Carefully calculate costs of hospital property acquisition

I read with great interest Tali Israeli’s report on Marlboro’s steps to renew its efforts to acquire the Marlboro State Psychiatric Hospital property on Route 520 that is now owned by the state (“Marlboro Maintains Pursuit of Property,” News Transcript, Sept. 20). As the Marlboro township historian, I have followed very closely the Township Council’s various efforts in this regard since the state first announced that it was closing the hospital.

I was disappointed when no “meeting of the minds” was achieved initially. I thought the township had a number of good development plans and was making a good offer to the state for property. With the passage of time, changing economic conditions and the new problems raised by the state Department of Environmental Protection, it seems to me that the state has a “white elephant” on its hands and may be anxious to sell the property to any buyer for a more reasonable price.

Further, the state should be more considerate in dealing with the township since it deprived Marlboro of possible taxable income for more than 60 years. I trust that the newly appointed advisory committee will review all phases of the proposed acquisition and come to the realization that the purchase at this time is not a panacea for many of the township’s problems. It may, in fact, only add to them.

Cost, of course, is of prime importance. As Councilman Steve Rosenthal pointed out, the cost of the remedial cleanup is unknown at this time and may prove to be more than the cost of the property. There are additional costs that have not been pointed out and should be considered. These include: none of the buildings on the property are usable and all would have to be razed. These costs may be passed on to a developer but the chances of attracting a developer without some sort of incentive (possible tax relief or cleanup) are minimal.

Also, assuming a developer is found, no matter what type of business he may establish, be it restaurants or boutique shops (as the councilman suggested), it is going to generate increased traffic on already congested narrow roads surrounding the hospital property, including Route 520. That is a county road. I don’t envision the county taking any speedy action to widen that road, although it has been brought up in the past because of the many new housing developments that have been built nearby, as well as many new units planned for Marlboro itself.

Again, no matter what is built on the property, the community will need increased police and fire protection, as well as augmentation of the first aid squads.

If housing is built there will be still more traffic generated, the possibility of the need for a new school causing more wear and tear on the roads. Even if it is only age-restricted housing, there will be costs associated with that and bring about the demand for more services from the senior recreation department. Even if some of the land is devoted to “open space” and parks, more personnel would be needed.

All of these activities would add to the township payroll as more people would have to be added to the payroll to care for the increased workloads in various township departments.

Again, I trust that the advisory committee will do its work diligently, do all the math correctly and bear in mind that available acreage does not necessarily translate into immediate “tax returns.” Some of the possible uses may be tax exempt entities.

Nathan Handlin