BELMAR, NJ — Architect Mary Hearn was faced with a design challenge when she was asked to slash one floor from a proposed five-story condominium building on 12th Avenue in Belmar without cutting its 24 total units.

But by removing a penthouse-level top floor, lowering ceiling heights on the remaining three floors and reducing the space above a ground-level parking area, she was able to accomplish her task and reduce the building’s overall height by 15½ feet. Now proposed at 41½ feet tall, the midrise condominium structure is now 6 inches taller than the building it is proposed to replace — the Belmar Inn at 112-114 12th Avenue.

Hearn provided her detailed overview of the controversial now four-story project during the second night of testimony on July 26 before the borough’s zoning board of adjustment, which is hearing the application by Edelman Investment Group. Click here for a story on the opening hearing on July 25.

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The Belmar-based developer led by attorney William Shipers is seeking 12 variances to construct the multi-unit structure in a single-family residential zone that permits multifamily uses on a conditional basis, according to the borough's master plan.

After a groundswell of public pressure to reduce the project’s size and scope, Shipers shaved the one floor from his proposal, which now is 6½ feet higher than zoning permits. In addition to seeking use and height variances, the developer also is seeking the zoning board’s approval to exceed zoning requirements for front, side and rear yard setbacks, building coverage, impervious lot coverage, maximum floor/area ratio, parking and curb-cut width, as well to have a flat roof.

While residents continue to maintain that the building is too large and too dense for the neighborhood — and is out of character with surrounding smaller homes — Shipers has reiterated that the project needs to include 24 units to remain economically viable, particularly on a 14,000-square-foot lot that is 100 foot wide and assessed at $2.2 million.

And in her testimony, Hearn said she was able to achieve that goal with her revised plan. “We designed it as small as we could, but kept it sellable,” she said, adding that the project reflects the proper aesthetics and value, although some of its openness and variety of design features have been lost in the redesign, including balconies and windows.

Responding to criticism that the building’s look is too “modern” for the neighborhood — an eclectic mix of Shore colonial and Victorian style multi- and single-family homes, and beach bungalows — Hearn said her intent was not to design this building to resemble a residential home. “While I respect everyone’s opinion, the architectural integrity is to make a condo building look like a condo building,” she said. “The value in the fabric of a town is being diverse in its aesthetic.”

However, she said, there is room to modify the exterior with changes in colors and textures in the siding material.

Under the proposal, there would be an atrium lobby on the first floor, which would include an elevator, and two stairwells leading to the three floors containing the condominiums.

Each floor would have eight units, ranging in size from 1,100 square feet to 1,450 square feet — two units with one bedroom and two baths, two units with two bedrooms and two baths and four units with one bedroom, one windowless den and two baths.

Most units would have balconies — some situated within several feet of the property line — while fencing would be placed around three sides of the building.

The building’s air conditioning units would be situated on its flat roof in a parapet enclosure.

With the building extending to encompass what is now the front porch of the Belmar Inn, the existing gravel area would be landscaped, featuring a rain garden watered from the building’s runoff to be created in a “bump out” area at the curb — similar to the stoned areas on the boardwalk side of Ocean Avenue. In addition, a bicycle rank would be situated at the front of the building,  and pavers would be used for all impervious surfaces.

On the first-floor parking level, there would be 24 spaces with vehicle access in the front and on the east, and open-air sides. This area would also include a mechanical room and a trash room that would be serviced by a private trash hauler.

During questioning of Hearn, as well as project engineer Richard DiFolco of Freehold and traffic consultant Scott Kennell of Manasquan, concerns arose over a host of issues, including parking, traffic, the building’s lot coverage, side and  rear yard setbacks, and the bump-out rain garden, which would replace three parking spaces along 12th Avenue.

After nearly 3½ hours of testimony and discussion, the hearing was adjourned and will resume on August 23 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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