Council delays decision on eminent domain on theater, nightclub: Asbury Park (NJ) Press, 7/20/06

City manager says language in proposed ordinance changed

By Nancy Shields

The [Asbury Park NJ] City Council postponed a decision Wednesday night on the use of eminent domain to acquire the Baronet Theatre and the adjacent Fast Lane nightclub in the 200 block of Fourth Avenue.

City Manager Terence Reidy said the council made that decision because of a wording error in the ordinance. It introduced a corrected version of the ordinance with the public hearing to be held next month. A large crowd had turned out to oppose the eminent domain measure. Twenty people spoke, asking the council to preserve the Baronet.

Councilman Jim Keady said the city should save the Baronet because it is a historic asset, the current owners are operating it and plan on showing $2 movies this summer.

"And I haven't seen concrete plans Asbury Partners has for this block," Keady said.

Asbury Partners, the beachfront developer, asked the city to begin the eminent domain process, saying negotiations broke down with owner Patrick Fasano. Fasano had bought the shuttered properties for $575,000 each on Dec. 22 of last year from Walter Burns and Maurice Roberson.

According to documents provided to City Council members, Asbury Partners offered Fasano $390,000 for the Fast Lane and $325,000 for the theater.

Fasano said Wednesday he wants to reach a deal with Asbury Partners to develop the entire block but does not believe Asbury Partners will allow him to do what he wants — entertainment, affordable residential lofts and parking. He said he believed Asbury Partners wants higher density residential units on the block.

The appraisals from Asbury Partners on the properties were $225,000 for the 500-seat Baronet and $290,000 for the Fast Lane.

One of Fasano's partners, Dennis Dubrow, announced recently that the 1913 theater is open for movies and some live entertainment this summer. He said Nelson Page of the Galaxy Movie Theater chain will operate the movies.

The Fast Lane voluntarily shut down two summers ago under its previous owners after three stabbings and a shooting.

Fasano also owns the Wonder Bar at Fifth and Ocean, which he helped renovate the past two years.

The eminent domain action does not pertain to a third property in the block, the popular Asbury Lanes, owned by Ralph Ayles' family since 1962.

Ayles said he received a registered letter from Asbury Partners Monday making an offer on his property. He would not say how much the offer was but said he believed it to be "ridiculously low."

Asbury Park Press: www.app.com