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New Plan For Monmouth Mall To Be Presented In March

EATONTOWN: New plans for the Monmouth Mall will be presented to the borough planning board in the coming months.

Borough Engineer Ed Herrman of T&M said the mall owners, Kushner Companies and their development partner Rouse Properties, submitted the plans just before the new year.

"They made their submission of their plans and that was deemed complete within the last few weeks," Herrman said. "They are tentatively set for a March 5 hearing date."

History of the Project

Kushner Cos. became the sole owner of the mall after purchasing Vornado Realty Trust's 50 percent interest in the summer of 2015. Following their purchase of the property, they presented a plan in February, 2016 to turn the mall into and indoor/outdoor mixed use development known as the Monmouth Town Center. In addition to the retail already in place, Kushner Companies was also looking to add a residential component, recreational uses, office space, healthcare facilities, a hotel, a multipurpose plaza area and a market.

The Eatontown Council voted down an ordinance that would have changed the zoning in the area to allow this development to be built following site plan approval from the Eatontown Planning Board. Their intention was to scale the project down, increase buffers to nearby homes and make other adjustments.

However, before the borough's professionals could begin crafting a new ordinance, a representative from the developer announced at a public meeting last month that the mall would remain "as is."

New Plans

Later, the Kushner Companies did end up stating that they had a revised plan for the mall, which ended up becoming the concept announced in May.

The new plan includes the creation of an indoor culinary marketplace, Culinary Heights, which will feature upscale restaurants, themed eateries, wine bars and tea boutiques, a public facing town square, a streetscape with prominent retail and dining options and unique landscaping and architectural deigns. Kushner Companies has teamed with Rouse Properties for the new plan.

Rouse Properties has a portfolio which includes projects across the country where they took an existing structure and repurposed and modernized it, including the conversion of several indoor malls into open air retail shopping areas.

The Current Situation and Lawsuit

A new ordinance, which created a new mixed use regional center zone where the Monmouth Mall currently sits, was approved by the Eatontown Council on Sept. 14, 2016. 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.

A group of Eatontown residents who oppose the ordinance to rezone the Monmouth Mall filed a lawsuit against the borough in an effort to overturn in October, 2016 and the trial was held last summer. However, the judge has not yet rendered a decision.

The three-count complaint was filed in Monmouth County Superior Court by residents Evelyn Guerra, Judith Bretzger, Barbara Denegar and Sara Breslow and seeks a ruling to declare the ordinance null and void due to "violations of the Municipal Land Use law, procedural deficiencies and violations of the Open Public Meetings Act," according to the complaint.

The complaint alleges that people were turned away from council meeting room when it reached its 130-person capacity and were asked to watch a live stream of the meeting next door at the Eatontown Fire Department. The suit states that the livestream did not work properly and that those in attendance could not hear or see the meeting for long periods of time.

The plaintiffs also claim that the council never made a formal motion to vote on the ordinance and that it should be declared "null and void" as a result.

The final count states that the new zone "adversely impacts, the plaintiffs' property rights and property owned by them."

Read more from: Eatontown

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