Toms River will take possession of the Red Carpet Inn, a motel in downtown Toms River that is notorious for issues with drugs, prostitution and other police matters.
The township council, on Tuesday night, unanimously voted in favor of either purchasing or condemning the motel using eminent domain. In either case – whether the motel’s owner is willing or unwilling to sell – the township will be obligated to pay for the property. The council introduced two ordinances: one to authorize the purchase or taking of the property, and another to finance it. The financing ordinance calls for the appropriation of $4,800,000 to purchase the site, with bonding for $4,560,000.
The motel property, which has garnered more than 750 calls to police since 2015, is one piece of a larger downtown redevelopment plan that will place more emphasis on the waterfront area.
“It’s been a public nuisance and presents a problem if we want the redevelopment plan implemented,” said Councilman Maurice “Mo” Hill. “I think it was a good move tonight by this council, and I just want everyone to be aware that this is a process that has been evolving for the past year or so.”
The township has designed a large-scale redevelopment plan for the downtown area, which will be detailed in another report from Toms River Shorebeat this week. For the purposes of the motel, the plan calls for the structure to be part of a pedestrian walkway made up of retail stores, which will connect to the larger downtown area north of Water Street. The plan also includes floodwater management to protect the area. Ultimately, however, crime and public safety issues prompted the council to act decisively to take the property.
“People will want to walk around the area,” said Councilman Daniel Rodrick.
Council President Brian Kubiel said he has received some feedback from residents against the plan, but believes the cost of the purchase is justified to rid the township of the issues the presence of the business has spurred.
The purchase will also come on the heels of the recent council election, where three new members ran on a platform of limiting development and reducing nuisance issues in town.
“When I had decided to run, living in ward four, it was something I was very concerned with,” Councilman Terrance Turnbach said of the motel site. “It needed to be addressed. Tonight shows that all of us, no matter what party you’re a part of, can come together and work together on something that’s going to improve Toms River.”
In November, the motel site was formally declared a nuisance under state anti-crime statutes. According to police records, officers have responded to over 750 incidents at the location since 2015, many of which involved serious offenses including narcotics, weapons and theft, officials have previously said. A raid at the motel in November netted 15 arrests.
“[Police] responding 750 times is unacceptable,” Turnbach said.
The authorization ordinance and financing ordinance both must be voted on a second time for final passage. A public hearing will also be conducted on the matter at the next council meeting.