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Church Street School Developer Appeals Board's Denial of Plan

LONG BRANCH: A developer is appealing the local zoning board's decision to deny their plan for a historic structure in the city.

Jemal's Church Street School, LLC has taken the Long Branch Zoning Board of Adjustment to Monmouth County Superior Court for voting down a plan to turn the historic Church Street School into 14 multifamily apartments. The group claims the denial is too restrictive and will not allow the property to be redeveloped, therefore they are asking the court to grant site plan approval and a use variance for the project.

Only four of the seven board members present on Aug. 8, 2016 voted to approve the project. Five votes were needed to OK the project and give the developer the use variance they 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.


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