BELMAR, NJ — The Belmar Council has approved a revised redevelopment plan for the former Bank of America property, which is being called “a better fit” with the adjacent residential neighborhood along Ninth Avenue.

Under the amended building standards included in the redevelopment zone, a proposed 30-unit apartment building could stand four stories — or no more than 45 feet — along Main Street, but could only rise to three stories — to a maximum of 36 feet — along Ninth Avenue. In addition, there would be a 40-foot setback from the adjacent residential property on Ninth Avenue — 10 feet more than was previously proposed.

The approval paves the way for the developer to submit a site plan application for the project to the planning board.

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The council's 3-1 vote comes two weeks after it tabled the ordinance that establishes new zoning requirements for the redevelopment area, following a public hearing peppered with criticism from nearby residents. They voiced their opposition primarily to a four-story building being too high and too close to nearby homes, and to worsening parking woes in the downtown area. 

READ MORE: Belmar Council Delays Decision to Rezone Former Bank of America Property

Public opposition also prompted the planning board on November 18 to reject the redevelopment plan, maintaining it does not comply with the borough's master plan and raising concerns over the size and scope of projects that would be permitted in the zone and its impact on parking.

READ MORE: Belmar Planning Board Votes Down Redevelopment Plan for Former Bank of America Property

Before the council held off a vote at its December 3 meeting, a preliminary plan called for the construction of an apartment building that would consist of three top floors of one- and two-bedroom apartments — 15 of each — and a lower floor of office space and an interior parking level. There would also be a total of 45 interior and exterior parking spaces.

Borough planning officials have been working with representatives of property owner Sachem Pond LLC, on establishing a conceptual plan for the new redevelopment zone before the submission of a site plan application for the apartment building situated on the one-half-acre corner lot.

However, three factors — the council's inaction on the redevelopment plan, the planning board's vote to not approve the plan and the public's opposition — prompted planners for both the borough and the developer to hammer out a compromise. The result was the amendment to the conceptual plan, according to planner Christine Bell of Neptune-based Leon S. Avakian Inc., who characterized it as a "better fit" than other zoning options.

Voting in favor of the amended plan were Mayor Mark Walsifer and council members Patricia Wann and Thomas Carvelli, with Council President Thomas Brennan casting the dissenting vote. Councilman James McCracken was absent.

"They heard what the people wanted and (a compromise) was done," said Wann, a planning board member who initially voted against the plan in that role. "I'm not against development in town. We need it. And (concerns over) this development were heard and why I'm voting yes."

Carvelli concurred: "This is a good project for Main Street and what we're approving is different than what was originally presented to the planning board."

While Brennan agreed that the developer "has gone out of his way" to listen to neighbors' concerns, "you've got to make sure you have enough parking." And he believes that the project falls short in terms of providing an adequate number of spaces.

Several nearby residents also continued to voice their disapproval of the plan, including Brett Lomas, whose three-story Ninth Avenue home sits next to the site. While he approved of the height reduction in the plan, he said it does not provide for enough parking, and there is not an adequate buffer between his property and the proposed apartment building site.

A parking lot is not a buffer, he maintained, looking for some type of "natural" or vegetation to be placed between both properties.

Borough Attorney Jerry Dasti explained that those types of issues would be addressed by the planning board when a site plan application for the project is submitted for review and approval.

Belmar Council Gives Go-Ahead to Redevelopment Plan for 807-809 11th Avenue
In another land-use matter, the borough council has approved a redevelopment plan for 807-809 11th Avenue — more than two years after the planning board determined in June 2017 that the area met the criteria for designation as an "area in need of development."

The council's decision gives the developer, Newman Ventures LLC, the green light to submit a site plan application for the project, which calls for 10 single-family townhomes, each with three bedrooms and a two-car garage. They would replace the existing five homes currently on both sites.

It is the first redevelopment plan in recent years that will not be under a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) agreement — and that "tax payments will be made in normal course and reflect a nine-year increase in assessment."

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