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Board Votes Down Plan For Long Branch's Church Street School

LONG BRANCH: A developer hoping to revitalize a historic building in the city had his plan rejected by the Long Branch Zoning Board of Adjustment this week.

Jemal's Church Street School, LLC, was looking to build 14 multifamily apartments in the historic Church Street School, located at 465 Church St., but only four of the seven board members present on Aug. 8 voted to approve the project. Five votes were needed to OK the project and give the developer the use variance he sought. Multifamily units are not allowed in the R-3 zone where the Church Street School is located.

Church Street residents have fought against the project and worried that it would ruin the character of their neighborhood and add additional traffic.

Jemal's Church Street School, LLC, closed on the property in 2015 after successfully acquiring it via auction from the Long Branch School District in 2014.

The 16,634 square-foot building, on a 1.45-acre lot, was previously the home of Long Branch Primary School No. 3, but has been vacant for some time.

The family behind Jemals is associated with a 9-million-square-foot portfolio, much of which is the renovation of historic properties in the Washington, D.C. area such as the Wonder Bread Factory, Woodies Building and the Coliseum. Douglas Jemal, currently has two historic buildings from the former Takanassee Beach Club site at his home at 900 Ocean Ave., Long Branch. He is restoring the Captain's House from the 1870s and the 1903 Port Huron House.

The school, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, was built in 1891 so the developer is bound by not just local zoning laws but several layers of bureaucracy for projects at historic sites such as this.

The developer has the right to appeal the zoning board's decision.

Read more from: Long Branch

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