South Orange Awards 5-Year Lease of 298 Walton to Run Jump Lift

by The Village Green
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Run Jump Lift, a locally owned crossfit training facility, will be staying in its current location at 298 Walton for the next five years.

The decision by the South Orange Board of Trustees to award Run Jump Lift a five-year lease for the property means that the former Jersey Animal Coalition shelter building will not return to any use related to sheltering stray or abandoned animals.

Run Jump Lift competed for the lease with three other entities that answered a Request for Proposals for the space: Wagmore Inn, a pet daycare facility; the South Mountain YMCA, proposing summer camp, weekend parties and after school care; and People for Animals, which would have operated a spay/neuter clinic on the site and seven-day temporary sheltering for impounded animals.

All four presented their propositions at a forum recently, with proponents for Run Jump Lift filling the audience at SOPAC. (Read coverage of that forum here.)

At the South Orange Board of Trustees meeting on Monday night, Village President Sheena Collum read the recommendation of the committee which had been formed to review the proposals. The Committee was made up of Collum, Village Trustees Walter Clarke and Howard Levison, Village Administrator Barry Lewis and Deputy Village Administrator Adam Loehner.

Collum read the 10-page memo (see below), noting that the committee judged the applications based on four criteria: suitability for the site, compatibility with the neighborhood, public benefits particularly as related to animal control, and financial benefits.

Collum said that there had been some false information circulating online claiming that PFA would, in addition to its rent, be providing South Orange and Maplewood with services in excess of $120,000 annually. However, Collum said that number was wildly inaccurate and that sheltering costs for the two towns should come to about $30,000 per year.

That question also related to public benefit: Collum noted that, while PFA was providing valuable services to the town by administering its TNVR program and helping to adopt out stray cats, PFA would not be providing long-term holding shelter services on the site. Rather, Collum said that South Orange Village is in negotiations with Livingston Animal Shelter for animal sheltering needs for animal control. She added that South Orange is only looking for dog sheltering since the TNVR program is taking care of cats.

Collum said that South Orange is looking at packaging the Livingston Animal Shelter deal with Maplewood, and that it is her hope that Maplewood will share the cost and use of the South Orange Animal Control Officer (Maplewood currently does not have an ACO and outsources that service to St. Hubert’s in Madison).

Related to suitability and compatibility, the committee said that the South Mountain YMCA’s proposal brought the most traffic and disruption to the area — although proposing to provide much needed child-care services. Collum noted that turning radii for the school buses needed to bring children to the site after school were problematic and would necessitate potentially building a new drive or dropping children off at Walton, in which case a new sidewalk would need to be constructed and comply with ADA standards — generating more costs for the town or the bidder.

PFA and Wagmore Inn possibly could generate conflicts with DPW mobilization in the morning hours (as could the Y) and their proposals raised concerns among committee members (as well as the public) about traffic and barking dogs.

Run Jump Lift scored highest on every criteria. During its temporary six-month lease, the facility had proved to be a good, neat and quiet neighbor generating only dispersed traffic impacts and not conflicting with DPW’s access to its facility. In addition, Run Jump Lift proposed the highest rent payment, generating about $400,000 in revenue for the town over five years (compared to approximately $340,000 from Wagmore, $325,000 from the YMCA, and $156,000 from PFA).

Collum noted that all four proposals were excellent uses, saying, “It’s great that we have options,” and promised that the town would work with the three unsuccessful bidders to find them appropriate space in the town.

During public comment, some residents noted widespread support for sheltering services and the PFA, citing a petition signed by 631 Maplewood and South Orange residents; however, Collum gently questioned whether those signers understood that PFA was not proposing a shelter. A number of neighbors spoke to say that they were animal lovers but felt that the location was not the right one for animal services, despite the fact that the building was constructed on the property for just that purpose.

The Board of Trustees voted unanimously to accept the committee’s recommendation; Run Jump Lift was awarded the five-year contract.

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