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Posts Tagged ‘north end redevelopment’

By Charles Layton

One of the most disturbing things about the recent fuss over swan boats on Fletcher Lake was the way information about that proposal was withheld from our citizens.

One example: Sometime this spring the promoters gave a presentation to the Fletcher Lake Commission — a public body — but the fact that they did so was never made public in any way. People in Ocean Grove who care passionately about that lake, and who normally ask to be notified about the Commission’s meetings, were not notified about that particular meeting. This, they say, was suspiciously unusual. Even now I cannot find anything on the Neptune Township website about that meeting. If you click on “Agendas & Minutes” and then click on “Fletcher Lake Commission,” you get a blank page. The Bradley Beach website is equally unhelpful. We only learned what was afoot with Fletcher Lake because some Ocean Grovers got wind of it, purely by accident, and spent an inordinate amount of effort digging out the facts.

Why the official silence?

Another issue of huge concern to our town was the recent settlement between the Neptune Board of Education and the ACLU. But have you seen anything on the school district’s website explaining the terms of that settlement? I can’t find it there. Have you heard school board officials describe the terms in any detail? Blogfinger published those terms in full because no one else was doing so, questions were flying and erroneous accounts were starting to spread. But the details we published didn’t come to us from school officials; we had to get them via the ACLU.

Again, why so much official reticence?

Here’s something else Ocean Grovers urgently care about: the North End Redevelopment Plan. But there’s a general lack of understanding among our citizens as to what that plan contains. The plan’s full text is available on the Neptune Township website, but just try to find it. Here’s what you have to do: Type “redevelopment” into the search field. (Typing “north end” gets you nowhere.) Scroll down to “Economic Development” and click the phrase “Read More.” Then scroll way, way, way way down until you get to “Redevelopment Plan-OG North End.” It took me two days to figure this out; it was like searching for The Lost Chord.

On Saturday the Home Owners Association passed a resolution about the North End, and that resolution includes a request that the Township use its website to keep citizens informed and updated. Good idea, and we hope the HOA continues to press the point.

Here’s another transparency issue: demolition by neglect. We try to keep people up to date on the court proceedings against the owners of problem properties in Ocean Grove. But wouldn’t it be better if the Municipal Court kept its schedules of trials and hearings online so every citizen could keep up — not just about code enforcement cases but all cases? This is the 21st century, the information is already in the court’s computers, and it is a basic public record.

Sometimes information that rightfully belongs to the public is kept from us because someone in authority wants it so. And sometimes it’s kept from us because no one cares enough to make the effort to share it. But whether the motives are active or passive, the result is the same: people are left in the dark about the workings of their government.

We used to rely on the media to keep us informed, but our local news media are weaker and more overextended than ever before. Given the economics of the news business, this won’t change. So if people in Ocean Grove want sound information, they’ll have to start demanding it.

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By Charles Layton

By a voice vote, with no nays, the Ocean Grove Home Owners Association approved a North End resolution Saturday containing a long list of suggestions aimed at easing the project’s inconvenience for Ocean Grovers.

The North End Redevelopment promises to be the most massive building project in Ocean Grove for many decades. As presently planned, it calls for a maximum of 80 hotel rooms and a maximum of 85 residences, mainly condos with a few single-family homes.

The Township Committee has already enacted an ordinance describing the project’s outlines, but now the Committee must negotiate with the developers on a much more detailed agreement, which also is to be enacted into law.

The HOA’s list of suggestions will be passed along to the Township’s negotiators, who are Committeeman Randy Bishop and Committeewoman Mary Beth Jahn.

In general, the HOA hopes to mitigate the adverse impact of the project on the lives of Ocean Grovers both during construction and thereafter. The organization’s proposals therefore emphasize the need to prevent parking and traffic problems as a result of the increase in density at the North End.

The proposal also calls for a maximum of transparency, including publication on the Township’s website of all relevant findings and reports, especially those related to traffic, environmental impact and the nature of the water table at the site. (Problems with the water table could affect the developers’ ability to provide the necessary amount of underground parking.)

It also calls for public release of information relating to the developers’ financial ability to complete the project. It asks that the developers be made to build the complex in stages, beginning with the hotel, followed by the single-family homes and then the condo units. “Each block of condos must be 75% sold before other condos are started to insure no empty partially constructed structures,” the resolution says. These suggestions are intended to avoid the fate that befell Asbury Park when a developer began construction on a large condo project only to have the project fail financially, leaving a large, ugly skeleton of an unfinished building.

The HOA also asks that a swimming pool be included in the complex, with public access.

The developers of the North End are the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association and a company headed by Ocean Grove contractors William and Paul Gannon. Other investors in the Gannon company are unknown, and the HOA resolution urges that the Township require that they be identified.

There has been no indication as to how long the Township/developer negotiations might take, or how long before construction begins.

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BACKGROUND —  Here are some basic facts about the North End Redevelopment Plan, as presently written. During negotiations, however, some of these details could change:

*Location: Between Spray Avenue and Wesley Lake, from the boardwalk west to Beach Avenue

*Elements: a hotel, condos, a few single family detached homes, townhouses, retail commercial space

*Maximum number of hotel rooms allowed: 80

*Maximum number of residences of all types: 85

*Off-street parking requirements: one space per hotel room; approximately two spaces per condo unit (in compliance with state RSIS standards); one space for each 300 square feet of banquet, conference or restaurant space in the hotel.

*Other parking requirements: Off-street parking for the hotel and residential structures must be below ground and sheltered from street view, although the below-ground lot or lots may rise a maximum of 3.5 feet above street level. A maximum of 20 surface parking spaces are permitted for loading, valet and pickup/drop-off, provided these spaces are screened from public view. Any existing on-street parking spaces eliminated due to the development must be compensated for with additional on-site spaces.

*Height limitations: Hotel no higher than 65 feet. Condo buildings no higher than 48 feet.

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