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Posts Tagged ‘north end redevelopment’

Heck Avenue, by Jack Bredin. This is the sort of Ocean Grove which we should have at the North End.

 

By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger.

It took 12 years, but now a Redevelopers Agreement will be signed for the commercial redevelopment of the Ocean Grove North End.  The document is well over 100 pages and was probably prepared by the re-development lawyer who was hired to make sure that this happens.  Only individuals with specialized knowledge can dig into this monster and judge if it is OK.

The Township Attorney evidently went for it as did the Township Chief Financial Officer.  The latter even certified that the re-developers have the financial credibility and “strength” needed, but this document gives no tangible financial information.  No specific  costs are mentioned, and there is no “letter of credit” presented either.  They are supposed to show us guarantees that they have enough money for the project—-where are those guarantees?

The document begins by saying that this plan is “in the best interest of the Township.”   But is it in the best interest of the historic community of Ocean Grove?

There will be about 39 condos, 2 and 3 bedroom.  The underground garage will house 140 cars, and there will be 10 single family homes.  In addition, there will be a 40 room “boutique” hotel as well as retail spaces.  The document does not address how this project will affect the quality of life for those who inhabit and love this town.

The Home Groaners sent the document around by email, but do you suppose they read it, and perhaps had a citizen’s lawyer look it over?  They used to have a legal fund; well now would be a good time to use it instead of the secretive spending of  HOA money used to look into ground rents.

If you were at the Flea Market today and saw all those tourists having a swell time, you will understand that visitors will like the new OG/Asbury Park South End.  But we who live here will imagine the crowds, the traffic, the pollution, and, like the Flea Market, we will ask who will benefit from this grand scheme?

This would never have happened if the Township Committee back then had considered what was best for the Grove when they illegally allowed the existing single family zoning, per the Master Plan, to be flushed down the toilet to be replaced with the zoning that would benefit developers.  To call this a “Zone in Need of Redevelopment” was a travesty, and the CMA was complicit.

Our reporter will attend the meeting.  Hopefully he won’t explode from outrage.  We will have some more information on September 10.

 

RINGO STARR:   From the Concert for George.

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By Sue Gioulis, Blogfinger staff based on a BF photograph from July, 2016.

By Jack Bredin, researcher and reporter @Blogfinger and Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger

At the Township Committee meeting of May 22, 2017, the Township Attorney Gene Anthony finally stopped making excuses for the stalled North End project with an announcement saying, “Mr. Gannon has an agreement with the new redeveloper and WAVE.”

William Gannon III is the spokesman, the leader, and the lawyer for WAVE, the mysterious group behind the North End Redevelopment Project (NERP) which has been languishing since 2008.

Jack Bredin went to the microphone to ask Anthony, “How can WAVE select a new redeveloper? You become a redeveloper when you sign a Redeveloper’s Agreement with the Township, and WAVE has never signed its own contract with Neptune Township.”

Anthony replied, “That may be true, but the Township Committee designated WAVE as a redeveloper.” 

Yikes, talk about evading a question!

Let’s take a look at some background information regarding the term “redeveloper” as it pertains to the North End project. And let’s also pay close attention to the words “Committee,” “WAVE,” “Association” (i.e. OGCMA,) “Redeveloper’s Agreement,” and “developer.” And let’s look for misuse of the English language that would distract from the truth.

On June 9, 2008, the Township Committee adopted Resolution #292 designating Wesley Atlantic Village Enterprises LLC (WAVE) and the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association (OGCMA or Association) as Co-Redevelopers of the NERP.

Resolution # 292 said “Whereas the Association conducted an extensive process to seek and interview potential developers for the property, and….

“Whereas, the Association selected Wesley Atlantic Village Enterprises, LLC as the developer of the property.”   (Note that the word “redeveloper” is not used in these two quotes)*

We believe that illegal procedures were used to get this project going in a direction that suited the developers and not the people of Ocean Grove.

To begin with, the selection process should have been conducted by the Township, not the Association, including advertising a request for proposals followed by a public bidding process as required by law.

The Township Committee allowed the Association to usurp the Committee’s legal authority to select a redeveloper. In a redevelopment project, the Township is in charge and should be the entity that selects a redeveloper.

In addition, the resolution confuses the issue (? intentionally) by twice referring to “developers” instead of “redevelopers.”   These words are not synonymous.

So, from the beginning, the whole process has been tainted, and now, at the May 22, 2017 meeting, it was reported that the Committee is currently permitting WAVE to do the same thing, i.e. to usurp its authority to select a redeveloper. In other words, the first illegal redeveloper is now choosing another illegal redeveloper. And the Committee, the citizens’ elected representative, remains silent on this shell game.

