Story and photos by Charles Layton
After years of ignoring neighbors’ complaints and defying citations by Neptune Code Enforcement, years of bitter haggling with Township officials and months of delays in the face of a court order, Marshall Koplitz signed an agreement on Thursday that commits him to restore the Park View Inn as a hotel with kitchen and banquet facilities.
In exchange, the Township agreed to settle outstanding legal issues regarding the Park View, including complaints and fines.
The Park View, at 23 Sea View Avenue in Ocean Grove, is owned by Koplitz and his brother Elliott Koplitz under the corporate name 23 Seaview Holdings, LLC, based in Englewood Cliffs, NJ.
The consent order, approved by Municipal Court Judge Robin Wernik, requires the owners to undertake the building’s renovation in five phases. Failure to comply at any point would trigger a fine of at least $35,000.
Phase one is to prepare architectural plans for a hotel with 31 guest rooms, a commercial kitchen and a dining room/banquet hall. These must be submitted to the Township zoning officer and to the Historic Preservation Commission for approval. Applying for bank financing is also required as part of this phase.
Phase two requires an application, complete with plans, to the Township Construction Department.
Phases three and four deal with satisfying various legal conditions, submission of mechanical drawings and the commencement of construction.
Phase five sets time limits for completion of the work. It requires the owners to obtain a certificate of occupancy within 12 to 18 months after the issuance of construction permits.
Bill Doolittle, Neptune’s director of code and enforcement, said the agreement is “effective today,” meaning Thursday. He said the court will affix its official stamp on Monday and the order will then be submitted to the county.
The Township’s struggle to force Koplitz to maintain the Park View in accordance with the law dates at least as far back as 2007, when the Township first took him to court over code violations. Neighbors signed a petition in June of last year urging that something be done; the petition stated that the Park View appeared to have been abandoned “for the past six years” and was in such poor condition that it could “become a fire problem.”
On March 24 of this year, Judge Wernik ordered Marshall Koplitz to reach an agreement with the Township over the long list of outstanding code violations. Negotiations dragged on interminably, punctuated by defiant and profane outbursts from Koplitz.
However, following their appearance in court on Thursday and the signing of the consent order, Koplitz and his attorney, Michelle Lamar, were seen laughing and conversing amicably with Doolittle and Township Attorney Gene Anthony in the corridor outside the courtroom.
Koplitz accompanied Lamar to her car in the parking lot, held a brief conversation there and then began walking across the lot to his own car. When I sought to interview him, Koplitz turned his head and walked determinedly away, repeating the words “no comment” like a chant.
One issue not addressed in the consent order is the matter of unpaid taxes. The Township’s tax office told me this week that the Park View carries a lien of more than $63,000 due to unpaid taxes. Anthony said today that the restoration required by the consent order “provides for private financing which may allow [Koplitz] to pay off the taxes.”
Another unsettled question, of course, is how difficult it might be for Koplitz to obtain such financing. If he cannot, then it is hard to see how the terms of the agreement could be met.