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Posts Tagged ‘Neptune Township Planning Board’

047 OG Tea time at Nagle's

Tea time at Nagle’s. Open the bag and read the leaves, like Jack. Paul Goldfinger photo © Undated.

 

By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger.net

Jack Bredin, Ocean Grove activist, sat quietly at the August 28th Neptune Township Committee Meeting while waiting for the boring endless session to begin. He knew that permit parking was not on the agenda, but that a stalemate had been reached and something needed to be done.  Surely there must be a road map which would take this important matter in a productive direction.

He wrote into his legal pad: “5th time over the years…”

Former Committeemen Randy Bishop used to recall that the subject of a parking solution had come up seriously that many times in the past with no resolution, even though the matter had been studied by the Township, the HOA Parking Committee, the Parking Task Force from 2016 and, now again, it had arisen like some sort of recurrent crabgrass infestation.

Although there had been no past agreement on a solution, the idea of a permit plan was popular, and most all Grovers who weighed in felt that something should be done, especially now at the North End near Asbury.

Two weeks ago, the CMA crazily and irresponsibly announced a possible law suit over permit parking.  Do they really have the standing to push the Committee around like that?

The Committee now seems to have no way to turn.   The situation has run out of options—–the quest for parking relief for Ocean Grove had reached the end of the line.

Jack studied his pad and decided that the key to advancing the controversy is for the Committee to send the matter to the Planning Board.

Looking back, the matter never reached fruition because the HOA is not the Planning Board and does not have the resources to be one.  They should have pushed the Committee to make a proper referral instead of futzing around with it themselves.

The Township is also not the Planning Board, so it just dithers around the problem and doesn’t refer the matter.

The Planning Board established a Master Plan for the town, but it pays no attention to it, and although it has resources to pursue parking, such as planners and lawyers, it has not done so. It doesn’t even do any planning. It has become a place where dubious site plans are approved.

So, after sitting through the agenda, the public portion arrived, and about 20 Grovers went to the microphone to tell their parking horror stories. They had been  encouraged to do so by the cowardly lions at the  HOA, who sees it as some sort of strategy:  send emails so that sad Grovers can whine to committeemen.

The Mayor seemed sympathetic but promised no further progress.

Then Jack got up to say what he had been composing on his yellow pad. He suggested that the Township refer the matter to the Planning Board where proper experts can study the matter and then to hold hearings in Ocean Grove.

Stalling, snoring, dithering, tabling, thinking, looking into it, or just ignoring it are all moribund strategies.

At least Jack is pointing in a hopeful direction.

BEVERLY KENNEY  Tea leaves for two.   From her album This vintage now

 

 

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Jack Bredin speaks his mind at an HOA meeting in 2010. Blogfinger action photo. ©

Jack Bredin speaks his mind at an HOA meeting in 2010. Blogfinger action photo. ©

 

By Jack Bredin, researcher @Blogfinger

In the recent Bloginger post about #58-60 Main Avenue (The Pizza Building,) it was suggested that if someone opposed the proposed variances that they should attend the public hearing on Dec. 14 at the Planning Board where this matter would be heard.  You could voice your opinion during the public portion, but you will only get 5 minutes.

About 10 years ago, I attended a Board of Adjustment meeting to oppose a variance.  My experience speaks to the obstacles that sometimes are placed in the path of well-meaning citizens trying to voice their objections to public policy changes. The details of that experience are included in order to appreciate the sort of issues that affect our lives at the various Boards in Neptune Township.

I was there to object to an application requesting a use variance to subdivide a conforming 30’ x 60’ lot into two (2) narrow 15’x60’ illegal, non-conforming, under-sized lots within 200’ of my house.

The applicant’s professional planner did not introduce any testimony to support granting a use variance.

He just made a “conclusionary statement”  that if the variance were approved, it would advance the intent and purpose of the Master Plan and the Zoning Ordinance,” in his professional opinion.

His professional opinion was nonsense.

The intent of the Master Plan and Zoning Ordinance is to reduce rather than increase non-conformity, and land can only be subdivided into conforming lots. The minimum lot size in Ocean Grove is 30’x 60’ and not 15’x60.’

However, the planner’s arbitrary opinion went unchallenged by members of the Zoning Board and the Board’s attorney, planner, and their engineer. The file for the application contained no report from the Board’s planner or engineer. There were no objections from the Camp Meeting Association or the Ocean Grove Home Owners Association.

After the conclusion of the applicant’s presentation, and without questions or objections from the Board or their Professionals, the only evidence on the record was in support of an approval of the subdivision by the applicant’s planner as noted above.

The meeting was then open to the public. I was the only member of the public to speak and I would be allowed only five minutes at the microphone.

