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

Some 100 people assemble in the Belmar courtroom on June 28 to hear plans for a four-story condo building on the site of the Belmar Inn on 12th Avenue — only for the hearing to be reset for July 25. Credits: Cathy Goetz

BELMAR, NJ — The start of zoning board hearings on plans to bring a four-story condominium building to the current site of the Belmar Inn on 12th Avenue has been delayed for a second time after the developer scaled back the original proposal.

Acting on a recommendation from board attorney Kevin Kennedy, the Belmar Zoning Board of Adjustment on June 28 voted to put off the hearings until July 25 — in order to renotify the general public and surrounding residents about the revised plans, which scraps the fifth floor of the proposed residential building that would house 24 condominium units at 112-114 12th Avenue.

The delay would also meet the 10-day requirement to have the revised application available for public review and give the borough’s zoning officials and engineer time to assess the new plans as well.

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Attorney William Shipers notified the zoning board in a June 20 letter of developer Edelman Investment Group’s decision to reduce the plan’s scope after receiving feedback from residents who opposed the project’s size and scope. “I listened and made changes,” Shipers said during the latest board meeting, requesting to proceed with the revised plan. “I took it down by one floor, so I have plans to move forward tonight.”

While Kennedy said he appreciated the concessions by Shiper to make it a more "conforming" application, the revised plans are “clearly different,” prompting Kennedy to advise the board to delay the hearing until all procedural matters were addressed.

Based on the revisions, the proposed building’s penthouse-level has been removed and the ceiling heights on the remaining floors have been lowered, reducing its proposed overall height by 11½ feet to 41½ feet — about six inches taller than the existing Belmar Inn, according to the plan.

While the building would still house 24 one- and two-bedroom apartments now on three floors, its total square footage is 6,800 square feet less than in the original plan, said Shipers. The bottom floor would remain a surface parking area with 24 spaces.

The application was originally scheduled to begin at a May 23 special meeting, but the board lacked a sufficient quorum to proceed, and postponed it until the regular June 28 meeting.

During that meeting, which drew at least 100 people who packed the municipal building's courtroom, the board's decision to hold off starting the proceeding was not only based on its attorney’s recommendation, but came after hearing concerns over the risk of litigation by attorney Fredrick Niemann. The Freehold-based lawyer is representing Arthur Ammermuller of 12th Avenue who leads a group of residents opposed to the plan.

It was this pushback that led developer Vincent Falcone of Belmar to withdraw his plans for the second high-rise condominium building across the street from the Belmar Inn site — on a consolidated lot of 105, 107 and 109 12th Avenue.

“(Falcone) heard from the community and wants to reconsider his application and instructed me to withdraw it without prejudice,” said Shipers, who also represents the Belmar developer.

The board concurred with that request before delaying the 112-114 12th Avenue application.

Residents have been vocal in their opposition to the new condo projects, claiming the proposed buildings 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.

A growing campaign against the project is reflected by the number of lawn signs expressing their opposition throughout the neighborhood.

However for years, 12th Avenue residents have complained about their rowdy summer neighbors at 105, 107 and 109 12th Avenue — the site of some of the most notorious summer “animal houses” with chronic records of quality-of-life violations. And for at least two decades, the Belmar Inn has been commonly described as “a public nuisance" with a transient clientele that draws frequent visits by the Belmar police — and also the source of chronic grumbling by nearby residents.

Currently, the 40-room motel is closed due to fire code violations, but those could be remedied and the inn opened, if the sale of the property does not materialize with the approval of the redevelopment plan, Shipers said.

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