A major step was taken Tuesday night to change the fate of the long underutilized School No. 1 property.
The Belleville Township Council voted 7 to 0 to pass a redevelopment plan for the nearly one-square city block of property at Rutgers and Cortlandt streets that has been the subject of controversy for decades.
The plan allows for dense residential use, but council officials were quick to point out the plan gives the governing body the greatest number of options for the property.
Several residents spoke of the need to retain the school property for possible use by the Board of Education, while one resident spoke in favor of moving forward.
The redevelopment plan would allow for more than 30 housing units, and residents complained that there would not be enough parking if the council agreed to allow residential housing.
Councilman Michael Nicosia told concerned residents that the plan only allows residential housing as one possibility, and that it allows the council to negotiate for storage area and recreational space, among many possibilities.
Resident Georgann Polite-Hill was the one resident to speak in favor of the plan. She said, “I suggest we move forward. This has been an eyesore.”
She said that she never has a problem finding parking on Stephens Street, which is near the site.
Longtime township critic and council candidate Vincent Frantantoni said the building has been victimized by intentional neglect, has historical value and is needed for school storage.