By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger
In the December 4, 2014 issue of the Coaster is a column called “Did You Know?” by reporter Bonnie Graham. The focus of the piece was to explain the functions of the Ocean Grove Home Owners Association. Ms. Graham interviewed HOA President Ann Horan and wasted no time in bringing up the controversial North End Redevelopment Plan (NERP).
In responding to Graham’s questions about the NERP, Horan made an unforced error and got the facts wrong,* resulting in a mild tempest at the subsequent Township Committee meeting on December 22, 2014. The NERP, after all, is a sensitive and critical subject in Ocean Grove.
Between Horan’s embarrassing factual mis-step in the Coaster and the reaction to it before the Neptune governing body, our interest in revisiting the story of the NERP was aroused. On top of that, Graham made a comment in the same article that “CMA COO JP Gradone had asserted last August, 2014, at the legislative breakfast meeting, that the North End redevelopment project, which had been on the back burner for some time, is now on the front burner.” Really ?
On January 23, 2015, Blogfinger asked Gradone about that quote, and he said, “We are currently in discussion with the Developer regarding the project.” So there is currently some life in the process after many years of mystery, and therefore it’s time for the public to pay attention once again. It should be noted that work cannot go ahead on the plan without a signed Redevelopment Agreement between the Township Committee negotiators (Committee-persons Jahn and Bishop) and the developers.
By way of background, in the year 2006, the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, owners of the undeveloped 2.37 acre North End property, decided to bring the desolate area back to its previous life where it was a lively place with a hotel, a cinema, attractions and shopping. But one thing stood in the way—-zoning; it was zoned for 13 single family homes.
So the developers of the property, including the CMA and others involved, created an end-run and convinced the Township Planning Board to redefine the area as a zone “in need of redevelopment,” in accordance with the State Local Redevelopment and Housing Law. This meant that the property was so “blighted,” that local government had to take over its management. That new designation would allow a mixed use community to be built.
The design of a redevelopment was turned over to professional planners in Middletown to come up with a ” framework” for a mixed use community at the OG North End. Ultimately, a much more detailed plan would have to be done before any construction could begin. Two planners signed the NERP, but no engineers did.
The developers of the plan include the OGCMA and a partnership called WAVE (see below.)
In early 2008, the HPC, the CMA, and the OG Homeowners Association provided input which resulted in some changes in the NERP, and that was the last time that there were any changes made. The Planning Board approved the proposal, and in March, 2008, the Township Committee wrote the NERP into law. A lawsuit was filed in opposition, and that held things up for awhile, but in 2010, Neptune Township won the suit.
The Plan includes a hotel with 80 rooms, 85 residential units consisting mostly of condos, some single family homes, a “below grade” parking deck and about 20 surface parking spaces. Parking is supposed to comply with RSIS State standards. A 99 year renewable lease was part of the deal. The design was supposed to look Victorian.
You can read the official NERP document at the Clerk’s office in the Neptune Township Municipal Building. It is no longer available on the Township web site, but we have located a link (below) where you can read the entire planning report. **
For a variety of undisclosed reasons, the project has been dormant. Among the theories are that a bad economy has been inhibitory and/or there have been difficulties getting all the approvals.
In 2011 the HOA passed a resolution asking that the NERP be scaled back. They offered some constructive ideas. There is a link below reporting on their recommendations. Unfortunately, nothing came of it.
In 2012 there were objections raised by the soon-to-be-elected Committeewoman Marybeth Jahn regarding the size, scope and other details of the project. Ms. Jahn spoke aggressively of changing the NERP in a totally retro direction, and everybody cheered. It should also be noted that two other Committeemen were sympathetic to downsizing the project—-Eric Houghtaling and Randy Bishop.
Evidently buyers’ remorse was echoing through the town of Ocean Grove. But not a single change was adopted despite these outcries. Our October 2012 piece on this subject is linked below and is critically important reading material for every Ocean Grover.