Pursuant to the N.J. State Rules of Hearing Procedure, I had equal standing with the applicant’s professional planner to present an opposing case with no time limit.

My first question for the planner was: “What use variance are you asking for: D-1, 2,3,4, or 5?

He didn’t know what variance they were asking for.

When the planner turned toward the applicants attorney for help, I took the opportunity to question the Board’s attorney, “What use variance is the Board considering?” He had no answer and turned toward the Zoning Board’s planner.   There was a long moment of silence that was broken when the Land Use Administrator loudly announced. “YOUR TIME IS UP!!”

I was only one minute into my presentation. I had asked only one question and got no answer.  And so I said, “What?”

She answered, “Sit down! Your time is up!”

I said, “Are you kidding me?”

The Chairwoman said, “We do have a 5 minute limit here.”

I then asked, “Is there another public portion on the meeting agenda where I can address the Board?

The Land Use Administrator answered for the Chairwoman by saying, “No! You just want to further your case, and we won’t let you. NOW! SIT DOWN !”

While all of this was going on, the Mayor and a member of the Ocean Grove Home Owners Assoc. were calling out from the back of the meeting room, “Sit down! Your time is up!”

The Planning and Zoning Board’s 5 minute rule is inconsistent with the Municipal Land Use Law.   I reported this to the Township Committee, and they didn’t care.

The 5 minute rule is still in place.

 

Editor’s Note:  There is a history of stifling dissent at Neptune meetings.  Old timers describe how discussion on a controversial agenda item would be cancelled for some phony procedural reason when a large number of Grovers would show up.   They would reschedule when they knew the public would not come out, such as during a bad storm.

This story is similar to a more recent one (2015) in which we described how Jack was not permitted to finish his 5 minute comment during a Township Committee meeting.  Here is a link:

https://blogfinger.net/2015/04/28/ugly-altercation-at-township-meeting-deprives-ocean-grover-of-his-right-to-speak/

By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger

HARRY NILSSON  from the movie “Midnight Cowboy.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Aerial view showing "flared setbacks," which Ocean Grove groups hope to protect in the new Master Plan. Photo by Tracey James, Blogfinger photographer

By Charles Layton

This Wednesday’s Planning Board meeting will mark the first time Ocean Grove’s various civic groups have had a chance to air their concerns about the Board’s proposed new Master Plan.

Those concerns – by the Home Owners Association, the Historical Society of Ocean Grove and the Historic Preservation Commission – mainly have to do with protecting Ocean Grove’s unique historic character from developers or others who would undermine it.

Leaders of those three organizations showed up at the Planning Board’s September 14 meeting hoping to make themselves heard. To their disappointment, no one in the audience was allowed to speak. Although all three organizations have written letters to the Planning Board detailing their concerns, the Planning Board has not responded to those letters. And in recent weeks, when Blogfinger offered the Planning Board a chance to address these groups’ concerns on our website, the offer was declined.

It is fair to say that a growing number of people believe the Neptune Planning Board has distanced itself from the public – on issues of heartfelt concern to Ocean Grovers.

Here are a few of the issues raised by the Ocean Grove organizations:

All three groups are troubled by the scores of vague passages throughout the new Master Plan draft calling for regulations to be “reviewed” or “redrafted” or “reconstituted” or “updated” without further explanation. The Historical Society, in its letter to the Planning Board, speaks of these passages as “weakly defined language that urges sweeping changes to the present regulations.” The Home Owners, in a letter approved by members at its October meeting, describes “a lack of clarity in important passages regarding zoning regulations, density limits, the flared setback and other crucial matters. Our fear is that [the language in these passages] would give present and future administrations too much discretion making changes to the zoning regulations. We fear that this draft opens the door to a weakening of existing protections.”

The Home Owners Association strongly opposes a proposal in the draft to create a new Land Use Advisory Committee within the Township government. “Such a body,” the Home Owners letter says, “would usurp the authority of the existing citizen boards [meaning the Zoning Board and Planning Board], replacing their judgments with the judgments of various executives of the Township. This would potentially allow for more decisions to be made outside the public’s view, and would be an invitation to more political influence and insider dealing.”

Gail Shaffer, the Historical Society’s president, said in an interview, “We are very concerned that they would be making a board of officials who can make decisions without any input from the public, and we are worried about the decisions that they might make for Ocean Grove, and its history and its traditions.”

The HPC has similar concerns. The Planning Board’s document says that the proposed new committee would only be empowered to approve “minor changes that have been found to be di-minimus” [sic]. Critics wonder why a new layer of governmental authority is needed for matters that are de minimis (that is, of negligible importance). They also question who, within the recesses of the Township government, would decide what is or isn’t de minimis. “A small change to zoning can be a humongous change to historic preservation,” said Deborah Osepchuk, who chairs the HPC.