It also must be noted that no entity can be officially named as “Redeveloper” without signing a Redevelopers Agreement, and neither WAVE, the Association, or the new kid on the block (currently not identified by Anthony) have ever signed such a contract with the Township.

When will our elected officials take the side of the citizens, follow the laws, and favor the Master Plan as they deal with North End redevelopment ?

So here’s a metaphor.  Consider that the Town Committee are a bunch of teddy bears having a grand old time at their regular picnic, aka the Committee meetings. They love to dance and prance and act innocent, but they are blind to the forest rangers who are watching them very carefully.

ANNE MURRAY

 

 

 

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The North End on the occasion of the NERP’s ninth anniversary. Blogfinger photo 10/16. ©  Click to enlarge.

By Paul Goldfinger, Editor and Jack Bredin, Researcher.

At the April 24, 2017 Committee meeting, Jack Bredin went to the microphone to ask about the recent Coaster ad seeking a redevelopment attorney for Neptune Township. He found out that the ad was placed by the Committee without a formal resolution to back it up.  This is not a position which is part of the usual Township line-up of employees and consultants.  The Township already employs very knowledgeable attorneys for the Planning Board and the Township who are currently on the payroll.

But evidently the Committee needs a  lawyer who has a bigger tow truck to pull the NERP (North End Redevelopment Plan) out of the haze, smoke and mud it’s been stuck in for years.

Hiring for such a position, which undoubtedly will be costly for the Township, should be justified in a resolution, but Jack was told that no resolution was required. The Committee said, “We don’t need one.”

You might recall that the original NERP from 2008 was still in effect. It consists of 165 residential units (mostly condominiums,) an underground garage, and a hotel.  Many are skeptical regarding the latter two components.  You might also recall that no formal engineering plans have ever been submitted to estimate  the costs and to explain the engineering challenges of the whole project, especially the garage and the pilings.

WAVE and the CMA are still listed as the redevelopers, although the CMA has said that it no longer wanted that job.  WAVE has been promising to present its financing arrangements and to identify its investing partners, but that hasn’t occurred so far either.  A redevelopment plan cannot go forward without those financial details.  Also no formal re-developers agreement has ever been signed.

In January a newly enlarged redevelopment committee was announced which will not only deal with the OG North End, but with other redevelopment projects around town. No one from Ocean Grove is on that line-up.  How about some affirmative action for the Grovers?

It would appear that the new lawyer will have a lot of  ‘splaining to do.

THE OINKER SISTERS:  The current NERP has been a dead duck for some time… or is it a pig?   Well, it’s time for a new way to walk at the North End.  (song by Joe Raposo on Sesame Street)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Used to be our town, too. Ocean Grove. Paul Goldfinger photo ©

Used to be our town, too. Ocean Grove. Paul Goldfinger photo ©

By Paul Goldfinger, Editor@Blogfinger   (NOTE:  This was originally posted on Dec  31, 2015, but needless to say, many of you missed it . However, in view of the signs of life emerging out of the NERP resting place, here is another chance to read selected quotes by your neighbors and a few others regarding governance in this town and about the North End plan.):

 

Why is it that our local institutions never seem to place the interests of OG’s citizens first?  Representative government here has failed.  The Neptune Committee makes you wait for 3 hours before you get 5 minutes to speak and they show essentially no interest in what the citizens of Ocean Grove think.

Here is a collection of comments, mostly from 2015, but some from 2011 and 2012, repeated now to show the extent of discourse, mostly on the critical side,  and to offer a sense of clamor for change leading up to 2016.  Note that this is just a mere sprinkling of quotes, chosen arbitrarily from the nearly 17,000 comments made on Blogfinger  (except for A.O. Scott) since 2009.

A.O. Scott of the New York Times, 2015,  talks about “how power operates in the absence of accountability. When institutions convinced of their own greatness work together, what usually happens is that the truth is buried and the innocent suffer. Breaking that pattern of collaboration is not easy. Challenging deeply entrenched, widely respected authority can be very scary.”  (This quote of A.O. Scott comes from his N.Y.Times movie review of “Spotlight” but it rings true for Neptune Township.)

Jack (Bredin) :  The proposed subdivision (on Sea View)  will result in 4 illegal lots. Whoever purchases them could have big problems in the future, and the Neptune Township Planning Board doesn’t give a flying fig*.

Devo:  Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

Jack: You would increase your chances of getting a subdivision if you hire a politically connected attorney who can trot out a professional planner who is willing to lie to the Board under oath.  You must first make a campaign contribution.

