At the end of May 2014, we detailed a burgeoning legal spat, over the legacy Schering-Plough facility in Union, New Jersey, on Morris Avenue (see at right). Merck has vacated the place, and Kean University wants to get its hands on it. But that would take it off the real estate tax rolls.
Prior to the Kean University interest, it is claimed that Merck had agreed in principle to sell it to Russo Investments — an entity that would keep it on the taxable, and tax-paying, parcel lists, in Union. Then enters (stage right), an heir to the vast Kean fortune, in New Jersey. It seems that running with the land was a covenant that should it be sold, the Keans had a right of first refusal — via a trust which (it is claimed, again) expired in the 1990s. Even so, the Kean heirs have indicated their desire to exercise this right, and then sell on to Kean University. The property would nicely complement the existing Kean U. campus space — as it is dead across the street from the main campus. Thus the escalation in rhetoric, and blue-backed legal pleadings. Smile.
From NJ.com, we learn that Union township’s mayor is pretty surprised — and disappointed — that a court is essentially allowing the sale to the University — contingent only on a final court order that the same is proper (i.e., that the covenant still runs with the land, through the trust — to the Kean heirs at law).
And so — it does not look particularly good for all the other residents of Union, who rely on those tax revenues, for public school funding, snow plowing and garbage pickup. Here’s the bit — and do go read it all (as a story of more legacy Schering-Plough rust-creation, on the old iron shelves of the nation’s medicine cabinet):
. . . .However, on June 30, Judge Katherine Dupuis granted the university’s request to pursue the sale, and enter a purchase contract. The university, however, cannot not close on the property pending the outcome of the lawsuit.
“To our surprise it seems that they are moving forward,” township [Union, NJ] Mayor Clifton People said. “They can do everything except complete the actual sale. . . .”
He estimated that the township would lose $4 million in property taxes annually if the university takes the property. Public institutions, such as universities, do not pay property taxes. . . .
Much could yet change — as the lawsuits wind their way through the byzantine New Jersey state court system — so we will keep you posted. [Go out and have a Sunday-style adventure! Ice cream on the beach or biking in the leaves. . . I will as well.] And, do go see the new posthumous Roger Ebert documentary (in limited release this weekened) — very good stuff, for all movie fans — and fans of a vastly gentle, but searing, intellect. What he wrote, at age 20 (on the University of Illinois daily paper’s editorial page), about the “4 Little Girls” bombing in Birmingham that year — will resonate with you, to your dying day. I promise.