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Manalapan planning board reorganizes for 2023; Kwaak elected chairwoman

MANALAPAN — Kathryn Kwaak has been re-elected by her fellow members of the Planning Board to serve as chairwoman of the panel which hears and acts on development applications in Manalapan.

The board held its 2023 reorganization meeting on Jan. 12 in the municipal building.

The members of the board this year are Daria D’Agostino, Todd Brown, John Castronovo, Barry Fisher, Steven Kastell, Township Committeeman Jack McNaboe, Township Committeeman Barry Jacobson, Richard Hogan, Nunzio Pollifrone and Kwaak.

All are returning members with the exception of Pollifrone, who was recently appointed by the Township Committee. Board members saluted Hogan for his 30 years of service on the panel. Planning Board members are volunteers and serve without compensation.

Kwaak was re-elected as chairwoman by a unanimous vote; Brown was re-elected as vice chairman by a unanimous vote; and D’Agostino was re-elected as secretary by a unanimous vote in the first acts of business during the reorganization meeting.

The board’s professionals were reappointed for 2023: Ron Cucchiaro is the board’s attorney; Brian Boccanfuso is the board’s engineer; and Jennifer Beahm is the board’s planner.

Video recordings of Manalapan Planning Board meetings may be viewed on the township’s website, mtnj.org.

The only application that was on the board’s Jan. 12 agenda was not heard that evening.

CMP of Manalapan Realty, LLC, is seeking amended site plan approval and permission to renovate 10,700 square feet of total floor space in a building at 363 Route 33 (Knob Hill Country Lanes) for indoor recreational uses.

The new uses in the bowling alley are expected to include laser tag, an arcade, virtual reality space and a party area. Variances will be required for insufficient parking at the site.

Cucchiaro announced that the CMP of Manalapan Realty, LLC, application has been carried to the board’s Feb. 23 meeting.

In other business during the reorganization meeting, McNaboe asked Cucchiaro for an update on an application that came before the board in early 2022.

Mercer Realty Partners, LLC, is seeking preliminary and final major site plan approval to construct one building that would provide space for a warehouse use and several smaller uses at 51 Route 33.

Testimony on the application was initially heard on Feb. 24, 2022. No decision regarding the application was reached that evening.

On April 28, the Planning Board met in person for the first time since before the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020.

Residents filled the meeting room in the municipal building to listen to the continuation of testimony regarding the Mercer Realty Partners application.

The location where the warehouse/flex space building is proposed is adjacent to the intersection of an exit ramp that connects the Route 33 freeway heading east to Business Route 33 heading east. The property is near the Village Grande at Battleground adult community.

As testimony was about to begin, the issue of which municipal board – the Planning Board or the Zoning Board of Adjustment – should hear the application was raised.

Attorney Ronald L. Shimanowitz, who represents the applicant, and Cucchiaro offered legal perspectives as to which board should hear the application. Their discussion touched on several aspects of flex space and they did not agree on which board should hear the application.

Eventually, Shimanowitz said his client would accept the option of going before the zoning board regarding the issue of jurisdiction.

The members of the zoning board have the authority to determine if they should hear the Mercer Realty Partners application or if the Planning Board has jurisdiction to hear the application.

In response to McNaboe’s request for an update, Cucchiaro said the applicant submitted a significant amount of documentation to the zoning board regarding the matter, but he said that submission did not occur until the summer.

Cucchiaro said he is waiting to confirm when representatives of the applicant will appear before the zoning board to present their case regarding the issue of jurisdiction. He said Mercer Realty Partners may appear before the zoning board in February.

If the zoning board determines it has jurisdiction, the application will be scheduled for a public hearing in that venue.

If the zoning board determines the Planning Board has jurisdiction, the application will return to that board and the public hearing that was adjourned on April 28 will resume on a date to be determined.

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