Zoning board rejects variance for adult community


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By Mark Rosman
Staff Writer

MANALAPAN – The Zoning Board of Adjustment has rejected a developer’s plan to construct an age-restricted community and a retail center in a Special Economic Development zone (SED-20) on Route 33.

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Terry Sherman, a principal with Countryside Developers, outlined his plan during the March 17 meeting of the zoning board. He proposed building a community of 139 single-family homes priced at about $500,000 on an 82-acre parcel on the eastbound side of Route 33 at Pegasus Boulevard, across the state highway from the Four Seasons adult community.

The commercial uses Sherman proposed were a bank, a restaurant and a 12,000-square-foot retail center.

Sherman, who was represented by attorney Sal Alfieri, sought a use variance from the board because a residential use is not permitted in the SED-20 zone.

Following testimony from professionals who appeared on Sherman’s behalf, a motion was made to deny his request for the use variance and the motion passed in a 4-3 vote.

Voting yes to deny the use variance were board Chairman Butch Budai and board members Larry Cooper, Joseph Cammarata and Stephen Leviton. Voting no on the motion were three board members who, during a discussion of the application, indicated they were in favor of granting the use variance – Barry Fisher, Terry Rosenthal and Mary Anne Byan.

Sherman said the plan he was proposing took into consideration a residential development that abuts the back of the property where he wanted to build the age-restricted community. He said the commercial part of the project would be set back from Route 33 in keeping with standards established by Manalapan’s master plan.

The SED-20 zoning, according to Sherman, would permit, without the granting of a variance, the construction of multiple office buildings, multiple restaurants, a health and fitness club, a 104-room hotel, a supermarket and other types of uses on the same 82-acre parcel.

Traffic engineer Harvey Yesowitz, appearing on behalf of the applicant, testified that the age-restricted community and associated retail uses would produce significantly less traffic than what would be produced if the site is developed in accordance with the SED-20 zoning.

Additional testimony on behalf of the applicant was provided by engineer Mark Zelina, who described the manner in which the adult homes and retail uses would be buffered from neighboring properties; attorney James Gorman, who discussed reasons why the zoning board could grant a use variance without usurping the Township Committee’s ability to rezone property; and planner Creigh Rahenkamp, who testified there is a need for age-restricted housing in Monmouth County, that there would be less of an impact on the nearby residential neighborhood if the plan was built as proposed, compared to the impact of the multitude of uses that are permitted in the SED-20 zone, and that even if the property was not developed in accordance with what is permitted in or desired by township officials in an SED-20 zone, that there is a significant amount of SED-20 space remaining on Route 33 to accomplish those municipal goals.

The board’s planner, Anthony Rodriguez, said municipal officials have had the opportunity, or have been asked, to zone for residential uses on Route 33 and have not done so in recent years. He suggested that the zoning board might be acting outside of its jurisdiction to grant a variance for a residential use at this property.

Sherman acknowledged there is no demand for office space and said, “We have designed something that is more aesthetically pleasing and less impactful (than what is permitted by the SED-20 zoning). We feel this is a plus for the community.”

No one from the public commented on the application or asked questions of Sherman or his professionals when given the opportunity to do so.

Board members discussed the application, with Fisher, Rosenthal and Byan expressing the opinion that Sherman’s plan was suitable for the property and would not substantially impair the intent of the SED-20 zone.

Budai, Cooper, Leviton and Cammarata in large part agreed that the municipal officials who have the right to plan the community’s growth and development have not, in recent years, indicated a desire for residential uses on Route 33.

The motion to deny the use variance was carried in a 4-3 vote.

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