The Home Owners Association is also urging that existing zoning limits be maintained on building heights and number of stories. “We, like many other Ocean Grovers, are concerned about recent trends toward greater height and greater density,” the group wrote in its letter.

The HPC and the Historical Society have a range of concerns about a part of the new Master Plan draft called the Historic Preservation Element, which is especially important to Ocean Grove. Both organizations think the new draft should do a better job of explaining why Ocean Grove was named as a State and National Historic District, as an example of a 19th century planned urban community. The previous Master Plan went into eloquent detail about those characteristics that make Ocean Grove historically unique and in need of protection. Omitting or abbreviating that information, says Osepchuk, weakens Ocean Grove’s ability to protect those cherished characteristics. It might also affect the town’s ability to get grant money for certain restoration projects.

As an example, the new Master Plan draft fails to explain the importance of the flared setback. (In fact, it hardly mentions it except in the “Land Use Element,” where it recommends allowing porches to encroach into the flare in certain cases.)

The previous Master Plan contained a list of some of Ocean Grove’s so-called “key structures,” i.e., structures most in need of preservation due to their exceptional importance architecturally and historically. The Planning Board’s rewrite omits that list. Having the list in the Master Plan, according to the HPC, bolsters the validity of Ocean Grove’s historic status. The HPC often refers to that list of structures in its deliberations and decisions.

The present dispute over the Master Plan is unusual in that all three of these local organizations have voiced such strong objections almost in concert. The Historical Society, in particular, has a long history of avoiding political involvement. When I asked Gail Shaffer, the Society’s president, whether the Society had taken such an activist stand before on a public issue, she said, “Never. As far as I know we have never done it, not in recent history, certainly.” When I asked why they were doing it now, she said, “When you read the new Master Plan, Ocean Grove is almost left out.”

The Planning Board meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, November 9, at 7 p.m. in the Township Committee Meeting Room, 2nd floor of the Municipal Building. Between now and then, here’s some background:

  • To read the Home Owners Association’s letter to the Planning Board, go here.
  • To read the Historical Society of Ocean Grove’s letter to the Planning Board, go here.
  • To read the Planning Board’s proposed new Master Plan on the Neptune Township website, go here. Then scroll down to “Draft Elements of the Master Plan.” The elements of most concern to Ocean Grovers are those on “land use” and “historic preservation.” You can click on each of those separately.

Editor’ note: Because there’s more than one side to every story, our offer remains open to anyone on the Planning Board who wants to address any of the above concerns, either before or after Wednesday night’s meeting.

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By Paul Goldfinger

The Ocean Grove Home Owners Association and the Historic Preservation  Commission are expressing fears that the Township’s proposed new Master Plan will be bad for Ocean Grove.

A committee of the Neptune Planning Board has been working for months on a total rewrite of the Master Plan, a document that lays out basic goals and guidelines for land use and zoning throughout the Township, including The Grove.

On Friday, a committee of the OGHOA delivered a letter to the Planning Board stating a broad range of concerns about the proposed new plan. Also last week, the HPC passed a resolution expressing its own strong concerns.

In its letter, the OGHOA committee said, “Our fear is that so much broad language in the  Master Plan, urging such sweeping changes, would give present and future administrations too much discretion to make whatever changes they might please. … we fear that this draft opens the door to a weakening of existing protections.”

The letter also expressed fears that a new Township Land Use Advisory Committee, proposed as part of the new Master Plan, would “usurp the authority of the existing citizens boards, replacing their judgments with the judgments of various executives of the Township. This would potentially allow for more decisions to be made outside the public’s view, and would be an invitation to more political influence and insider dealing.”

Other language in the proposed new Plan, the HOA committee feared, “could lead to the return of the flophouses in Ocean Grove, which the Home Owners Association has worked so long and hard to eradicate.”

The HPC resolution focused on the Historic Preservation component of the new Master Plan, stating that it “fails to adequately incorporate the defining characteristics of Ocean Grove which contributed to its designation as a National Historic District including the seashore vernacular design, flare area setback, recreational and park configuration and the grid pattern incorporated in the design of Ocean Grove.” The HPC’s resolution, passed by a unanimous vote, “strongly urges” the Planning Board to restore this information.

Representatives of both groups plan to attend a meeting of the Planning Board on Wednesday, September 14, at 7 p.m. on the second floor of the Municipal Building.  The public is invited to this meeting.

NOTE: The posting that follows this one is the full content of the HOA’s letter.   To read the HPC resolution, go to this link:

HPC Resolution to the Planning Board

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