Middletown Fighting Plan For 500 Apartments Behind Sloan-Kettering

MIDDLETOWN, NJ — A developer has purchased several wooded lots behind the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center on the Middletown-Holmdel border — and has plans to build 500 apartments on the land.

This is according to Middletown Mayor Tony Perry, who said the Township is trying to prevent this from happening.

The topic was first publicly discussed at the most recent Township Committee meeting, held this past Monday night, May 15 (the meeting has not been uploaded online yet).

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The lots are: 490 Red Hill Road, multiple lots at 1114 Nut Swamp Road and one lot on Dwight Road. Currently, the lots are nearly entirely woods and empty fields. There is no sewer or electric hook-up on the properties; the only driveways that run through the lots are dirt roads.

Middletown Twp. is aggressively fighting the developer’s proposal, and revealed this week that they may even use eminent domain to seize the land.

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At their meeting Monday night, the Middletown Township Committee unanimously authorized this ordinance that gives Middletown “Authorization of Acquisition Of These Properties By Purchase Or Eminent Domain For The Purpose Of Maintaining Open Space And Enhancing Public Recreational Opportunities.”

Perry said the Township is first going to try and buy the land from the developer, and will negotiate in good faith to buy the land from the developer.

However, the fact that the town council authorized that ordinance on Monday night means eminent domain is being reserved as a back-up option.

The way it works is developers have to submit proposals of this size before a town’s Zoning or Planning Board. But Perry said when the boards have rejected proposals like this in the past (Middletown initially rejected Village 35, for example), the developer sued, which almost always results in legal battles that can stretch out over decades — and cost Middletown taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars in legal bills.

Eminent domain is when the government seizes private property from its owners, but pays the owners fair market value for the land. The use of eminent domain in America is very controversial, and even if Middletown attempted to use eminent domain in this case, there would likely be legal pushback from the developer.

Perry said he trying to stop new development from happening in Middletown.

“It is completely inappropriate for that kind of development to be there,” said Perry, of the 500 apartments. “We are going to fight this. Developers should be focused on redeveloping, not developing wooded lots and open space.”

“Rather than finding the right location on an already-developed property, developers want to take the quickest and easiest route by destroying our few remaining wooded, environmentally sensitive and undeveloped properties.”

In April, the Middletown Planning Board also unveiled something called the “Master Plan Reexamination Report.”

The singular goal of that report is to help preserve undeveloped open space in Middletown — and to encourage “redevelopment” in previously blighted areas or “where existing infrastructure such as utilities, public transportation and jobs exist.”

“To achieve these goals, the Township will acquire open space through condemnation, if necessary,” said the Township.

Middletown said the Township used this method in 2022 to acquire Fairview Fields, which had been owned by Fairview Cemetery, to prevent it from being developed and preserve it as youth recreational space.

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