Englewood Questioning Condition of Properties on James Street
From: The Record, September 2, 2010
ENGLEWOOD — A fire that destroyed a James Street home over the weekend has prompted questions about the condition of some properties owned by a company that wants to expand a supermarket nearby.
City inspectors issued three violation notices to GLF Realty Co. Inc., the company that owns 13 James St., two days before it burned to the ground, according to city officials and records.
Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli has said it was probably set deliberately.
Inspectors also ordered the house next door, which is owned by the same company, emptied out and boarded up after they found fire hazards and evidence of illegal tenants, according to officials and city records.
Mayor Frank Huttle III said the city is doing a “complete and thorough review.”
“Any developer who can’t take care of his property has no business developing even a square inch in this town,” Huttle said. Noting that James Street abuts the city’s downtown business district, he added, “there was no reason for this property to become vacant and then in violation of the city’s building codes, which resulted in the dangerous conditions we witnessed last week.”
GLF Realty is asking the City Council to rezone James Street to allow multifamily housing units and other changes that would allow an expansion of the ShopRite supermarket and its parking lot. The company owns at least a dozen properties on James Street and several more on surrounding streets.
The Planning Board is set to memorialize a resolution at a meeting tonight that urges the council to get more information about the potential impacts of the proposal, and to consider alternatives.
Dozens of residents have shown up to protest the development at public meetings in recent weeks.
City records obtained by The Record show a number of property maintenance violations at GLF Realty properties in the neighborhood over the last 10 years. The violations ranged from orders to cut the grass to reports of illegal tenants living in building attics.
Irv Glass, a principal with GLF Realty, said the company responds to maintenance requests and fixes problems as soon as possible. As for illegal tenants, Glass said they are “not something we condone or permit.”
“Once they’re rented, we don’t go inside,” Glass said. “We don’t have knowledge of what’s happening until someone picks up the phone and tells us there’s an issue. When we get a phone call, we correct it.”
Englewood Construction Official Peter Abballe said the company has been responsive to complaints and requests for maintenance at its properties.
The company was ordered to board up the windows and padlock the doors at 13 James St., the house that burned, and to properly maintain the exterior of the property on Aug. 26, city violations records show.
Abballe said he found no signs that anyone was living in the house at the time of the inspection, but that there were signs of prior break-ins.
Padlocks were installed the Friday before the fire and plywood coverings were set to follow, Abballe said. The building was demolished after it was determined to pose a risk to surrounding homes following Saturday’s fire.