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Fire-Damaged West End Businesses, Apartments Rebuild OK'd By Planning Board

LONG BRANCH: A missing chunk of West End will be restored after the owner of a building lost to a large fire was given approval to rebuild.

The Long Branch Planning Board approved a project to a 38.5-foot, 4-story building with two retail spaces on the first floor and 12 apartments on the remaining floors at 57-61 Brighton Avenue. The owner, Martin Grubman, is replacing what was previously there before a Feb. 13, 2012 fire destroyed his building and the surrounding businesses.

The original building had three floors and more retail space, but it will now have the exact same number of apartments after the plans were slightly modified to include more 1-bedroom units than originally proposed, following some comments from the board.

The board was divided on the proposed project at the last hearing on Jan. 19 because there are no on-site parking spaces available while 53 are required by the city. In the past, the businesses and renters used a parking lot in the rear of the building and on-street parking.

Grubman's attorney, Thomas Hirsch, said he tried to reach a deal with several nearby property owner to share spaces but was unable to do so. He also said he tried to reach a deal with the city to lease spaces in the rear parking area, but was ultimately told by officials that it was not going to happen.

"We've gone down every avenue that we can fro try to find parking," Hirsch said. "We went to 15 different properties and either received a negative response or no response."

The West End Overlay zone was created with the intention of allowing smaller projects, such as Grubman's, to share parking with larger parcels in the area, but still calls for the parking requirements.

Board member member Michael Destefano said he was in favor of the project and that he feared that if this project, or a similar, was not approved, the hole left in the retail front along Brighton Avenue following the fire would never be filled.

Richard Honymar, another board member, said he was not concerned with the lack of parking.

"He's replacing what had been there for 30 years," Honymar said. "It will have no more impact than it did before."

The board ultimately voted in favor of approving the application by a vote of 8-1 with board member Esther Cohen casting the lone dissenting vote.

Board member Kathleen Billings said she wanted to see Grubman make every effort to continue find a way to find additional parking for the site.

After the meeting, Grubman said he was excited to see the project given a green light.

"I'm just so thrilled," Grubman said.

Read more from: Long Branch

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