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West End Zoning Change Could Spur More Development

LONG BRANCH: Forthcoming changes to zoning of West End could allow several projects to move forward.

The Long Branch Planning Board approved a new zoning plan for West End that would allow residential or institutional, such as schools or houses of worship, to be built above retail units. The new zoning would also allow arts uses in West End such as theaters.

A fire destroyed a Brighton Avenue lot in 2012 that contained apartments above several stores, but because the area is currently zoned for commercial use only, what was once built would not be allowed. Anything that is currently occupying the second floor of West End's commercial structures, is grandfathered in from zoning years ago.

The new zoning would allow a similar development to be rebuilt.

Long Branch Assistant Planning Director Carl Turner said there has also been a "halt" in Chabad of the Shore's litigation against the Long Branch Zoning Board so the zoning in the area could be modified to allow a religious use in West End.

In 2013 Chabad of The Shore application to build synagogue on the former site of an old movie theater was denied by the board. Chabad then sued the board for the decision, but since that time, there have been discussions between the city and Chabad to come up with a compromise.

The new plan would include retail on the first floor and a house of worship on the second floor, but no specific plans have been brought before the planning board yet.

The zoning would also pave the way for New Jersey Repertory Company (NJ Rep) to build a new theater in the former home of the West End School.

NJ Rep would no longer need a use variance to build the theater if the new zoning is adopted by the Long Branch Council at a future meeting

Dave Roberts of Maser Consulting said the new plan would encourage the sharing of existing and new parking spaces between businesses in West End.

"We wanted the West End Design Overlay District to recognize the idea of sharing parking, especially private and public parking so that effectively every parking space, theoretically would be used to its maximum potential," Roberts said.

Roberts said the new theater and the Chabad project will likely include the addition of new parking spaces.

All the projects would need to be approved by the planning board before anything could be built.

"Effectively what this West End Design Overlay District does is it allows for a number of these situations move forward without having to go before the zoning board, but with a pretty long list of design standards all of which would hopefully cause investment in these properties and allow for the board to review them here," Robert said.

The planning board made some changes to language of the overlay district and unanimously agreed to the zoning changes and to send them to the Long Branch Council for approval at a future meeting.

"I'm glad we talked about this," Long Branch Planning Board Chairman Ed Thomas said. "We did a lot of good things tonight."


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