Kevin (Chambers) : As a service to the people of Ocean Grove it would be nice to have that Committee oath of office  printed on your site to remind each of the Committee people that their duty is to uphold the laws of the State and to enforce those laws, and that includes zoning laws—–for the protection of all the people in Neptune equally.

Kevin: The attorneys and the planners have the obligation to the public to make sure that testimony is factual, consistent and truthful. In one of these two cases it is anything but that.

Doubting Thomas:  The people of Ocean Grove are being plundered, just as if the Vikings returned from Iceland and landed on the shores of Ocean Grove.

Jack:

What we do know is :
-The Township Committee has no heart.
-The Planning Board has no brain and,
-the OGHOA have no courage.

They all just “go along” with the “Flat Earth Society” opinions from the Township’s professional planners and engineers who most likely were referred to Neptune by the Great Wizard.

The fact is, we have no idea who is running (ruining) our town.

Blogfinger:   The Home Groaners Board has taken the Kool Aid and has jumped on the bandwagon which says that RSIS parking standards are no good for Ocean Grove

Rev Janeba:  Although I am a Brooklynite, my heart is in Ocean Grove – the Ocean Grove I KNOW, not the cartoon theme park version that so many misguided persons are trying to bring about. Thank you so much for looking out for MY best interests, too.

Radar:  I can’t remember any recent meeting that a vote was taken on the Homeowners’ position.

Bythe sea:   Who does the OGHOA think they serve? Why do they not test their positions with their own membership? I am a member and I can attest to the fact that OGHOA members were never offered an opportunity to review the RSIS issue, vote on or even discuss it.

From the Neptune Application to SIAB:      “This application…seeks relief from RSIS standards in an overall effort to balance the needs of residents, visitors and public safety with the unique challenges of maintaining a Federal and State Historic Designation coupled with the unique and historic patterns of development that comprise Ocean Grove as a whole.”

“It is estimated that there are approximately 1.38 potential on-street parking spaces per occupied unit (ie house or condo). This potential inventory adequately addresses the parking need, given that the average number of vehicles per household in the 2010 census is 1.5 vehicles.
Neptune Township has worked in concert with the OGCMA to continue to ameliorate parking issues within Ocean Grove.”

Blogfinger  (re: RISS:)   Let’s face it, this has nothing to do with history or even parking, and everything to do with greed.

Blogfinger:   The $64,000.00 question: Even if the State turns down the application and leaves the RSIS rules in place, who is going to enforce the law?  After all, even today, the RSIS rules are in effect in Ocean Grove and they haven’t prevented condos without parking from being built— single family homes should have been constructed  instead.

New Kid in Town  Has any thought been given to forming a citizen’s group to formally object to Neptune Township’s dishonest efforts to destroy our historical town for greed and profit? I for one, would be happy to join such a group and support it in anyway I could. I know many others who would do the same.

Upset taxpayer    I invite anyone on the Township Committee that thinks we already have adequate parking, to sit on my porch on any Friday, Saturday or Sunday all spring, summer and fall, and watch the frustration among all visitors to Ocean Grove.

Michael Grover (2011)     I believe the language in the proposed Master Plan is intended to further develop ratables for the Township in Ocean Grove at the expense of its residents. The Board is attempting to set up a structure that will permit replacement of B and B’s with condominiums and development of larger structures, further adding to our density.

Don’t count on the HPC to protect us, using historic preservation as grounds to prevent conversions. Recent decisions and the North End project demonstrate their weakness against the Planning Board.

As for the Township Committee, don’t look to them for much help either. The town needs money, and this is New Jersey, enough said. We will need to protect ourselves.

Mary Beth Jahn:     (2011)    I am the sole member of the Township Committee to vote against the North End plan, and I still believe that single-family homes and not condos should be built on that site.

OGrover:  2011    The recent high density project with it’s proposed underground parking is not supposed to add to the parking issues but will do nothing to alleviate them either. (Underground parking next to the ocean and a lake? The Titanic was unsinkable, too!)

Frank: (2011)  New Jersey Site Improvement Advisory Board knows the situation of our not owning the property, and their recommendation for parking is that Neptune follow the Municipal Land Use Law’s standards that are used throughout the state. I have a copy of the letter addressed to Neptune from the Sites Board that states that the Township is to follow the standards for parking

Joan C (2012)    I was rather surprised to read that Mr. Williams stated so emphatically that he would never read nor respond on blogfinger. Is Mr. Williams “too good” for the blog? Is he choosing to remain unaware of the concerns of our residents? I frankly had hoped that all members of both parties read blogfinger, which is the least divisive, non-political posting of relevant information for those of us living in Ocean Grove and Neptune Township

Devo (2012)  The North end project, in its current form, will not benefit the Grove. It will generate significant additional traffic, create additional parking issues (despite what they say they are planning), will depress home/condo prices for the existing housing stock, and will add out of character buildings. I wasn’t here when all this went down, but I can’t imagine why folks in OG think this is a good idea.

