This is the second installment of “The Case of the Notorious Whitfield Hotel.”
Not only are there now 4 foundations on that one lot site, but those lots would have to be undersized. 30 x 60 is the minimum lot size requirement for Ocean Grove. The size of the rectangular Whitfield site is 103 feet long, and four regulation lots would need a minimum of 120 feet along each side. But the Whitfield lots would have to fit into 103 feet, and they are, by definition, undersized.
Everyone we have spoken to, including Township officials, residents who live near the Whitfield, and concerned Grovers tell us that the Whitfield site will become 4 detached single family homes, and almost everyone seems delighted. But should they be?
The excavation has begun, and we now know that there are four foundations. And a source tell us that the developer has been officially “approved” for placing 4 homes at that site. But who allowed work to begin without a 4 lot subdivision being blessed by the Neptune Township Planning Board?
We asked around and learned, mostly from people in the know, that Bernard Haney, the long-standing Tax Assessor in Neptune Township, who also wears a second hat, that of Land Use Administrator, was responsible for that decision.
Here is how the procedure should work. First the developer orders a survey map of the property. The survey map shows the exact size of the lot, and the map is used to prepare a site plan/subdivision.
This is a plan which shows where the buildings will be “sited” on the subdivided property pursuant to the zoning and the subdivision ordinance. The site plan is part of an application for development and is to be filed with the Township Building Department.
The site plan is then prepared and signed by a licensed professional who in this case would clearly show on the cover page that the applicant wants to subdivide the property into 4 undersized (nonconforming) lots.
However, the problem is that there is no type of variance or procedure that would permit a conforming lot to be subdivided into any nonconforming lots.
The application should have been referred to the Planning Board for a public hearing, but that referral was never made. We checked with the Planning Board secretary who verified that she was not instructed to schedule a hearing on the Planning Board agenda.
Approved subdivisions are recorded on the tax map under the supervision of the Township Engineer. As such, the Township Engineer should have been asked to review the plan and prepare a written report for the Planning Board. The Neptune Engineer said she received no such request.
We learned that after the subdivision approval, the approved plan was sent to the Building Department to issue permits for the 4 single family houses, or, at least, for the foundation work which is now in progress.
It appears that the current 2014 tax map, which clearly shows one existing lot at the Whitfield site, not four, was ignored. That lot would ordinarily require a subdivision if more than one single family house is proposed.
We were told that Mr. Haney decided that after the demolition, the current empty lot would automatically revert to an 1879 tax map which showed 4 lots and to declare that the 2017 post demolition lot was already subdivided into 4 lots.
This maneuver by the Township appears to be a technique to allow 4 single family houses to be built on a lot where only 3 can be permitted.
Even if this method of circumventing the usual approach to subdivisions turns out to be acceptable, the application still should have been referred to the Planning Board.
Do you suppose that this is a well traveled highway in Ocean Grove? Have we now lost that loving feeling in our town, or did it disappear a long time ago?