New municipal parking lot is in the works

After months of debating price and threatening eminent domain, the Borough brokered a deal to take ownership of a property on Broad Avenue that once housed a Texaco gas station and create a municipal parking lot.
NewLot_0514_LL_tif_.jpgThe property, which owner the Yamato Corporation, originally listed at a little more than $1 million, was sold to the Borough of Leonia for a mere $412,500.

The done deal will now green light the conversion of the empty lot into municipal parking at a time when the lack of parking spaces in the business district makes every parking space worth its weight in gold.

The new lot will also improve the physical appearance of the area, which has been an eyesore in the heart of the business district.

"I've instructed the administrator to direct the superintendent of the DPW to clean it up, mow it, weed up and eventually put a sign that says, 'Coming soon, municipal parking,'" said Leonia Mayor Mary Heveran.

The future lot will accommodate 32 to 35 cars and provide additional parking for the adjacent Annex Building located on Beechwood Place, making it easier for residents and visitors attending court hearings, council meetings and Planning Board meetings on a weekly basis.

Across the street on Broad Avenue, visitors to the recreation building for youth and adult activities, as well as nearby retail businesses customers, will also benefit from the additional parking spaces Heveran said.

The Borough currently only has one municipal parking lot with 112 spaces. The prices and regulations for the new lot are yet to be determined.

"It may get meters or it may get some type of kiosk for parking, much like you see in some of the larger cities," said Borough Administrator Jack Terhune. "It may get one-hour or two-hour permits. I think the intent at the moment is to provide for short term parking for retail."

Although an actual design or bidding process has not commenced, Terhune said the cost to convert the vacant lot into a municipal parking lot will run between $85,000 and $100,000, according to conversations with Birdsall Engineering, the Borough's engineer.

Because the property was previously a gas station, testing has shown low levels of contamination. But the Borough does not believe the contamination poses a threat to the community or the patrons of the future parking lot.

"The Borough did its due diligence and had contracted with the engineer to do an environmental analysis of the property," Terhune explained. "There are two monitoring wells that still show borderline ground water contamination below grade. There's no soil contamination above grade. The readings, as provided by the former owner's engineer, show that over time, it is dissipating, which is normal. While we probably will keep the existing monitoring wells in place, and we will have to test them going forward, there's only two that are an issue and it's only borderline."

Officials have not determined when the parking lot will be ready for use.

"We can probably have the design and bid specs within a couple of months," Terhune said.
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