The longer it is delayed, the better.

Michael Grover (2012)  Those of us concerned about noise and congestion, not to mention density and over-development, need to look no farther than the North End project. Want a problem that really happens and lasts forever? Why was this project approved, and where was the HPC to protect the integrity of our beloved historic district? It’s a lot easier to enforce the rules when the issue is the color of a house and other minor cosmetic concerns, or when you have the authority to impose a decision no matter how unjustified on a weak, defenseless homeowner. Take on the town and the developers, that’s another story.

Devo (2012)    Scuttle the redevelopment plan now, or forever be sorry you did not.

Bythesea (2012)  Developing the North End under a State sanctioned redevelopment designation is a terrible idea. I can tell you right now that, based on what has happened most other places in NJ, OG will lose all control and hate the outcome. OG should seek to bring about the collapse of this redevelopment plan. The land and location is valuable/desirable enough that the CMA should be able to manage its own redevelopment.

Despite Mary Beth Jahn’s best intent and all of our wishful thinking, redevelopment areas take on a life of their own and they always gravitate to higher than expected density and insensitivity to quality of life concerns of the town they are occurring in (e.g., traffic impact, parking, etc.).

Gosh: (2012) I have to say for the last time, the approval of the redevelopment of the North End was never legal.

Mary Beth Jahn   (2012)   Those who are sucking sour lemons and trying to run a smear campaign wouldn’t know or care, because they have no respect for the Grove’s historic designation and would have no problem turning the Grove into Condo City.

Wisher:  (2012)  There will be no distinguishing OG or Asbury Park in the future. No grand vistas, or public places for shoppers and beach-goers. People won’t come here any more than they will go to any of the myriad of other shore towns. No distinguishing characteristics. Just everything shoved up against the shoreline while developers walk about with their boatload of cash.

Gosh (2012)   Condos have been motivated by GREED and REVENUE that they bring into Neptune. There is absolutely no interest in keeping O.G. historic with single family homes; just look at the new Master Plan— there are so many gray areas for interpretation.

Bythesea:    (2012)  Where is the OGHOA on the North End Development? What stand have they taken relative to the abomination of a plan that now exists for the “redevelopment” of the North End? It is they who should be the champions in the fight against poor planning that will hurt the town. Do they just play a reactive game, or do they try to lead? Where is their position paper? Seems to me that this is by far the biggest issue on their plates for the next year.

Jack    The first and only comment from our new year (2016):

OhGee, the reason this special town exists, is to the credit of the OGCMA.

The Township Committee has the exclusive authority to adopt our zoning ordinance.
We cannot blame any property owner for developing what they are permitted to develop under the zoning ordinance adopted by the Committee.   With zoning, the buck stops with the Township Committee.

The problem is that the Committee, Planning Board and Board of Adjustment use Municipal Land Use Law in ways that were never intended by the NJ State Legislature.

JAMES TAYLOR

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Heading through the OG North End, near the Asbury line.  Paul Goldfinger photo. ©

Wide open spaces.  Heading through the OG North End, near the Asbury line. June, 2014. Paul Goldfinger photo. ©

By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger

This is Part V of a series of articles about the North End Redevelopment Plan in Ocean Grove, New Jersey.

Since the OGCMA would have been able to develop the North End on its own, and since the North End was no blighted, crime-ridden, disease-laden, drug selling, rat-hole dilapidated slum in need of immediate rescue by government, why did the Neptune Township Planning Board fudge its way through the criteria in order to enable the North End to become a congested, money-making, commercial zone—-an “area in need of redevelopment,”—- which was not in the best interest of the people of Ocean Grove?

In the Resolution document they listed everything that was wrong over there that justified the creation of a redevelopment zone.   Those were code violations which were corrected as soon as the CMA was cautioned by Code Enforcement. Thus the result was no code violations and thus no valid reason to declare the North End property an “area in need of redevelopment.”  The CMA was perfectly able to work on that property itself.

To argue, as the Planning Board did, that there was some sort of emergency in 2007 is a joke. The North End in 2015 is no different than it was in 2007 except for some 2012 Sandy damage and a burned out storage shed from a few years ago.

