About 40 Brick residents gathered at a meeting of the township council Tuesday night to voice their opposition to a proposed hotel, apartment complex and retail space between Route 88, Burrsville Road and Jack Martin Boulevard, but they were told the matter is squarely in the hands of planning board.
The residents are against the approval of the 103 room hotel, 66 apartments and 39,475 square feet of retail space for the triangular plot of land for a number of reasons, including potential traffic issues and concerns over who will be staying at the hotel, which will be a Marriott Residence Inn.
“We are a family neighborhood, there are children, there are people on bicycles,” said Janice DiGioia, a Forge Pond Road resident. “We’re very concerned already about the traffic situation, with people using our neighborhood as a cut-through to Route 70. On Route 88, which is already jam-packed with traffic … it makes absolutely no sense to increase the population at peak traffic hours by 300 to 400 new cars.”
Melinda Murray, another Forge Pond Road resident, questioned the need for a Residence Inn, which bills itself as an extended stay hotel, in an area located outside of commuting distance to Philadelphia and New York.
“We’re not a business-oriented town,” Murray said. “Who’s going to stay there? Every extended-stay hotel I’ve seen in this area is not good, and we’re trying to combat that now as is.”
Murray also relayed concerns over a traffic increase in her neighborhood, saying her neighbors have already taken down their fences to allow children to run from yard-to-yard instead of venturing out into the street.
Mayor John Ducey and township council members listened to the concerns, but were unable to respond or offer their own opinions after being advised against doing so by Township Attorney Kevin Starkey.
“Frankly, under the law, it would do more harm than good for them to comment,” since undue influence on the planning board by the municipal governing body could lead to litigation down the road, Starkey said.
Neither the township council nor the mayor have any legal authority to influence whether the project receives approval, as it is proposed on a privately-owned plot of land and is before the planning board. That body – not the council – approves such projects.
“You have a right to be heard and you should be heard here,” Starkey told the residents, who came to the meeting wearing bright green ‘Save Our Neighborhood’ stickers. “It’s important, while you can speak here, that you go to [the planning board] meeting so your comments are on that record before the governing body that can make a decision on that.”
The planning board is due to continue hearing the hotel application Oct. 28.
Some residents complained that they were unable to address the planning board at previous meetings. But state law holds that planning board hearings, which are quasi-judicial in nature, must provide public comment on applications after testimony from the applicant is heard. The applicant’s testimony may be completed over the course of several meetings due to time constraints, with public comment being available only after the final hearing.
According to the application, the hotel would be operated separately from the residential portion of the site. The residential portion would be located above the retail space and managed by the same agency that manages the Brick Gardens complex in town. The apartments will range from 800 to 900 square foot single bedroom units to 1,300 square foot two bedroom units, the project’s developer has said.
The application calls for access to be split between the hotel and the retail and apartment portions of the site. There would be an access location off Route 88 and two access locations from Burrsville.
As part of the project, the Brick Township Municipal Utilities Authority has agreed to move an outflow pipe away from the freshwater portion of the Metedeconk River and divert it to the tidal portion of the river in order to avoid excess runoff being washed into Brick’s drinking water, Rivera said.
“I don’t see why we need this big hotel there,” said Laurie Zingg. “There are no attractions here. I can see who will be living there five, ten years from now. It might be politically incorrect to say, but it will be undesirables.”