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City Settles Lawsuit With Neighbors of Proposed Townhomes

Townhomes are proposed for this lot between Marine Terrace and Ocean Avenue.

LONG BRANCH: The city has taken the final steps needed to settle a lawsuit between neighbors of a proposed oceanfront townhome project and the developer that wishes to build it.

The Long Branch Council adopted a split zone ordinance during its July 14 meeting which will allow the developer, TDB Associates, Inc., to bring their modified plan, which is proposed for a lot between Ocean Avenue and Marine Terrace, before the city planning board for final approval.

The ordinance deals with a circumstance where a property is essentially bisected by a zoning district line, so a portion of the property is for example in a commercial zone and another portion is a residential zone. This expands that where, in the TDB case, they were separate lots under common ownership and if one of the lots was developed, other would have been land-locked.

Superior Court Judge Lawrence Lawson originally ordered that Long Branch Planning Board no longer had jurisdiction over the site plan for the proposal because of an improper decision rendered by the Long Branch Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) on the rezoning of the lots where the project would be located.

Nearby properties Promenade Beach Club and the Seaview Park Condominium Association filed suit against the Long Branch Zoning Board of Adjustment in 2013 stating that it does not have the authority to change the zoning of sites within the city's redevelopment zones, and that the planning board cannot grant site plan approval for a use not permitted in the zones.

The ZBA allowed two lots to be merged into one to create for the landlocked lot, Lot 7, which was initially designated as a beachfront recreational zone, to be merged with the second lot, Lot 4, to create a residential lot.

Lawson's called the ZBA's decision was "contrary to law and fact" and the actions were "arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable" and that the decision must be reversed. He determined that the lot cannot be zoned residential and the lot merger cannot occur.

Lawson stated that the council must adopt an amendment to its redevelopment plan for the lot to be zoned for residential use and that it must remain beachfront recreational in the meantime.

City Redevelopment Attorney Robert Beckelman said during the June 9 Long Branch Council meeting that the split zone ordinance amendment would do just that.

"It reflects what the city held originally and what was overturned by the court, so it's making clear where this would apply and its also making clear that its not an amendment to the redevelopment plan and that it is meant to apply in the redevelopment area," Beckelman said.

Beckelman said the ordinance will help settle the lawsuit, but is also meant to be a "general ordinance" that could apply to future applications.

TDB revised their plan which will now include 9 units, instead of the 11 originally proposed, as two easternmost units on the north and the south sides of the lots were eliminated.

Other medications were made to the plan and they can be viewed by clicking here.

The council also passed a resolution authorizing the execution of a redevelopment agreement with TDB for the project.

TDB's plan will likely be up for approval by the Long Branch Planning Board in the next few months.

Read more from: Long Branch

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