Surely the Planning Board realized that the reasons they gave (including a few crummy abandoned unsafe buildings, a wreck of a swimming pool, over growth of vegetation, lack of utilization etc) were a joke and that the real purpose for the Township’s request was to achieve a dramatic change in zoning.

The Planning Board said that redevelopment at the North End was “necessary and overdue.” OK, why not tell that to the owners in 2007 and skip all the rest?  Is the project still “overdue” or is it not convenient now to say “overdue?”

Whether there were hidden financial motives, we cannot say, but for the Planning Board to conclude that the positives outweighed the negatives; that a hotel and condos would be better for the whole town than single family homes, is clearly, to any objective observer, a hoax.

On February 28, 2007, at a meeting of the Township of Neptune Planning Board, the Resolution 07-12 was presented, and a motion to approve was offered, and a vote was taken.

Resolution 07-12 is a “Resolution recommending that the Township Committee of the Township of Neptune designate certain properties as being in need of redevelopment (North End Ocean Grove.”)

That 22 page document mentions all the experts and citizens who spoke either for or against the plan, all the dotted i’s and crossed t’s, all the photos that showed how crummy conditions were at the North End, all the lawyers who weighed in, and the sworn witnesses which included Peter Avakian, the Township engineer.

The Resolution papers also mentioned that there were those who submitted written objections to the Resolution including former Mayor Joseph Krimko (now deceased,) Richard Seltzer, Esq., and Edward V. Kolling, PP, AICP (professional planner.)

The motion to approve the resolution was offered and then 5 Board members voted “Yes” including D. McCarthy, M. Hood, J. Shafto, W. Lapp and M. Golub. The Resolution needed 5 out of the 11 Board members for a legal vote.

No one voted “No” but there were six members of the Planning Board who were absent: R. Ambrosio, L. Berardi, A. Cardinale, W. Gizzi, J. Kortenhaus and I. Calderon. Why were so many board members absent for this vote? Can you guess?

If Dennis McCarthy, a Trustee of the OGHOA had voted “no” or even, along with the six others, had not shown up,  the Resolution would have gone down to defeat.

Finally, on page 19 of the Resolution, we have this quote:

“The Planning Board is of the unanimous belief that there is an immediate need for appropriate development in the subject North End/Ocean Grove (as referenced herein)— and that appropriate redevelopment is beneficial to the Township as a whole, and the residents of Ocean Grove.”

Editor’s Note:     Here is a quote from an October 2012 editorial by Blogfinger:   We urge the people of Ocean Grove who care about preserving the charm, character and livability of this community to start paying attention to this process now…”

The Planning Board vote described above was borderline and was suspicious. Most members of the Board did not even vote. Eight years have gone by, and the current NERP should be trashed now, and the process, beginning with the Planning Board vote, should begin again—-this time with hundreds of Grovers attending the meeting.

Maybe this time we can get that “old black magic” working for the people of OG:

MICHELLE WILLIAMS.   From the movie My Week With Marilyn

Credit:  Mr. Jack Bredin of Ocean Grove for his invaluable research.

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Wesley Lake retaining wall. Photo taken Oct. 20 by Mary Walton

While people worry about a controversial condo/hotel project at Ocean Grove’s North End, the immediate problem there — the slowly collapsing retaining wall — keeps getting worse. The part most in danger of failure is a 500-foot section running westward from the boardwalk, on the site of the proposed North End Redevelopment project.

Asbury Park has completely repaired the wall on its side of Wesley Lake. Neptune doesn’t have the money to repair the entire 3,400-foot wall on its side, but Mayor Randy Bishop, Committeewoman Mary Beth Jahn and others have said they expect the North End developers to fix the part adjacent to their proposed construction. So far, the developers have not agreed to do this.

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Site of the North End project, looking north toward Asbury. Photo by Paul Goldfinger

By Charles Layton and Paul Goldfinger

We recently reported that the Camp Meeting Association hopes to conclude a redevelopment agreement with Neptune Township soon and then, in 2013, to break ground on its North End hotel and condominium project. Before that happens, we hope the Township officials and the citizens of Ocean Grove will give this project a sober, fresh look.

The area in question is the vacant space next to the boardwalk between Spray Avenue and Wesley Lake. The plan, as presently conceived, would allow for a five-story hotel with approximately 80 rooms, plus a condominium complex of more than 70 units, plus a few single-family homes.

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.

