By Kayla J. Marsh
EATONTOWN – Following the announcement of a $500 million redevelopment plan for Monmouth Mall, a new ordinance introduced by the Borough Council would change current zoning at the site to establish the new Mixed-Use Regional Center Zone.
At the governing body’s Feb. 24 meeting, Borough Planner John Maczuga said the area is currently only zoned for retail use and the B-6 Business Zone would change to the Mixed-Use Regional Center Zone, providing for development incorporating commercial, residential and recreational uses.
“The effect of the ordinance is to create a new zone and it is geared entirely as a mixed-use zone to match the plans of Kushner,” Maczuga said. “The zone would not eliminate what is currently permitted in the B-6 zone, but would add uses to the zone.”
The proposed zone change would allow Kushner Companies, the sole owner of the mall, to build up to 800 residential units on the property.
According to the ordinance, unanimously introduced by the governing body, a mixed-use building “shall mean a building of two or more stories with a minimum of the ground floor consisting of exclusively non-residential uses … and a minimum of one floor of residential uses over one or more floors or non-residential uses.”
According to the ordinance, non-residential include, but are not limited to, business or professional offices, indoor sports facilities, bowling alleys and health or children activity centers.
“The obvious intent of the zone is to change direction a little bit,” Maczuga said. “Malls need to start looking to the future. I think they need to change along with the way things are changing in the outside world.
“I think there is a recognition that is going on and this is one avenue I think from a planning perspective is unique and is one that I think is going to be replicated a lot across the country.
“There’s a need to change and this ordinance is in effect recognition of that type of activity.”
According to the ordinance, “the required number of affordable housing units, whether on-site or off-site, shall be 15 percent of the combined total of approved market rate and affordable units.
“The maximum obligation, should the developer construct all 800 units on-site as market rate units, shall be 141 affordable housing units constructed/acquired off-site within the borough.
“If there are no off-site affordable housing units either constructed or acquired for said purpose, then the developer shall be responsible for designating 120 out of the 800 units on-site as affordable housing units.”
“From a developers perspective, there is a point to sustain this type of mixed-use development where the more units, the more sustainable it is and the more it becomes a 24-hour a day, seven-day a week, type of activity area,” Maczuga said. “The more units the more activity on a 24-hour basis and it does in fact promote the concept that [Kushner is] trying to achieve.”
As part of the redevelopment plan, Monmouth Mall, located at the intersections of Routes 35 and 36, would be transformed into Monmouth Town Center, an indoor and outdoor pedestrian-friendly mixed-use community.
The center will become a vast retail, dining and entertainment destination featuring state-of-the-art amenities such as four residential structures that will be four-story and five-story high with one- and two-bedroom units, a hotel, an outdoor plaza and biker- and pedestrian-friendly greenspaces and streetscapes.
Borough Attorney Andrew Bayer said that because this is a zoning ordinance, after being introduced, it now has to go before the borough’s planning board, who would make recommendations.
“The board has to make a determination as to whether or not the ordinance is consistent with master plan or inconsistent,” Bayer said. “Once they do that, it would then come back to the council and would be noticed liked every ordinance.”
Bayer said that because this is a proposed change in use all affected property owners within 200 feet of the zone would also get notified.
He said there would then be a public hearing on the ordinance, where the governing body would consider its adoption.
“Theoretically if it is adopted, then that is really just the starting point because the developer would then have to go to the planning board for site plan approval,” Bayer said. “There will be a very detailed plan submitted to the board how all this is going to work from an engineering standpoint, from a planning standpoint … this is the first step in a very long process.”
Following discussion on the ordinance, numerous residents spoke about the impact the project would have on the borough.
“I’m not sure I buy into that this is the future,” resident Sara Breslow said. “It seems like the past, that you are going to have open areas to walk in where you’re not going to have heating or air conditioning and you’re going to have winter.
“I’m not sure I see the attraction for this layout.”
Resident Sophia Domogala added that many issues still need to be dealt with regarding safety, noise, traffic, building height and environmental concerns.
“We do need an improvement, we do want to bring funds into Eatontown, but how is this community going to handle this?” she asked the governing body.
“Where a small town here in Eatontown. Yes we do want to grow and we need to grow however I do think we need to scale this plan down quite a bit.”
Mayor Dennis Connelly held firm that the redevelopment would only be beneficial for the borough.
“This is still a concept plan,” he said. “We’re not doing a site plan, we’re just setting the limits of what can be built there. [Kushner] still has a big process to go through.”
A public hearing on the ordinance will be held at the council’s March 23 meeting at 7 p.m. at the borough hall that is located at 47 Broad St.