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Borough Talking With Owner Of Old Sea Bright School Property

SEA BRIGHT: Borough officials are in the process of discussing the future of the old Sea Bright Public School.

In June, the Sea Bright Zoning/Planning Board voted down an application by River Street Realty, LLC, to turn the existing 3.5-story structure into a 12-unit apartment building located at 4 River St.

Around the same time of that decision, the board agreed that the three adjoining lots, which includes the former school, an empty one story structure containing a former dry cleaning business and a vacant lot which once housed a pharmacy, are located in an area in need of redevelopment. The board also agreed that the lots met the criteria for the use of eminent domain.

The Sea Bright Council was poised to adopt a resolution accepting the board's recommendation, but held off so it could be discussed further at the council's Sept. 15 workshop meeting. During that meeting, attorney Martin McGann, who represents River Street Realty, told the council that his client is concerned about the possibility of the condemnation of the property.

"You have a property owner who is willing to develop it, despite what the rumors are in town that he does nothing with it, but he is willing to develop it or give it someone else to develop," McGann said.

McGann suggested having a meeting with Mayor Dina Long and members of the council to "work through the issues" associated with the development of the property before the council takes any action on the planning board's report.

"We all know what litigation costs, and we all know the delays of litigation," McGann said.

Mayor Dina Long agreed and said that the meeting would take place in the next few weeks.

Councilman Marc Leckstein also agreed that the meeting should take place but also said he did not want to planning board report to become too old before it is considered for adoption.

"No one wants to exercise eminent domain if we don't have to," Leckstein said. "If we can come to a redevelopment agreement for that redevelopment zone that fits what your client wants to build, then we can design an ordinance that fits those specs."

If the borough were to exercise eminent domain, it could either take ownership of the land and develop the property or bring in a redeveloper to buy the property from the current owners at just compensation, Leckstein has said. All three lots are owned by different entities.

Long said creating a timetable to discuss the future of the building is important because the building is in disrepair and has become the "home to many animals."

The school was built in the late 1800s and was used by grades K-6 before it closed in the 1970s.

In 1980, the Sea Bright Board of Education sold the school to Ingol Media Service for $125,000. It was then sold to Fondeur Bridges Properties Inc in 1988 for $600,000 before being sold again in 1995 to Aldo J. Frustacci, who represents River Realty, LLC, for $100,000.

Since the original transaction in 1980, no renovations have been made to the building.

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