Try to visualize this. Ocean Grovers are already experiencing two much more modest construction projects — the replacement of the burned-out homes and hotel on Surf and Atlantic Avenues, and the drainage work on Broadway. Both those projects have brought us inconvenience, but they are trifling compared to what the North End will bring.

The North End project will likely disrupt just about all of Ocean Grove. It will mar our landscape with piles of construction materials, heavy equipment, mounds of excavated dirt, trash, traffic congestion and noise – everything that a construction site of that magnitude implies. These disturbances could persist for a very long time. And after all that grief, what will we have to show? Scores of new condominiums which Ocean Grove doesn’t need and which most Ocean Grovers almost certainly won’t like. And that’s before we even consider the impact on parking.

When this plan was hatched about five years ago, the land in question was zoned for single-family homes. The Neptune Township Master Plan explicitly prohibited condos there. The landowner – the Camp Meeting Association — got around that by having the area declared “in need of redevelopment,” a legal designation typically used to rescue blighted areas, slum properties and the like.

Although that designation solved the Camp Meeting’s zoning problem, the trade-off was that it gave the Neptune Township Committee the authority to guide the project, deciding such matters as its size, density, number of housing units, number of hotel rooms, amount of required off-street parking and so forth.

The Township Committee was originally friendly toward most everything the developers wanted to do. When Randy Bishop first became mayor in 2008, he succeeded in reducing the size of what had been proposed. However, Bishop was in a relatively weak position at that time, because some on the Township Committee seemed inclined to allow a truly massive development. On the night the Committee finally approved Bishop’s compromise plan, Bishop said he personally didn’t much like it but that he had been forced “to look for the middle ground.” In other words, it was the best deal he thought he could get.

That was then. Now, the Township Committee’s composition has changed. So, perhaps, has the mood of this community. (At a Home Owners meeting in June, Committeewoman Mary Beth Jahn got a rise from the audience when she spoke of a radical scaling back, including the total elimination of all the proposed condos.) It appears to us that three of the five current Committee members should be willing now to further reduce the size of this project. Those three would be Bishop, Jahn and Eric Houghtaling. As a majority, they have the power.

Leaders of the Ocean Grove Home Owners Association also appear to be of a mind to fight for a better deal. Last year the Home Owners’ standing committee on the North End made a set of very thoughtful suggestions, which the organization’s membership voted to approve.

One suggestion was that the Township should require that the hotel be built first, then the single-family homes, and then, if condos are to be built, they should come last. One fear is that the developer might build the condos first and then decide that, after all, the hotel isn’t feasible. Another fear is that if a large hotel is built, and if it then begins to lose money, the Camp Meeting might be impelled to convert it into yet more condos.

Another proposal by the Home Owners is that the condos should be built in blocks, and that each block of condos should be 75 percent sold before the next block could be started. This, it is argued, would help insure that we don’t end up with empty, partially-built structures, as has happened in Asbury Park.

The Home Owners’ position paper contains quite a few such ideas, intended to reduce adverse impacts on the town and avoid a potentially disastrous outcome. We suggest that everyone read this document.

Before the North End project can proceed, the developers and the Township Committee must negotiate a contract spelling out the details in considerable specificity. During these negotiations, everything is subject to reconsideration. Although the negotiations themselves will be conducted behind closed doors, their product will have to be made public and enacted into law before work can begin. So, eventually, there must be public input. The Home Owners position paper also suggests ways to make things more transparent on an on-going basis, such as having the Township publish on its website regular updates including the text of all reports on environmental impact, traffic impact, water table tests and the like.

We urge the people of Ocean Grove who care about preserving the charm, character and livability of this community to start paying attention to this process now. Attend the monthly Home Owners meetings and ask questions. Keep in touch with your Township Committee members. Be curious.

As Grovers come to understand the implications of this project, we hope they will push with all their might for a better – which is to say, much less massive – redevelopment plan.

NOTE: For an outline of basic facts about the North End plan, go here.  And also here.   To read the Home Owners’ position paper on the North End, go here.

The entire North End Redevelopment Plan is available on the Township’s website, but it is quite hard to find. Go here, then scroll way, way down and click on “Redevelopment Plan-OG North End.”

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By Mary Walton

As the 2012 Labor Day weekend drew to a close under cloudy skies, the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association reported a somewhat gloomy financial picture at its traditional season’s end review.

Operating income of $3,164,000 fell $39,000 short of operating expenses. Contributions to the choir festival, Camp Meeting week and other special events were down by $24,500 over last year. And ticket sales to the Saturday night entertainment programs experienced an especially severe drop. They totaled 20,347, compared to 27,588 in 2011, a 26 percent decline that resulted in the lowest profit margin in eleven years.

