WARETOWN, NJ – A crowd of 50-75 local residents gathered outside last night at the Waretown Firehouse for a meeting of the township’s redevelopment authority.  The gathering ended with Ocean Township Committee members authorizing a developer to move to the next phase of the approval process for construction of townhouses and a commercial building on Route 9.

Keith Davis, Esquire appeared before the governing body on behalf of property owners, Herman and Marsha Zell.  His clients have owned the 24-acre wooded area across from the Route 9 entrance/exit of Greenbriar since 1975.

The proposal calls for the construction of 120 residential attached homes in a total of eighteen buildings.  Owner-occupied two- and three-bedroom townhouses would be offered at $300,000 and $350.000.  The project includes a small number of affordable housing rental units built to comply with legal requirements.

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Residents will have access to a single-story clubhouse and swimming pool on the premises, as well as walking paths. A retail building consisting of approximately 8550 square feet is also part of the planned redevelopment. The proposed name of the overall project is Oceanaire East.

According to Davis, the bulk of the Zell property is already located in the area designated as in need of redevelopment. The presentation last night included several professionals providing testimony on conceptual plans.

“We are asking you to authorize your consultants to work with our team to prepare a redevelopment plan that makes sense, “said Davis. “The goal is to allow the property be productive and bring a new tax ratable into the community.”

Ten acres of the land would be designated as a tree preserve and deed restricted. Approximately seven acres in three separate areas have been identified as wetlands. The DEP will require the developers to establish buffers around them.

Richard Reading provided testimony as an economic analyst and consultant. He submitted a community impact statement on behalf of the Zells.

According to Reading’s estimations, the project would result in 272 residents and approximately 22 new employment opportunities. Reading approximated that an additional 20 school aged children could become part of the district.

The plans call for sole access to the new development by way of Route 9. David Horner, a professional traffic operations engineer discussed the impact the new construction would pose to local traffic. He said that the New Jersey Department of Transportation would become involved in subsequent stages of the process.

“I don’t anticipate any issues with the design of this traffic,” said Horner, who also said he did not feel that the additional traffic volume represented an issue.

Residents who spoke during the public comments session of the meeting offered various objections to the proposal. Many expressed concerns that the township was headed to overdevelopment.

“I live adjacent to the property that’s going to be developed,” said resident John Signorelli. “I have a petition signed by over 620 residents who say they are not in favor of the development of this property.”

Signorelli said that he and many other homeowners purchased houses that butted up against the property did so because of the wildlife and nature present.  He vocalized the fears of other residents that Waretown was losing its “small town feel.”

“What is this going to cost us?” asked Bob Risden, who lives on Main Street. “Are we going to have to put up a new water tower for this?”

Township Engineer Jason Worth answered Risden’s concern by replying the project has been considered in respect to water and he did not anticipate further expenditures.

Several attendees challenged the results of the traffic study, which the expert indicated were derived from prescribed formulas. They pointed out that the new development across from Shop Rite will add to traffic along the single laned highway.

Ann Hopkins, whose property aligns with the proposed basin expressed concerns that it would contain standing water and attract mosquitoes. She also raised questions regarding the proximity of the property to existing homes.

“When Greenbriar was built, I was told they didn’t build on the Route 9 side because of an endangered frog,” continued Hopkins. “Did that frog not cross the road?”

Attorney Davis explained that the part of the process would include an application to the Department of Environmental Protection. They would make determinations regarding protection of endangered species.

More than one resident disagreed with the expert’s assessment regarding the addition of more children to the Ocean Township school system. They expressed fears that the schools could become overcrowded.

Christopher Dasti, Township Attorney spoke at the conclusion of the public commentary. He explained that the redevelopment authority was not giving approval of the plans. Township professionals would work together on a redevelopment plan based on feedback from the committee and members of the public.

Last night’s approval gives the applicant the right to submit site plans to the Ocean Township Planning Board. The meetings are open to the public and public comments are accepted.

The developer will also need approval from at least two state agencies, including the NJDEP and NJDOT,

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