Opponents of a development project which will place a 103 room hotel, 66 apartments and 39,775 square feet of retail space along three busy Brick roads scored a victory Wednesday night, with the township’s Board of Adjustment unanimously voting to transfer the approval application to its jurisdiction.
The case was previously being heard by the planning board, but was stopped when Ron Gasiorowski, an attorney for 545 Brick Boulevard LLC, filed a lawsuit arguing the case should be heard before the Board of Adjustment due to zoning issues. The hearing Wednesday night sought a determination by the Board of Adjustment as to whether the venue should be changed.
The project is proposed for a triangular plot of land that runs beside Route 88, Burrsville Road and Jack Martin Boulevard. Neighbors have lined up to oppose the project, citing concerns over traffic and the quality of tenants who may occupy the facility. Many attended the meeting Wednesday night wearing “Save Our Neighborhood” buttons.
For Kamson Corporation, the developer of the project, gaining approval will be more difficult before the Board of Adjustment as compared to the planning board. For starters, testimony in the case – now months in progress – will likely have to start over. Before the Board of Adjustment, approval will require a supermajority of members voting in favor of the project rather than a simple majority before the planning board. Additionally, the Board of Adjustment determined the project will require a “D” variance – often known as a use variance – which under state land use laws is the most difficult variance to obtain.
The board made its determination Wednesday night after hearing testimony from a planner hired by Kamson testify for about an hour as to why the hearing should not be moved. In the end, the board’s own attorney, John P. Miller, recommended the board change jurisdiction due to the reasons outlined by Gasiorowski. (Gasiorowski has since been replaced on the case by attorney Bernard Reilly over an undisclosed conflict of interest.)
The hotel and development is proposed to be constructed in what is known as the township’s hospital support zone. That zone is overlayed by a mixed use zone, which allows certain other uses within the underlying hospital support zone. Certain portions of the application, specifically the apartments, are a conditional use within the underlying zone. The board ruled that, according to Brick’s municipal land use ordinance, when a conditional use is sought in a mixed use zone, the conditions placed upon that conditional use must be settled. In the case of the proposed hotel, variances are required, which necessitate a change in venue and the additional requirement of a use variance.
Marc Policastro, Kamson’s attorney, was frustrated by the board’s ruling, arguing that in a previous case, the township’s planning board granted approval to a mixed use project that required the same variance relief as his client’s. That development, New Visions, is currently under construction off Ovation Way behind the township’s post office.
“That has no bearing here,” replied Miller to Policastro’s argument. “This board doesn’t have the obligation to follow the resolution by another board.”
Board Chairman Harvey Langer urged concerned residents to hire professionals – an attorney, engineer or architect – to assist in their opposition to the case.
“I would recommend that if you want to have skin in the game … hire a professional to represent you during the proceedings,” Langer said.
It is possible that Wednesday’s decision will be challenged by Kamson. Policastro declined to comment after the meeting ended.