Dr. Dale Whilden, CMA president, attributed the fall off in Saturday night attendance to competition from new entertainment outlets in the surrounding area, particularly Asbury Park. The loss of revenues when Johnny Mathis cancelled his August 11 appearance was another factor. Whilden added, “And the economy has got to be a part of this.”

On the bright side, as of Aug. 20 beach revenues had outpaced expenses $928,000 to $760,000. Beach profits, however, cannot be used to defray operating losses.

More than 100 people attended the meeting, which was held this year in the Youth Temple rather than its customary venue, the Bishop Janes Tabernacle. In another change from past years, the meeting was closed to the media.

“This meeting is targeted for supporters,” Ralph del Campo, interim chief operating officer, told this Blogfinger reporter before the meeting began. I was invited to sit in, but told not to report. He explained that people were under the false impression that the CMA was a public entity, which has not been the case since it was a municipality running Ocean Grove, a role now occupied by Neptune Township. He noted that as a religious organization the CMA is not obligated to make its sessions public. There was no explanation for why the change was suddenly enacted. In fact, Blogfinger has covered the meeting in past years. “We’re not trying to hide anything,” Whilden chimed in.

The change in policy was not announced during the meeting, and Bonnie Graham, a reporter for the Coaster, took notes throughout. Graham was unaware of the no-reporting rule until I made an issue of it during the questions and comments session that concluded the meeting. I asked that the CMA reconsider its policy in the interest of openness. Graham also objected to the rule against media reporting, and afterward said she was shocked and mystified. Trustees apparently were not aware of the decision either. “What’s that all about?” one asked me.

On another subject, Joan Caputo spoke for Ocean Grove United, a gay advocacy organization that has often been at odds with the CMA, most recently over the appearance of actor and evangelist Kirk Cameron, the author of harsh anti-gay remarks. After an OGU protest, Whilden and other CMA officials met with a group from the organization to hear their concerns. Caputo thanked them for having “in many ways opened their hearts and taken the time to meet with us, to listen and to share. Let the dialogue continue.” She made her remarks available to Blogfinger.

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) 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.

After the meeting Del Campo and Whilden sat down with me to review the information that had been presented at the meeting, so that it could be included in this article.

In addition to financial news, they said that the search for a chief operating officer is nearing its conclusion. After an initial round of searching last year failed to produce a suitable candidate, the search was widened in the spring. The search committee received more than 30 resumes, and has narrowed the field to three, all men. The committee will conduct interviews in September and expects to name the new officer by year’s end.

In other statistics of interest, the most popular speakers this summer were Ravi Zakarias, who drew 2,900 Sunday morning worshippers this past Sunday, followed by Kirk Cameron, 2,300, and Tony Campolo, 2,058.

Neil Sedaka attracted the largest Saturday night crowd, 2,722, followed by Diana Krall, 2,470, and Michael W. Smith, 2,316.

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Site of the North End project, looking north toward Asbury Park. Photo by Paul Goldfinger

By Charles Layton, Editor @Blogfinger

Committeewoman Mary Beth Jahn’s recent victory in the Democratic primary has made one thing clear. The Township is more likely now than ever before to try to restrict the building of condos at the North End.

Although Neptune Township previously approved a plan that would allow for between 70 and 80 new condos along Wesley Lake near the boardwalk, Jahn told the Ocean Grove Home Owners Association on Saturday that the plan might now be scaled back dramatically.

Many of the members seemed elated when Jahn spoke of “the condos [the developers] think they’re going to build,” and then added, “I think they are going to build 12 single-family homes.”

Ever since the Township Committee formally approved a redevelopment plan in 2008, many Ocean Grovers have regretted and feared its implementation, an opinion Jahn has shared. At the time, she called the plan “a travesty” and a detriment to the quality of life of OG residents. Now that she is all but assured of reelection in November, Jahn is predicting that the plan could be changed during negotiations between the developers and the Township Committee. Jahn and Mayor Randy Bishop are the Township Committee’s designated negotiators in those talks.

Jahn’s opponent in the primary election, Nick Williams, never took a public position on the North End Project. However, Williams’ supporter and campaign manager, James Manning Jr., is a long-time proponent of heavy condo development as part of the North End project. Had Williams unseated Jahn on the Township Committee, he could have altered the balance of power in the government and undone efforts by Jahn and Bishop to prevent an overly-massive development.

The North End redevelopment plan, as presently written, would allow for up to 85 residential units, most of them condos, plus a hotel with a maximum of 80 rooms. The developers are the Camp Meeting Association, which owns the 5.6-acre site, and a company run by Ocean Grove developer William Gannon.

