MANALAPAN – The Manalapan Planning Board has passed a study of 23 properties on Route 33 along to the Township Committee for additional review.
During a recent meeting, the board members heard from professional planner Jennifer Beahm, who conducted an investigation of more than two dozen properties along the state highway to determine the properties’ current uses and how they could be developed in the future.
Technically, the board conducted a hearing on an Area in Need of Redevelopment preliminary investigation. The area Beahm examined contains about 225 acres fronting on Route 33 and Woodward Road. Two of the significant parcels in the area are Gaitway Farm and a now abandoned adult residential facility known as Manalapan Manor or Marianne Manor.
During the presentation of the study, Ron Cucchiaro, the board’s attorney, explained to the board members and members of the public that “no one can be kicked off their property” and “no one can be told to cease what they are doing.”
A legal notice published by the township prior to the meeting stated that “a redevelopment area determination shall not authorize the municipality to exercise the power of eminent domain to acquire property in the delineated area.”
Beahm’s report, “Redevelopment Determination of Need Report Block 73, Lots 1-8; Block 74, Lots 6-10, 11.01 and 12; and Block 75, Lots 1-8,” dated February 2021, is on file in the office of the township clerk and available for review by members of the public.
According to the legal notice, “the Local Redevelopment and Housing Law authorizes municipal governing bodies to designate certain areas of the municipality as being in need of redevelopment, and Planning Board review and recommendation following a public hearing are necessary steps in the designation process.”
During her presentation, Beahm discussed the size of each parcel she examined and described its access from Route 33, or lack thereof. Several parcels she examined are landlocked.
“Most of the properties (that were examined) qualify under multiple criteria” to be designated as an area in need of redevelopment, she told the board members, including Gaitway Farm and the Manalapan Manor.
A bowling alley that is next to Gaitway Farm was not included in the study area, she said.
Beahm reported that the owner of the Manalapan Manor no longer has a valid license from the state.
In recent years, several residents of the adult residential facility were struck and killed as they walked along Route 33 en route to nearby businesses. The condition of the facility was also an issue that Manalapan’s elected officials brought to the attention of the state agency that licensed the residential center.
Regarding the study, Beahm said, “The goal is to come up with a development plan that would take advantage of these properties and provide a viable opportunity for development. This is a non-condemnation process and the sale of any property would have to be at will.”
Beahm’s conclusion was that the area under study meets the criteria to be designated as an area in need of redevelopment.
A member of the public, Larry Cullington of Toms River, owns one property that is in the study area and said, “the idea of developing this area is very good.”
After listening to Beahm’s presentation, the members of the Planning Board recommended to the Township Committee that all of the properties that were identified in the study meet the criteria necessary to be designated as an area in need of redevelopment.
The board’s action is not binding, as it is not a legislative body. The recommendation moves the matter to the Township Committee for further consideration.
According to the legal notice, “If the properties are designated as an area in need of redevelopment by the (Township Committee), owners of the designated properties will receive a notice from the township notifying them of the designation and will have 45 days from the receipt of the notice to challenge the redevelopment designation by filing the appropriate action in state Superior Court.”