Old Bridge Planning Board to study Old Matawan Road and Laurence Harbor Waterfront area for redevelopment, rehabilitation

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OLD BRIDGE – Township officials are taking a look at Old Matawan Road and the Route 35 Laurence Harbor Parkway as areas in need of redevelopment and rehabilitation.

The Old Bridge Township Council approved a resolution for the Planning Board to study the areas on Sept. 21. Veena Sawant, township planner, presented the Planning Board with the Old Matawan Road study area on Oct. 6 and the Route 35 Laurence Harbor Parkway area on Oct. 27.

The Old Matawan Road study area is a gateway or entrance to Old Bridge from East Brunswick. It comprises 26 parcels – some vacant lots, including a New Jersey Department of Transportation lot, some commercial and few residential homes.

The area is located on either sides of Old Matawan Road between Route 18 and County Road 516. The area is in the Economic Development Opportunity (EDO) Commercial Neighborhood Zone 1. The existing land uses are commercial, residential, automotive and personal services.

Many homes and buildings within the area were built in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Surrounding land uses include Southwood development, built in the early-mid 1950s; Miller School, built between 1954 and 1957; and residential and commercial properties.

Sawant said the Madison Township Historic Commission mentioned four sites in the area as historic sites. None of the properties are listed on the New Jersey Register of Historic Places, she said.

The area is a transit route for the Middlesex County Area Transit Bus, which runs between Brunswick Square Mall in East Brunswick to Old Bridge, New Jersey Transit Line, which runs from Old Bridge, East Brunswick, Jersey City and Weehawken and another bus that runs from Lakewood, Old Bridge and New York.

The Route 35 Laurence Harbor Parkway area consists of 49 parcels: 25 residential, 13 commercial/retail, eight public, one house of worship, one Old Bridge Municipal Utilities Authority and one vacant parcel. The boundaries of the area are McKinley Avenue and Sunset Avenue to the southeast, Lakeview Avenue to the northwest and Ravine Avenue and Sunset Avenue to the southwest.

The majority of the parcels lie within the EDO-1 Zone and few properties lie within the R-5 Residential Zone. The area is accessible to Route 35 and CR-689. There are two New Jersey Transit bus stops, which run to the Old Bridge Commuter Lot on Ernston Road for a transfer bus to New York City.

The area is disadvantaged with obsolete lots, no room for parking as well as residential and restaurant driveways butting Route 35, a high speed corridor, Sawant said.

As for the destination waterfront area, Sawant said “the sky’s the limit.” She said with a resolution coming soon for the Margaret’s Creek sector of the Raritan Bay Slag Superfund site, it is the right time to investigate the area to make it better.

“Most municipalities with a waterfront have gone the redevelopment route,” she said, adding officials need to create a vision to capitalize on the township’s assets of the waterfront, existing recreational facilities and transportation services.

In July, township officials discussed implementing parking fees from Memorial Day to October and residential parking permits as the demand of the beachfront area in the Laurence Harbor section of the township continued to rise.

The Township Council approved residential parking permits in August. Discussions in regards to parking fees are still in the works

The Laurence Harbor beachfront on Route 35 includes Pauls Beach made up of 6.69 acres; the police substation; Raritan Bayfront Park, made up of 11.98 acres, which includes the Laurence Parkway Recreation Center, restrooms, boardwalk, lighted basketball court, handball court, playground equipment and fishing jetties; and the underdeveloped Seidler’s Beach made up of 1.2 acres.

Cliffwood Beach, consisting of 33.5 acres on Raritan and Ocean boulevards, has been closed since Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

The benefits of redevelopment and rehabilitation to areas include revitalization and spurs of economic development, encouragement for development of vacant parcels/buildings, proper utilization of land, increased ratables and improved property values, promotion of sustainability and safer mobility options.

Both the Old Bridge Matawan Road and Route 35 Laurence Harbor Parkway area are within the state’s Smart Growth Planning and Metropolitan Planning areas for infill development or redevelopment.

Sawant noted the redevelopment and rehabilitation plans are non-condemnation plans and the township will not exercise eminent domain.

“If a homeowner does not want to take advantage of redevelopment or rehabilitation, they will not be forced to do anything,” she said.

The plans offer opportunities for upgrades and tax abatements under the local redevelopment and housing laws.