In Sept. 2012, the following was reported in Blogfinger, covering the year-end Labor Day CMA meeting: “CMA Trustee Douglas E. Arpert responded to a questioner who asked the status of the North End development of condos, homes and a hotel. The CMA and a company called WAVE (Wesley Atlantic Village Enterprises run by attorney William Gannon) are co-developers. Arpert told Blogfinger they hope to conclude a redevelopment agreement with Neptune Township by the end of the year and to break ground in 2013.”
But, of course, one month later, all of that changed with Sandy, and the developers planned to go back to the drawing board to “reassess” the plan. That made sense, because environmental regulations after the superstorm were going to change how things must be done in environmentally sensitive areas. That was the last time we heard anything about NERP—until now.
So, getting back to the aforementioned HOA President Ann Horan’s December, 2014 Coaster interview, she said that the current “North End Committee [and she listed the current members’ names] have expressed the HOA’s concerns regarding the project to the Neptune Township Committee, and their efforts helped to persuade the Committee to revise the redevelopment plan by reducing the number of proposed hotel rooms/condominium units, limiting the size of the structures in the site, providing for single family homes, and including an off street parking facility”
The problem with Horan’s December public statement in the Coaster is that she gave the false impression that the current North End Committee has been “active” in eliciting recent changes in the Redevelopment Plan. But, as noted, there have been no changes in NERP since 2008—-6 years ago.
Horan’s statement was of sufficient concern that it was brought up at the Dec. 22, 2014 Township Committee meeting where her remarks were discussed publicly, and Committeeman Randy Bishop found it necessary to make a public statement about it (see below.) The Township Committee’s minutes are posted at Neptunetownship.org
The following is taken from the Committee minutes of Dec. 22, 2014:
“Jack Breden, 94 1⁄2 Heck Avenue, read a recent Coaster article regarding the Ocean Grove Homeowners Association concerns regarding the North End Redevelopment Plan. The President of the Association, Ann Horan, is quoted that the Redevelopment Plan was changed based on recommendations from the Association. The article goes on to state that the Association got numerous elements of the Plan changed. Mr. Bishop stated changes were made to the Plan based on Association input before the Plan was adopted in 2008. There have been no changes made to the Plan since it was adopted in 2008.”
Because of the importance of the Redevelopment Plan to the town of Ocean Grove, “Horangate” has given us a heads-up to bring the plan’s story out of mothballs and into the public eye once again. Concerned citizens need the background to assess whatever may be coming our way re: NERP.
Regarding starting work on the project, Committeeman Eric Houghtaling said three weeks ago, “I know that there are many, many things that need to be worked out before anything can be done on the Redevelopment project.”
Township Clerk Rick Cuttrell said earlier this month that he thought that the project had gotten all necessary approvals, including NJDEP, but he wasn’t certain and would find out. We have not heard back yet on that inquiry.
So, now that the cat is out of the bag once again, and the history of the HOA’s involvement is cleared up, we will consider a series of more detailed Blogfinger articles about the North End Redevelopment and what the future will bring.
It’s time to pay attention again, because anything new in this story, even just a dorsal fin in the water, must be made public. Currently the NERP is no different in size, scope or specifics than it was in 2008 when there were many misgivings in town about local congestion, environmental impact, parking, and other quality of life issues. The project will affect the future of Ocean Grove in a major way.
RELEVENT LINKS AND NOTES BELOW:
1. North end plan from 2008**
2. Dec 13, 2010: BF “basic fact guide” about NERP Link to 2010 BF review
3. May, 2011: HOA passes a resolution which results in no changes to the NERP HOA NERP resolution 2011 BF post link
4. October 2012: Very important article which all Grovers should read. Blogfinger was the last OG entity to plead for a reduction in the project. Link: BF Oct 12, 2012 North End article
BF quote from the Oct. 2012 article linked above (a very important piece written shortly before Sandy:) “If this is built, it will be the most massive construction project in Ocean Grove’s modern history. Its impact on all of us will be substantial, and that impact will begin at the opening gun, with the start of construction. ”
If you use the BF search engine on the top of our home page, just type in “North end redevelopment plan” for more details.
WANTED: Experienced researchers to help BF in assessing and investigating this very important subject in great detail looking back and forward. You won’t get the details unless you, the people, get it yourselves.