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The former site of a PNC Bank branch at 57 Park St. could be used to expand parking at the municipal building.
ERIN ROLL/ STAFF

BY JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
winters@montclairlocal.news

The town plans to purchase the former PNC Bank building and parking lot at 57 Park St., spending as much as $1.35 million. 

On Oct. 27, the council approved the introduction of an ordinance to purchase the 19,000-square-foot lot “for public purposes, principally but not limited to the provision of necessary additional parking, public facilities and improvements to the municipal building, which is located on the adjoining property at 205 Claremont Ave.”

If passed on second reading, the ordinance authorizes the township to spend up to $1.35 million on the property and $50,000 for expenses for the acquisition, for a total authorization of $1.4 million.

According to tax records, the property, and the now-closed bank building owned by Midlantic National Bank and PNC Bank Realty, are assessed at $755,800. The owners pay $23,777 in taxes annually.

As yet, the property isn’t slated for any specific purpose, said Montclair Communications Director Katya Wowk.

The ordinance itself, along with a caller into the Zoom council meeting, both pointed to parking as its intended future use.

In her call, resident June Raegner questioned why the township would pay almost double what the lot is assessed for.  

“It’s very important that you take your fiduciary duties to our municipality [seriously], including to be spending this enormous amount of money for a property with a modest building that you are going to tear down to put up a parking lot,” Raegner said. She claimed that a neighboring property recently sold close to its assessment. 

Mayor Sean Spiller said they could not comment further due to the confidential nature of the purchase of the property, but pointed to the council’s fiscal management, which has led to a  current Triple A credit rating and a reduction of debt by $60 million over the last eight years.

Wowk said the ordinance allows for the town to pay “up to” $1.35 million for the property; negotiations are still underway.  

“Notion of good fiscal stewardship, in some ways I have to smile. That has been a cornerstone of what we have done, and we will continue to engage practices that move us along that path,” Spiller said.

Councilman Bob Russo said he supports the ordinance as an “investment in Montclair.”

Earlier in the year, before the pandemic, PNC Bank officials reported they planned to shrink the bank’s physical footprint by closing 280 branches — 160 in 2020 and 120 in 2021.