Neptune OKs Agreement for North End

By DON STINE

After being stalled for 11 years, redevelopment at the North End beachfront of Ocean Grove took a big step forward this week when the Neptune Township Committee executed an agreement to have the long-vacant site developed.

“This is the first step in the process. It doesn’t end tonight; it begins tonight,” Township Business Administrator Vito Gadaleta said.

He said the redevelopment agreement lets Ocean Grove North End Development, LLC. to move a formal application before the Planning Board for the project. The plan will also need approval from the township’s Historic Preservation Committee. Other state and federal agencies will also have to approve the project.

The area, between Wesley Lake and Spray Avenue and at the boardwalk and Beach Avenue, was designated an area in need of redevelopment in 2008.

The new project will be a mixed-use redevelopment project consisting of two buildings: one with an iconic Victorian boutique hotel having no more than 40 rooms, no more than 30 two-bedroom condominiums, and about 7,600 square feet of boardwalk retail space.  The second building will contain no more than nine two- and three-bedroom condominiums and 10 three-bedroom single-family homes.

There will also be a maximum of 20 surface parking spaces and no less than 140 parking spaces in a subterranean parking garage. A portion of the dilapidated retaining wall on Wesley Lake will also be repaired, at an estimated $1 million, and improvements made to the public parking lot at the north end of Ocean Avenue, at an estimated $200,000.

Gadaleta said that the land is owned by the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association and that there are no tax abatements on the project.

Residents raised various concerns with the agreement, including a potential loss of public parking, safety and access by emergency vehicles, the validity of the performance guarantee, traffic impact, construction trucks and damage to roads, and possible flooding of the subterranean garage.

Long-time Ocean Grove resident Dianne Stiles called the plan “fool-hearty” and “a fantasy.”

“We need reality-based planning. This is just not a viable plan,” she said.

Gadaleta said that many concerns raised by residents can be addressed when the application is before the Planning Board and the HPC.

The North End area once boasted a pool, a large 255-room hotel, and retail establishments on the boardwalk and along Wesley Lake. It also once had a carousel, a theatre, and bowling alleys. It was destroyed in a 1974 fire has remained abandoned ever since and people consider it an eyesore in the historic district.

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