By JOHN T. WARD
A plan for Fair Haven’s first and only waterfront park, to be created on the site of a pre-Civil War home built by an African-American, is “not dead,” says Mayor Mike Halfacre.
“But it may be on life support,” he adds.
Halfacre and the borough council are scheduled to convene behind closed doors later this month to get an update from town Attorney Sal Alfieri on legal matters that have held up the town’s acquisition of the Charles Williams estate, at the Navesink River end of DeNormandie Avenue.
Meantime, however, Halfacre admits to redbankgreen that he’s “falling out of love” with the plan.
The delays in closing on the purchase are due to issues surrounding clear-title, the process by which a buyer acquires a property without fear that someone might later come along claiming to have had a continuing ownership stake.
In November, the Asbury Park Press reported that inter-family transfers of the land over the years had resulted in some mistakes in the title. “One issue is that the property is two lots, and that one lot wasnt transferred at the same time title to the other lot was conveyed,” the Press said, citing Halfacre as the source.
Halfacre tells redbankgreen that the seller has retained an attorney “to clear up the title issues, and apparently, it’s taking a long time to do that.” The matter is before a Chancery Court judge in Freehold, and seller has to sue all other potential owners to prove his ability to transfer the deed, he said. The borough is not a party to the case, he said.
Meantime, however, the borough faces deadlines regarding grants and low-interest loans totaling $587,000 it obtained to acquire the property. The first deadline has already been extended by a year, to June, but after that, Halfacre said it’s uncertain that the town would get another.
“We’d be in danger of losing the money,” he said.
Halfacre says his reduced ardor for the project stems solely from the fact that “it’s taking so long. We really have no end in sight.”
And while he still believes a passive park one with no playing fields or equipment on the river is “a great idea, you have to wonder if there are other resources we ought to put our money into,” such as upgrading other parks, he said.
“I still think Fair Haven deserves a waterfront property. But the opportunity we had just hasn’t panned out.”
Meantime, the Williams house, which town officials say has no historic significance and would be demolished, is crumbling due to lack of maintenance. Jim Cerutti, who owns Fair Haven Yacht Works just across DeNormandie, said it troubles him.
“It’s a vacant property,” he said. “Nobody likes having a vacant property next door.”
The council’s next meeting it scheduled for January 23. The discussion with Alfieri will be held in executive session, with the public excluded, because it concerns property acquisition and litigation, Halfacre said.