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BREAKING: Monmouth Mall Rezoning Approved

EATONTOWN: An ordinance creating a new mixed use regional center zone where the Monmouth Mall currently sits was approved by the Eatontown Council on Sept. 14.

The 5-1 vote came following a lengthy public hearing where the majority of the residents in attendance spoke out against the ordinance, with most stating that the increased traffic and 700 apartments would negatively impact the borough. Councilman Anthony Talerico was the only member of the council to vote against the ordinance.

The ordinance is similar to one that was voted down earlier this year, but featured a scaled-down version of the town center with more restrictions.

Among the changes described by Connelly and Borough Planner John Maczuga are:

• A reduction in the number of apartments from 800 units to 700 units

• Kushner Companies' affordable housing obligation drops from 15 percent to 12.5 percent, thereby lowering the number of onsite affordable housing units from 141 to 100 or offsite units from 120 to 88. Maczuga said there is a chance the Kushner Companies could acquire an offsite apartment complex so the affordable housing could be placed there.

• The hotel and rooftop golf course have been eliminated from the zoning as permitted uses.

• No private or public schools or houses of worship will be allowed on the site.

• The front yard setbacks (from Routes 35 and 36 and Wyckoff Road) have been increased to 125 feet and all other yard setback have been increased to 150 feet.

• The maximum building height allowed has been reduced from 150 feet (the original proposed size of the hotel) to 85 feet.

• The buffers must be at least 75 feet wide on any side yard that includes mixed use.

• Recreational entertainment uses shall not exceed 50 percent of the gross indoor or outdoor leasable space of the regional center. That total does not include the Loews Movie Theater.

Some permitted uses in the ordinance are retail, medical office buildings, restaurants and taverns, pre-school and day care centers and recreational/amusement/entertainment uses such as aquariums, arcades, miniature golf and bowling alleys.

Maczuga said that he estimates that the project could bring between 156-179 school-age children to the borough, depending on the number of 2-bedroom apartments and the number of affordable housing units.

Councilwoman Donna Mazzella-Diedrichsen, a former member of the Eatontown Board of Education, said enrollment at the schools is currently low and that the schools could handle the extra students.

Borough Engineer Ed Herrman said a preliminary traffic report showed that the surrounding roadways could handle the increased traffic and that appropriate safety measures would be taken on the nearby side roads. Connelly agreed.

"I don't think the apartments are going to generate the traffic everyone is concerned about," Connelly said.

Many residents in attendance disagreed and said 700 new apartments was too high a number for a borough that already has nearly 50 percent of its residents renting and not owning their residences.

"I really don't think 700 apartments is a compromise," resident Joan Williams said.

Another resident, Valerie Sapienza, said 251 residents signed an online petition against the passage of the ordinance. Resident Sarah Breslow is another who spoke against the zoning change.

"This law is a developer's dream and a resident's nightmare," Breslow said.

Other residents were upset because the spillover crowd was forced to watch a live stream of the meeting at the Eatontown Fire Department next door to borough hall. They complained that the video feed kept going in and out and that the conditions inside the firehouse were less than favorable.

There were some residents who spoke in favor of the ordinance including the owner of Ashley Furniture, located on Route 35, who said the development would be good for the borough.

Councilman Kevin Gonzalez said there were "negatives and positives" with the ordinance but he felt that its passage would be "the best decision for all the residents of Eatontown."

Councilwoman Virginia East, who also voted in favor of the ordinance, said she has spoken to nearly 400 residents who are for and against the ordinance and said she did not take their feelings "lightly" and said she listened to everybody.

Talerico said he is in favor of mixed use but had some concerns with the ordinance because of the "linking of residential units to commercial development." He said the definitions in the ordinance concerning what is considered new construction and preexisting were "ambiguous" and that is why he voted not to adopt it.

Connelly said the new zoning could help bring a project to the borough that will generate revenue and rejuvenate the mall. He said the mall project combined with upcoming projects at Fort Monmouth will bring a billion dollars of revenue.

The next step is for Kushner Companies to present a site plan to the Eatontown Planning Board, which will then schedule a date for the developer to present the plan.

Read more from: Eatontown

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