But before construction can begin, the developers and the Township must sign a contract spelling out the details much more specifically. Jahn told the Home Owners that the Township holds considerable power over the final shape of that deal. “Plans change,” she said. “We’re going to go through probably ten or twelve versions of this redevelopment [plan].” Financing, feasibility and other considerations may force the plan to change, she said.

One crucial issue is whether it will be possible to build the large underground parking garage called for in the plan. Because the site is beside the ocean and a lake, there is serious doubt as to how deep it will be possible for the developers to excavate. Without the off-street parking for the condos, the Township might be in a position to force the developers to scale back or even entirely give up their condo plans. Or so it seemed from Jahn’s remarks.

She also predicted that the financing of a luxury hotel at the site might be difficult in today’s market, especially given that the hotel would not have a liquor license. She said she had heard that the hotel portion of the project alone could cost between $30 million and $50 million.

Another “sticking point” in the upcoming negotiations will be a traffic study, Jahn said. Before any construction begins, she and Bishop want the developers to conduct a study of the impact on traffic in Ocean Grove during peak periods, such as the 4th of July weekend.

She also cautioned that the developers would have to find acceptable ways to bring in supplies to the construction site and to situate heavy equipment within the confines of that area. She also said the developers would be required to rebuild the portion of the Wesley Lake retaining wall along the northern edge of the site.

These are all issues the Home Owners Association’s own north end committee has raised in the recent past.

Although negotiations between the developers and the Township have been stalled since an initial meeting in February of 2011, Jahn said the developers are now saying they want to resume those talks.

For a refresher course on the North End project, go here and here.

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By Charles Layton

It looks as though, over the next couple of years, Asbury Park will resume construction of new beachfront townhouses and condominiums. But it will proceed more slowly and carefully this time to avoid the calamities that resulted from its fast-track development plans of the past.

There is a lesson here for Ocean Grove, as negotiations proceed over our own North End hotel/residential redevelopment plan.

Asbury Park had soaring ambitions in 2002 when it set out to revive its beachfront area. It drew up a $1.25 billion redevelopment plan that was to include 3,100 new residential units, mostly condos. But then, in the midst of construction, the housing market crashed. The Esperanza, a high-rise project that was to contain 224 luxury units next to the beachfront, was abandoned by its developer and foreclosed upon by its lender due to lack of sales. Wesley Grove, another condo project just across from Ocean Grove, also fell flat in the market. The developer only completed one of four planned phases, leaving a forest of unsightly wooden stumps in an open field where the rest of the homes would have been.

Last December, the City of Asbury Park took its master developer to court, accusing the developer of defaulting on its obligations. And three weeks ago an arbitrator ruled that the developer was not responsible for most of the delays and failures the city had cited. Instead, he declared, the primary failure was the city’s own fast-track plan, which was at odds with housing market reality.

“The market conditions in the United States, including New Jersey, during this time period were, and continue to be, extremely poor,” the arbitrator, retired federal judge Nicholas Politan, wrote. “Testimony elicited at the hearing supports the fact that there exists a housing market catastrophe. This is particularly true in areas primarily geared to seasonal and second home development.”

(Every realtor in Ocean Grove would probably say “amen” to that.)

And so, rather than allow the city to acquire a new master developer and plunge headlong, as before, Politan prescribed a more modest and prudent course. He ordered the developer to deliver plans this month for a new project – 28 townhouses at Asbury Avenue and Kingsley Street – and to complete those homes within about a year and a half. Once 50 percent of those units are sold, the developer could begin building 168 more units at Munroe and Cookman. Until 50 percent of those are sold, other proposed housing projects in the oceanfront redevelopment area would remain on hold.

How does all this affect Ocean Grove’s North End? Well, in the first place, besides a hotel, the North End plan includes as many as 85 residences, most of them condominiums. In the second place, as Politan says, the catastrophically bad housing market continues. And in the third place, the additional residences likely to come on line in Asbury, right across Wesley Lake from the North End, will be added competition for the North End condos — and in an already glutted market.

Last month, the Ocean Grove Home Owners Association approved a list of  suggestions for Neptune Township to consider as it negotiates a final agreement with the North End developers. One of its suggestions is a timetable somewhat like the one Politan is imposing on the Asbury Park developers. The HOA suggests that each block of condos should be 75 percent sold before the next block is started, “to insure no empty partially constructed structures.”

The wisdom of this suggestion is obvious.

A victim of the housing market, The Esperanza in Asbury was never finished. Photo by Mary Walton

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