The Herbertsville Deli and Meat Market, once a staple in the northern half of town known for its friendly faces and fresh meats and seafood, fell into disrepair after being largely abandoned by its new owner – and as the situation worsens, officials are deciding what actions to take.
It has been more than three years since Shorebeat last reported on the status of the deli, located at 430 Herbertsville Road. Until recently, nothing has happened at the site since that report. The building has sat empty, deteriorating with no sign of any intent on the part of the property owner to improve the site. Township officials say the owner, an LLC that tracks back to a liquor store in Saddle River, N.J., has not returned their calls. Likewise, multiple calls from a reporter to the presumed owners of the building went unreturned.
In recent months, township officials have taken a much closer look at the property and a number of alleged safety and health conditions that violate building codes. Joanne Bergin, the township’s business administrator, said the deli was the subject of a hearing before the Property Maintenance Board in February. That board hears cases regarding property maintenance code issues and has the power to recommend remedial action or the demolition of a structure. If demolition is favored, the decision goes before the township council, which must later approve a demolition contract and place a lien on the parcel. No representatives from the owners of the deli property attended the meeting.
“The owners have not been in touch with us about their plans for the building,” said Bergin.
At one time, Mayor John Ducey said the owners of the property were seeking to purchase a license in order to open a liquor store at the site, but the township was not offering one for sale at the time. It is unknown if the owner attempted to purchase a license privately. The current owner purchased the site from its longtime proprietor in 2006, and continued operating it for several years until shutting it down for “renovations.” A sign announcing the renovations was eventually removed. The building’s property taxes have been dutifully paid and are current, records show.
Files collected by township building officials and obtained by Shorebeat show the extreme deterioration of the building. The report, generated Feb. 22, 2022, indicated that the structure had become so dangerous that firefighters were not to enter it should a fire break out. Motorists traveling along Herbertsville Road may have noticed a square box, painted red, with a white “X” in the middle attached to the building. This marking tells firefighters they should limit their response to “exterior operations only,” the report said. The owner was ordered to place the markings on the building by the township’s fire marshal.
The electricity was removed in 2015, and within the last several weeks, a number of other utilities were removed, including gas service and a water connection to the BTMUA. A propane tank that once supported a refill service has also been removed.
The report noted numerous holes in the building where there was evidence of rodent entry. Protective painting on the exterior is chipped and actively flaking off, and in some areas the outer wall itself has withered away, exposing the framing of the building. Additionally, framing under HVAC units mounted on the roof is deteriorating as well, putting into question the integrity of the roof. More holes were found by inspectors in the outer walls near the roof line, and it is likely that the roof is leaking.
The interior of the building was surveyed in Dec. 2021 for its annual fire inspection, which showed sanitation issues, including debris strewn about the building and a decaying ceiling.
The property maintenance board adopted an order instructing the owner to repair the exterior and secure the building within 10 days, and make plans to submit a formal engineering report within 30 days. The exterior has not been improved, and it is unknown whether the owners hired an engineer to inspect the site.
The matter is expected to be taken up again at a future board meeting, at which point there is a chance that a demolition order could be recommended.