This is the Aurora which went from a hotel to a single family residence. That was in keeping with the future of Ocean Grove as has been the understanding in town. Blogfinger file photo.
By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger
If Mary’s 9,000 square foot 2 1/2 story “Victorian” facility is built on those two merged lots on one of the Grove’s most important historic streets, then that place will join an exclusive club consisting of two properties. The other one is the gray “Victorian” building on Ocean Avenue which some call a “Greek Temple” while others call it “The Bank.” Mary’s Place will get its own nickname eventually.
When people walk by Mary’s Place, they won’t admire its beauty; instead they will ask, “Who was responsible for allowing this out-of-place building to be constructed in this quaint, historic, residential town? ” They will ask why two fine Victorian single family houses were not placed there instead, like we now have on the Pathway. And they will see the parking problems and congestion due to the 10 clients staying there, the staff who will be needed to maintain the place, the visitors, and the rest of the support team who teach yoga, etc. Then there will be the deliveries, laundry trucks, garbage pickups, etc.
This quickly arranged project will become an endless fountain of frustration and cynicism for citizens who are made to jump through hoops and experience long delays to get permission for projects at their homes in town. Historians will wonder what happened to the idea that the future of Ocean Grove will be more single family houses. And for those who worry about the consistent and fair enforcement of ordinances and statutes, they will wonder how this project got shoehorned into the state definitions for community residences and shelters.
It is clear from the Blogfinger readers’ comments and our poll that many Grovers want an independent look at this Mary’s Place zoning decision. The rush to break ground in October means that any opposition must occur now. The only way to stop it is for a lawyer who represents the citizens to take it to court and request an order to “show cause.” The goal would be a temporary restraint to halt any work (order to cease and desist) while a judge reviews the statutes and decides if the zoning officer read the statute too broadly in allowing this project and to decide if proper procedures were utilized. The judge can then have time to arrange a hearing to evaluate the facts. This way the citizens will get an impartial evaluation of the situation.
Who will take the lead on this legal effort? It could be the Township Committee, representing the citizens, and asking the Township attorney to go to court and get the cease and desist order. The Committee can do this because they were not involved in the zoning decision.
The other possibilities include the OG Home Owners Association hiring a lawyer on behalf of the homeowners in town , or an individual or group of citizens can band together and represent the rest of us. They could, if needed, do a fund raiser for legal fees. Where are the Main Avenue neighbors on this controversy?
This project, if allowed to go forward, threatens the town of Ocean Grove, because it indicates that our town values are open to compromise and are not trustworthy. This translates into potential effects on town pride, real estate values, and future similar projects that will point to this precedent as reason for their own projects to be approved.