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Oft-Delayed Long Branch Oceanfront Project Approved

Townhomes will be built in this lot between Marine Terrace and Ocean Avenue.

LONG BRANCH: An oceanfront townhome project has been approved by the city planning board after being in limbo for over two years.

TDB Associates, Inc.'s proposal to build nine townhome units in a lot between Ocean Avenue and Marine Terrace was approved by the Long Branch Planning Board on Oct. 20.

The Long Branch Council adopted a split zone ordinance earlier this year; the final step needed to settle a lawsuit between the developer and neighboring properties and allow TDB to move forward their plan.

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.

The original plan was also modified to appease the objectors and now includes 9 units, instead of the 11 originally proposed, as two easternmost units on the north and the south sides of the lots were eliminated.

"That allowed the project to be revamped slightly so that there is now a complete turnaround at the base of the development," TDB's attorney Anthony Monzo said at a June 23 Long Branch Council meeting.

Another complaint from neighbors and some planning board members was that it would be difficult for a larger vehicle such as a firetruck to be able to turn around once it enters site.

Monzo said the north and south setbacks on the property were also increased by feet and the third and second floors deck will now have opaque glass so there is "no direct view" of condos to the north or Promenade Beach Club to the south.

Read more from: Long Branch

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