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Manalapan officials consider ordinance focusing on Route 33 redevelopment

MANALAPAN – The members of the Township Committee will conduct a public hearing at 4 p.m. Dec. 22 on an ordinance that proposes the adoption of a redevelopment plan for what is being called the Gaitway Redvelopment Area on Route 33 in Manalapan.

The ordinance was introduced on Nov. 10.

The committee’s consideration of the adoption of the ordinance is expected to conclude what has been a year’s worth of work on the issue and to pave the way for the development and/or redevelopment of properties on Route 33 eastbound between Woodward Road and the Gaitway Farms property.

To recap what has occurred this year, in January, the Township Committee authorized the Planning Board to determine if certain properties on that section of Route 33, which is a state highway, qualify as an area in need of redevelopment, according to the ordinance.

Professional planner Jennifer Beahm conducted an investigation of 23 properties along Route 33 to determine the properties’ current uses and how those parcels could be developed in the future.

In August, Planning Board members heard from Beahm, who reported that the area she studied contains about 225 acres fronting on Route 33 and Woodward Road. Two significant parcels in the study area were Gaitway Farm and a now abandoned adult residential facility known as Manalapan Manor or Marianne Manor.

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.”

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, including Gaitway Farm and the Manalapan Manor, she said.

A bowling alley that is next to Gaitway Farm was not included in the study area.

Beahm reported that the owner of the Manalapan Manor no longer has a valid license from the state to operate the facility.

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 met the criteria to be designated as an area in need of redevelopment.

The board members concurred with her finding and recommended that the Township Committee designate the targeted properties as a non-condemnation area in need of redevelopment.

In September, the Township Committee passed a resolution which determined that the properties identified by Beahm should be designated an area in need of redevelopment without the use of condemnation.

On Nov. 10, the Township Committee referred the redevelopment plan to the Planning Board for another review and introduced the ordinance that will be considered for final passage on Dec. 22.

The committee members determined “it is in the best interests of the township that the redevelopment area should be developed in compliance with the redevelopment plan,” according to the ordinance.

The Township Committee’s proposed ordinance came before the Planning Board for review on Dec. 9.

Beahm explained that the redevelopment plan has created permitted light industrial uses, warehouse distribution uses (not Amazon “fulfillment centers”) and recreational uses in the redevelopment area.

She said a concept plan Manalapan officials have received from a potential redeveloper contemplates an ice skating center. Indoor recreation uses other than ice skating and ice hockey are possible in the redevelopment plan, she said.

Beahm said all of the permitted uses would be required to be set back 500 feet from Route 33, with no access to any of the targeted properties permitted from Woodward Road. She said 97 acres in the redevelopment area would be preserved as open space.

“The plan furthers the economic development of the township and it offers employment opportunities. In my opinion, it is consistent with the master plan,” she said.

In a final note, Beahm said one concept plan for the redevelopment area contemplates the removal of a signalized turnaround on Route 33 that is just west of the Knob Hill residential development and the creation of a fully signalized intersection at Route 33 and Sawgrass Drive, which is the entry road to the Knob Hill development.

“A potential redeveloper has been in contact with the New Jersey Department of Transportation about that idea,” she told the board members and members of the public.

Following Beahm’s presentation, a motion was made which stated that the Planning Board members found that the ordinance proposed by the Township Committee is substantially consistent with Manalapan’s master plan, which is the document that guides the growth of the municipality.

Board members passed the motion in a 9-0 vote, clearing the way for the members of the governing body to adopt the legislation on Dec. 22.

The ordinance, upon its adoption, will permit the governing body to adopt the Gaitway Redevelopment Plan that has been developed by Beahm. The Township Committee will act as the redevelopment agency for the Gaitway redevelopment area.

The website njplanning.org cites the Local Redevelopment and Housing Law which says, “Redevelopment” means: “…clearance, re‐planning, development and redevelopment; the conservation and rehabilitation of any structure or improvement, the construction and provision for construction of residential, commercial, industrial, public or other structures and the grant or dedication of spaces as may be appropriate or necessary in the interest of the general welfare for streets, parks, playgrounds, or other public purposes, including recreational and other facilities … in accordance with the development plan.”

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