turf athletic fields fronting Sylvan Avenue are included in the borough’s proposal, as is a passive natural park. The affordable housing units would be located near the rear of the property along Floyd Street.
The ordinance will need to be approved during a subsequent meeting before it becomes law, after which an appraiser would be hired to assess the fair market value of the land. The mayor and council’s next scheduled session is slated for July 14.