Building Bergen Newsletter May 2021

In this issue: Congressman Gottheimer on the Economic Outlook for Northern New Jersey  •  An Interview with Frank Bivona, Mayor of Franklin Lakes  •  Commercial Real Estate Purchase: The Due Diligence Process

josh gotteheimer

Congressman Josh Gottheimer, representing New Jersey’s 5th District, shares his thoughts on the economic outlook for Northern New Jersey as the region emerges from the grip of the pandemic. Click here

An interview with Frank Bivona – Mayor of Franklin Lakes 
frank bivona

For Mayor Frank Bivona of Franklin Lakes, who is serving his 11th year as mayor, the past year has had its challenges – both novel, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and par for the course in a community like his. 

Says Bivona, whose current term ends in 2022, the Coronavirus has been “a cloud that hangs over every town.”  Initially, the pandemic shut down many businesses and offices, but the borough, with a population of 10,500, responded to the challenges.  The Mayor has kept Borough Hall open as much as possible, and he has worked with the school district to keep schools open, though that has presented its own set of challenges.  A few eating establishments have closed, but most have been able to rise to the occasion.

Franklin Lakes has had one of its busiest construction years in quite some time, an unanticipated result of the pandemic.  The community has added more homes and bigger homes.  Says Bivona, “A lot of people want to invest in Franklin Lakes.”  There has been new development in the downtown area and many homeowners have been improving their homes.  The demand for homes in Franklin Lakes, high for awhile, rose substantially as people clamored for houses.  “COVID has been positive for suburbs like ours,” observes Bivona.  “People looking to sell have been very fortunate.”

For Mayor Bivona and his community, development is a balancing act.  He says, “We want to encourage development, but we want it to reflect who we are.”  The borough was disappointed to lose its High Mountain Golf Course when the owners sold it to Toll Brothers for development.  The land was zoned for residential development, due to the Mount Laurel doctrine (which prohibits economic discrimination against the poor by the state and municipalities in the exercise of their land use powers), but the borough succeeded in negotiating for low-density development, including 60 single-family homes, 175 townhouses and 55 affordable units; density is about two units per acre.  “We would have wanted to keep the golf course, but we have made the best of it.”  The new development is about two-thirds complete.

Also going up in Franklin Lakes is a new Sunrise Assisted Living Facility.  The zoning board had originally denied the request for building permits, but the developers appealed and won, so the 52-unit apartment complex has replaced single-family homes.

Even with all the new development, a priority for Franklin Lakes is retaining – and even, increasing – its open spaces.  A particular point of pride is the Franklin Lakes Nature Preserve.

Commercial Real Estate Purchase: The Due Diligence Process

By Joseph L. Basralian, Esq. and Robert Abbott

Purchasing commercial real estate is no easy task. The phrase “buyer beware” is true. A responsible and smart investor does a complete investigation on the property before closing. Usually, the due diligence contingency is anywhere between 30 and 90 days.  During this time, the buyer needs to do a comprehensive evaluation that first begins by gathering critical information such as the survey, environmental report, site plan, building blueprints, existing leases, evaluation of applicable zoning and the ordinance to determine use, parking, and future potential for expansion, etc.

Verifying property size, tax assessment, property tax, and special assessment can be reviewed through town information. If the property is income producing, a profit and loss statement will verify expenses and income. Tax returns over two years should support the profit and loss statement. It is essential to check with the town, through an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request, to determine if the property has any code violations, open permits and fire inspection requirements, as well as any site plan approvals and variances which were granted previously for the property.  It is also helpful to obtain a zoning letter from the town which would set forth the zoning for the current use of the property.

Hiring and using trusted professionals is critical.  Physical inspection, pest inspection, tank sweep, and environmental research need to be done.  A Phase 1 Environmental Assessment will determine if there is an environmental issue to be investigated.  In most cases, lending institutions require a Phase 1 Environmental Assessment.

Make sure you work with an experienced real estate professional and attorney to help you navigate through this process.

JL and RA

Joseph Basralian is President of Winne Banta Basralian & Kahn, P.C. He can be reached at, or (201) 562-1070. Founded in 1922, Winne Banta Basralian & Kahn is one of the oldest law firms in New Jersey and one of the largest full-service firms in Bergen County. 

Robert Abbott is Broker/Owner with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Abbott Realtors. He can be reached at or (201) 891-2223.

If you have questions concerning BUILDING BERGEN, or have ideas for what you would like to see in future newsletters, contact Alan Levine at

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