Town pursuing purchase of Megan’s Run property

Staff Writer

Town pursuing purchase
of Megan’s Run property
Staff Writer

JACKSON — Attorney Ray Shea is a man of his word. On July 22 he promised to sue the township after the Planning Board denied an application by his client, JRJ Properties, to develop the 117-home Megan’s Run project.

The Township Committee members are also true to their word. Just one month after a trial date was scheduled for April 2004 before state Superior Court Judge James D. Clyne, representatives of the governing body have continued to pursue a plan to purchase the Megan’s Run property. On Dec. 5, they quietly met with Shea even as the clock continued to tick toward a legal showdown.

"If we can come to an agreement with Mr. Shea, he will not have to pursue that lawsuit," said Committeeman Joseph Grisanti. "The purpose of this meeting [was] to lay the groundwork for further negotiations with respect to settling on a fair price."

Located on Veterans Highway/Route 528 and Grand Boulevard, Megan’s Run was formerly owned by 528 Associates and had been planned as a 48-unit, single-family home development in 1999. After purchasing the property last year, JRJ Properties, a family owned company, submitted an application that almost tripled the original size of the project. Residents objected to that plan at Planning Board meetings.

At the July 28 meeting of the Township Committee, Committeeman Michael Broderick, the liaison to the Planning Board, told the Tri-Town News that attempts to negotiate a sale price for the property had been inconclusive. Broderick said Shea had asked for an exorbitant amount of money and did not appear to be interested in discussing a sum that was realistic.

That situation may soon change.

Grisanti was hopeful that this time a realistic purchase price could be negotiated and that both properties could become the committee’s second open space land acquisition. To accomplish that goal, he said that open space consultant Andrew Strauss, Township Attorney Kevin Starkey and Alan Avery, the Ocean County planner, met with Shea to discuss a purchase price for the proposed development, as well as its sister community of Grawtown Associates, a proposed 350-home development located nearby, which is also owned by JRJ Properties.

Grisanti said if a price could be negotiated, the land would be purchased through matching funds under the state’s Green Acres program, as well as an undetermined amount through the county open space fund. He was hopeful that talks would yield a positive outcome.

"We could always condemn the property at any time, as long as we’re willing to pay the fair market value, but we would prefer to negotiate and have a willing seller," said Grisanti, an attorney. "Mr. Shea has been cooperative with us in the past and I believe he will continue to do so. He has a personal interest in this town; he has served one term as mayor [and three as a member of] the township committee in the 1970s."

Shea’s partner, Steven Pfeffer, had his own view of the issue.

"The owner has no interest in selling the property to the township," he said. "If there’s a legitimate basis for condemnation, the owner would have to sell, but we will fight any attempt by the township to do that."

Grisanti said he did not expect any announcement of a possible sale to be made in the immediate future, but remained optimistic. He said the property would be an excellent site upon which to expand the township’s recreational facilities.

Shea was unavailable for comment.