By KAYLA J. MARSH
EATONTOWN — Talks continue to be underway as borough professionals and Kushner Companies figure out how best to move forward with the redevelopment of the Monmouth Mall site in a way that appeases all parties involved.
During a crowded July 27 Borough Council meeting, Mayor Dennis Connelly said he is very pleased the dialogue between Kushner Companies and borough professionals has been moving in a positive direction.
“Tonight’s discussion may be a little premature since there’s still some issues that need to be addressed, [but] this mall redevelopment project has been met with some resistance by some of our towns residents, [and] I want to express to you that your concerns are not being taken lightly,” he said. “We are listening and addressing your concerns.
“I do believe all of your elected officials know the magnitude of this project and are working to put the best ordinance together to not only help Eatontown today, but guide Eatontown to a better future.”
Connelly said borough professionals and Kushner’s professionals had a meeting July 14 to discuss the mall and an ordinance, which would have changed the zoning of the site from commercial to mixed-use.
The ordinance was voted down at a packed April 27 council meeting after numerous public comments and Kushner opting not to go through with the $500 million redevelopment plan that would have turned the mall site into a 24-hour indoor and outdoor pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use community.
The ordinance would have also allowed Kushner to build up to 800 residential units on the property.
“I am sure we will still be met with some resistance, but our goal is … to make the best decisions for Eatontown,” Connelly said.
During the meeting, Connelly discussed some of the proposed changes from the last ordinance, including those to the setback and buffer requirements, building heights and even to the potential number of housing units.
“They are still being discussed and are not set in stone,” he said.
According to Connelly, borough and Kushner professionals discussed reducing the number of residential units on the property from 800 to 700, reducing the affordable housing obligation from 15 percent to 12.5 percent, eliminating the hotel, eliminating the rooftop golf training center and having no public or private schools or houses of worship on site.
“That’s where we are at this stage [and] again there’s nothing set in stone,” Connelly said. “We heard the residents … we are not trying to satisfy everyone, because I don’t think that’s possible, but we are trying to satisfy the majority and trying to do the best that we can do for Eatontown.”
Borough Attorney Andrew Bayer reminded meeting attendees that discussions going on regarding the redevelopment project have only been between the borough professionals and the developer’s professionals.
“The council and mayor have not been directly involved at all,” he said.
According to Bayer, as soon as some other issues are discussed and resolved, a new draft ordinance can be prepared and sent to the governing body to review and possibly introduce at a future meeting.
After the project update, several borough residents expressed their displeasure at the changes proposed.
“I’ve lived in Eatontown almost 40 years, and I moved here because it is a nice, country-type setting,” said Sherry Caso. “Please don’t allow 700 apartments. You dropped it 100 which basically means nothing to us. Seven hundred more apartments in the town are not needed.”
Resident Judy Rutan also expressed her displeasure at the proposed changes.
“If you pass this ordinance, you will forever change the dynamics of what Eatontown, New Jersey was and will become,” she said. “We would like to keep our town small and we’d like to still keep our town, for whatever reason we can possibly have, to keep it nice.”