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Manalapan planners grant initial subdivision approval to five-home proposal

MANALAPAN — The members of the Manalapan Planning Board have granted preliminary subdivision approval to an applicant that seeks to construct five homes on Route 537 near Shira Lane.

The board’s unanimous approval regarding the subdivision of the property during a June 9 meeting does not mean the homes will be constructed. That proposal would be considered by the board at a later date when site plan approval is sought by the applicant, Elton Point Partnership.

The board’s current approval subdivides the 24-acre property on Route 537 across from a small lot in Freehold Township where JB’s Diner is expected to be rebuilt, at the intersection of Route 524 (Elton-Adelphia Road). The parcel in Manalapan surrounds a business on Route 537 that sells heavy equipment.

Initial testimony regarding the application submitted by Elton Point Partnership was heard on April 14.

At that time, engineer John Ploskonka said four homes would be constructed west of the heavy equipment business and share two common driveways that would have two access points on Route 537. The fifth home would be built east of the heavy equipment business at the corner of Route 537 and Shira Lane, with its driveway on Shira Lane.

Ploskonka said each home would be served by a septic system and a well. He said the 3,000-square-foot to 4,000-square-foot homes are planned to have four bedrooms and a two-car garage.

Specific details about the homes would be provided if the applicant returns before the board to seek site plan approval.

Testimony presented by the applicant’s representatives indicated the five proposed home lots range in size from 4.24 acres to 5.26 acres. The minimum lot size for a home in the zone is 4 acres. The proposed residential use and the proposed density are permitted in the zone, according to the testimony.

When the April 14 meeting was opened to public comment, several residents of the Elton Point development, which surrounds the 24-acre parcel, presented their concerns regarding environmental issues at the site and in the vicinity, including standing water, drainage and the flow of water.

The application was not concluded that evening.

The applicant’s representatives returned on June 9 to continue their presentation. At that time, Ploskonka said a significant portion of the 24-acre tract would be preserved in the areas of wetlands, stream corridors and stream buffers.

A cemetery on the parcel will be preserved with the construction of a fence surrounding that area, according to the testimony.

Ploskonka said one of the two proposed common driveways was redesigned and widened in response to comments from Manalapan fire officials. He said the applicant is in the process of seeking several permits from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

“The neighbors are happy we are doing this (application), rather than an industrial park we proposed two years ago. This (residential development) is a permitted use,” Ploskonka said.

Certain infrastructure on the site would be the responsibility of and would be maintained by a homeowners association (HOA) that would be established among the owners of the five homes, according to attorney Peter Licata, who represents the applicant.

Planning Board member Steven Kastell asked if an HOA could work with five homes.

“It’s a fair question,” Licata responded, adding that the answer relies in part on the number of common items that would have to be maintained at the site and full disclosure regarding the HOA being made to potential buyers prior to their purchase of a home.

Licata said the township would maintain ultimate lien power if work needed to be undertaken at the site and could not be agreed to by the HOA.

Planner McKinley Mertz described environmental conditions on the property that required the applicant to seek several variances. She said she did not believe the proposed application, with the variances, would impair Manalapan’s master plan.

“We will meet the intent of the zoning ordinance,” Mertz said.

There was no public comment during the June 9 meeting, which was held at the municipal building as the Planning Board has returned to in-person meetings following the coronavirus pandemic.

A motion was made to grant preliminary subdivision approval to Elton Point Partnership with the requested variances and approved in a unanimous vote of the board members.

The applicant will be required to return for a public hearing if and when site plan approval for the proposed homes is sought.

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