Orange Reservoir Surrounded by Pending Litigation
County's plan to lease the property by Orange on hold pending West Orange litigation
The waters of the Orange Reservoir aren't as tranquil as they seem — the reservoir is tangled in legal disputes over whether the property, located in West Orange but owned by Orange, is taxable.
The township of West Orange and the city of Orange are in litigation over whether the reservoir should be taxable and if it was being taxed.
Those taxes would be paid to West Orange.
Mayor Robert Parisi said the litigation has been an ongoing issue because the city of Orange did not pay taxes on the property, "We always felt they should. But we do believe we're getting close to a resolution, we're trying to get it resolved the best we can to support the interests of the town."
The reservoir was previously used to provide drinking water for Orange but now functions as a recreational area.
Orange Mayor Eldridge Hawkins Jr. said the city of Orange was working out an agreement to lease the space to Essex County to use for recreational water activities.
The lease agreement, though, was voted down by the Orange City Council last week because of pending litigation surrounding the property.
"The council's objections primarily are not that much relative to the terms of the agreement, but more so the collateral issues that exist from the litigation," Hawkins said.
Orange City council members could not be reached for comment.
Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr. has been eying the property for years and said he has plans to create jogging paths and water activities, such as kayaking and paddle boating in the reservoir to complement the surrounding 36-acre South Mountain Recreation Complex that includes Turtle Back Zoo and McLoone's Boathouse Restaurant.
Under the lease agreement, the county would lease the reservoir from Orange for 20 years. Orange would receive $75,000 a year for the first 10 years and $85,000 for the following 10 years, according to county officials.
DiVincenzo said the council vote was a "road bump" and was hopeful the agreement would be approved in the future.
"I think that once we resolve the pending litigation regarding the tax problem, we'll be able to put it back on the agenda," Hawkins said.
The city of Orange and the county, however, have not always been on the best terms. Hawkins sued the county for $1 million in April for improperly using the space and failing to compensate the city.
He said the lease agreement, once passed, would settle the pending dispute with the county.
"It is my intention to move forward with the agreement with the county executive," Hawkins said. "It's a very good project for the county and the arrangement would purport the city of Orange to receive additional revenue in excess of a million dollars over the next 20 years which will be really helpful to our budget."