Riverdale Park Pursues Eminent Domain of Jey's Auto
The move comes after the property owner refused the town's fair market offer to purchase the property outright.
The future of the long-vacant garage at 5731 Baltimore Ave., also known as Jey’s Auto is currently in dispute, with the Riverdale Park Town Council seeking to acquire the address by eminent domain, while the current owner says he is still hoping to develop the property.
“He is making a serious effort to develop the property. He has had previous proposals rejected,” said Jennifer Prizeman, an attorney for property owner Jeyakody Edward, who is opposing the eminent domain.
During a contentious meeting of the Riverdale Park Business Association (RPBA), Edward claimed he had been making every effort to get town approvals of his plans, and that he had never been notified that the property was in poor condition.
Councilmember Jonathan Ebbeler (Ward 1), who proposed the legislation, disagreed with Edward on this point, and Riverdale Park Mayor Vernon Archer called this claim “patently false.”
According Riverdale Park officials, the past proposals submitted by Edward have not been approved uses under the property’s Mixed-Use Town Center (MUTC) zoning, and attorneys for Edward had been notified several times of code violations on the property.
The most recently rejected proposal was for a Dunkin' Donuts, which does not qualify as an approved use because it is a fast food-type restaurant.
Edward now plans to present a proposal to build a convenience store on the property. This type of establishment is an approved use of the property, under zoning guidelines, however, the council is still pursuing eminent domain legislation.
“Had he kept a business continually operating there, this discussion wouldn't even be going on. It’s the fact that it’s sat vacant for years,” Archer said.
Edward purchased the business from Exxon 28 years ago, though the property has not been home to an operational business nearly a decade.
Earlier this year, the town offered Edward $500,000 for the property. The offer was made based on an independent assessment, Archer said. Edward refused the offer, spurring Ebbeler's eminent domain legislation.
“[Edward] made a ridiculous counter offer, so far above and beyond fair market value there was clearly no reason to continue discussions,” Archer said.
According to the State Department of Taxation and Assessments, the property is valued at $450,000.
Archer said that if Edward were to decide to develop the property into a signature building, he would support that vision, though the mayor is not optimistic this scenario will play out.
“He’s had 8 years to do that and has shown no interest in doing that, so I can’t imagine that will happen,” Archer said.
If the eminent domain resolution is approved by the council, the town would like take out a 20-year note to purchase the property, which would then be redeveloped into a public park with a sculpture garden.