BELMAR, NJ — Belmar’s zoning board lacked a quorum last night to begin formal hearings on applications for two high-rise condominium buildings to be situated one-half block from the beachfront on 12th Avenue.

To the disappointment of the hundreds of people who packed the municipal building’s courtroom on May 23, Zoning Board of Adjustment attorney Kevin Kennedy explained that an emergency prevented a seventh member of the board to attend the special meeting on the two controversial projects, whose size and scope have generated mounting concern from residents.

Those plans call for the construction of a five-story, 24-unit building at 112 and 114 12th Avenue that would replace the Belmar Inn, which has been shuttered since this winter due to code violations, and for another five-story structure with 24 residential units for a consolidated lot at 105, 107 and 109 12th Avenue — currently the site of several of the street’s most notorious summer “animal houses” with chronic records of quality-of-life violations.  

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Kennedy said that because the applicants are seeking “devariance relief” from a multitude of zoning requirements related to height, parking, yard setbacks and building coverage among others, five affirmative votes are needed to approve their plans. As a result, the board voted to reschedule the presentation of the plans and public hearing to Thursday, June 28.

William Shipers, the attorney representing both applicants, was given the option to waive the quorum requirement and proceed with presenting both plans. Instead, he decided to retain his right to having a full complement of the board decide upon the projects, but volunteered to take questions from the public following the zoning board’s adjournment of the meeting.

While most in attendance did not take him up on his offer, some 30 people remained to listen to Shipers explain how the 112-114 12th Avenue project came together and to voice their concerns — many of which centered on the proposed 62-foot height of each structure.

Although 12th Avenue residents have complained for years about their rowdy summer neighbors and Belmar Inn’s transient clientele, they are now concerned that both projects are too big for the sites, are out of character with the neighborhood and will dwarf the much-smaller single-family homes on the street.

During the informal hour-long session, architect Mary Hearn explained that while since each structure’s plan includes a fifth-floor penthouse that would be stepped back from the front of the building, the height of each structure from the street would be 43 feet — two feet more than the current height of the Belmar Inn and about the same for the other property. The penthouse extends the total height to 62 feet.

Shipers, who has played a major role over the years in the redevelopment of Ocean Avenue, explained that the Belmar Inn has been an eyesore — and a public nuisance — for at least two decades. However, the owner of the 40-room hotel — listed in property records as Rainbow Hospitality of Edison and valued at nearly $1.3 million — has been reluctant to selling the establishment, until recently when Howard Edelman of 201 12th Avenue approached a company representative at the rooming house who said an offer would be considered, he said.

Edelman, who attended the informal session, explained his role in bringing the application to the table.

“My family has been living here for 65 years, and we have seen all the problems created by (the Belmar Inn),” said Edelman, who is in the process himself of building a new home on his property. “I only want the people on 12th Avenue to have a (better) quality of life. The Belmar Inn is destroying 12th Avenue.”

Although Edelman Investment Group is listed as the contract purchaser on the 112-114 12th Avenue application, “I have no financial interest in this,” Edelman said. “Bill (Shipers) is taking all the risk.”

Shipers explained that the proposed price tag of the Belmar Inn property, which remained undisclosed, has dictated the size of the project. “We need 24 units to get the Belmar Inn out of here,” he said. “It’s just the economics.”

When asked whether single-family homes would be considered for the property, Shipers said the site could only accommodate two homes — each of which would need to sell at between $4 million and $5 million — “and that ain’t happening.”

But like Edelman, he is concerned over the continued existence of the Belmar Inn, which has put a constant strain on borough resources in terms of police, fire, first aid and code enforcement. “Just look at the police reports,” said Shipers. “There’s no question the Belmar Inn has to go.”

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