There was an eagerly anticipated meeting at South Orange townhall on wednesday evening. A packed house watched a special commission preside over a discussion about the ongoing Marylawn of Oranges drama between the interested parties. The Sisters of Christian Charity (Marylawn) applied for a demolition permit awhile back for the convent building on their property and then sued the town after a lengthy delay alleging the town has interfered in the demolition and made the sale of the property more difficult.
The attorney for Marylawn/The Sisters’ presented three ‘witnesses’ for their case. They were cross-examined by attorney Janine Bauer who represented a group of objectors that appeared to be spearheaded by the Montrose Historical Society.
Sister Joan Repka, who represented the Sisters of Christian Charity claimed that it was never their intent to demolish the building, but that financial pressures have brought them to this brink, especially since the school closed.
On this blog, I usually make an effort to be as objective as I can and not overly opinionated. That being said, real estate broker, Tom Cupo was the second witness and explained how he marketed the Sisters’ property. In my humble opinion he made a number of remarks that showed his utter contempt and lack of knowledge about South Orange and home values here. He also showed his lack of ‘advocacy’ to the Sisters by stating that they didn’t feel it was necessary to list it on the MLS and he preferred to only use other avenues such as Loopnet, Newspaper ads and his network of developers. Listing the property on the MLS in several capacities (residential, commercial, land…) would have exposed it to a much larger clientele than just the developers who ended up backing out of plans to build (100-unit and more) residential buildings.
Some of Cupo’s remarks included ‘nobody from places like Livingston or Montclair’ would want to move to South Orange. Well I’ve actually sold homes to people in South Orange and Maplewood who came from Montclair. He also referred to the Montrose neighborhood as Melrose.
There was another (in my opinion) more reasoned witness who was an expert on ‘historical neighborhoods.’ There was also discussion of the appraisal values and offer values (numbers).
As the issues were not all presented and I suspect Bauer will have more to say on behalf of the town’s residents, the situation is “TO BE CONTINUED” on August 14. I am very much looking forward to a just conclusion to this. I believe the Sisters should be able to sell their property and get out of their sticky situation in a fair way but also that the town and its’ residents have a right to weigh in on what type of use for this large and critically located property is ‘highest and best.’