BELMAR, NJ — Belmar residents opposed to the construction of a four-story condominium building on the current Belmar Inn site got their first opportunity last night to formally question the project’s developer.

A zoning board of adjustment hearing on Edelman Investment Group’s proposal to build the 24-unit structure at 112-114 12th Avenue got under way on July 25 before a standing-room-only audience in the municipal building’s courtroom.

After attorney William Shipers, who is listed as the sole member in the investment group, gave an overview of his background in the borough’s redevelopment efforts along Ocean Avenue, he then presented the board with documentation justifying his reasons “why the Belmar Inn has to go” — binders containing hundreds of police, first aid and fire calls, dozens of building, fire and health code violations, and the minutes from Belmar municipal meetings containing numerous complaints from residents about the 40-room hotel.

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 “I want to spur the ongoing development of Belmar,” Shipers told the 150-plus crowd composed primarily of residents who object to the size and scope of the project proposed within the ocean block of 12th Avenue. “I want Belmar better for you, for your kids.”

When it came time for residents to question Shipers following his presentation, he repeatedly was asked whether he was the only principal in Edelman Investment Group of Belmar.

He explained that the investment group is named in “honor” of 12th Avenue resident Howard Edelman, who initially approached a representative of the Belmar Inn to learn it would entertain an offer to sell the 14,000-square-foot property.

Other than Edelman being a resident concerned about the quality of life on 12th Avenue, where he is building a new “legacy” home for his family, Shipers said, he has no financial interest in the project.

Shipers also was questioned as to why the project needs to be a multi-unit structure. Critics of the plan contend the proposed structure is too big and dense for the site — at some points coming within several feet of adjacent properties — and is out of character with the surrounding neighborhood of smaller homes. Although the property sits in a single-family zone, multifamily structures are permitted as a conditional use.

“I’ve lived right behind the Belmar Inn since 1985. I feel you’re coming into my backyard … you’re 3 feet away,” said Ralph Marino of 11th Avenue. “Why not design a building suitable for everyone?”

While Shipers responded that he wished he could build less of a building, he also said he would like nothing better than to build single-family homes on the property — as he did with a group of developers along Ocean Avenue during the late 1990s and early 2000s.

However, today’s economy does not make that possible, especially on a piece of property that is 100 foot wide and assessed at $2.2 million, he said.

“Condos are the only feasible density product that will remove the Belmar Inn,” Shipers said, pointing out that the site is surrounded by multifamily buildings and guest houses and presenting a property map of the two-block area. “Economically, this is what works.”

While Shipers is listed as the contract purchaser with Rainbow Hospitality Inc. of Edison, which owns the Belmar Inn, he did not disclose the purchase price — a sale that is contingent on the plan’s approval.

The current plan calls for a 41½-foot-high building, which is 6 inches taller than the existing Belmar Inn and 6½ feet higher than zoning permits, according to the application. It includes one- and two-bedroom apartments on the top three floors and a first-floor, 24-space surface parking area beneath the residential floors that would not be seen from 12th Avenue.

In addition to seeking use and height variances, the developer also is seeking the zoning board’s approval to exceed zoning requirements for yard setbacks, building coverage, impervious lot coverage, floor/area ratio and parking.

At last night’s 3½-hour hearing, two experts also testified on behalf of the applicant. Engineer Richard DiFolco of Freehold presented a rundown of the variances being sought and addressed previous concerns over drainage and other issues by borough engineer Derek Jordan of Red Bank-based Maser Consulting.

Traffic consultant Scott Kennell of Manasquan also told the board the proposal would have less of an impact on parking and generate 25 to 30 percent less traffic during peak hours than the Belmar Inn.

The zoning board members and the public will be able to ask DiFolco and Kennell questions tonight, July 26, when the hearing is scheduled to resume at 7 p.m. at the Belmar Municipal Building, 601 Main Street.

Below are links to previous TAPinto Belmar/Lake Como stories on this project:

Belmar Zoning Board Delays Hearing on Plans for High-Rise Condos on 12th Avenue, Developer Stays to Take Questions  

One Plan for High-Rise Condos on Belmar’s 12th Avenue to be Dropped, Other Building Trimmed by One Floor  

Developers Respond to Pushback to Plans for High-Rise Condos on Belmar’s 12th Avenue

Belmar Zoning Hearing on Condo Plan for 12th Avenue Hotel Site Delayed for Second Time

Belmar Inn in Process of Making Repairs, Correcting Fire Code Violations with Plans to Reopen

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