By DON STINE
Modifications, based on public input, have been made to a proposal to develop a 32-acre property at the intersection of Route 35 and Deal Road in Ocean Township.
A special presentation was held Jan. 29 at the high school with about 100 people attending. It is the second large public presentation on the project. The previous one also held at the high school last year.
“This project has evolved in the past four or five years. We have been listening to residents and officials and scaled the project back,” said Maurice Zekaria, owner of Paramount Realty, who wants to develop the project.
The development is currently in the proposal stage only and a formal application has not been presented to the Planning Board.
Zekaria, who lives in Ocean Township, said he believes these types of forums and public input “are essential.”
Paramount wants to build a 112-room Marriott Hotel, a Wawa gas station and convenience store, a fitness center, and a Turning Point restaurant along the Route 35 corridor with 70 upscale townhouses on the eastern portion of the site.
“It will be a true town center and create hundreds of jobs. It will be a huge ratable for the township,” he said.
He said various scenarios of the project have been modified, including setbacks, buffers and major traffic improvements.
The Marriott would be a Residence Inn, designed for those usually staying for several days rather than daily, transient tenants. He said a deed restriction will be placed on the motel so future uses can be controlled to prevent something like Section 8 housing from going there.
Zekaria said that there would be an entrepreneurial program created to help potential business owners and that there would be a dog park, a playground, and a park with historical features, like an artesian well. About 47 percent of the site would remain green and buffers with nearby housing would be more than 100 feet.
Traffic improvements include creating a jug handle at the site’s southwest corner, adding a lane to Deal Road from Logan Road to Route 35, expanding Logan Road to enter the site, and providing a better access route to the public library. Cars will also be allowed to use a road through the site to access Route 35.
Residents, both for and against the project, attended the forum and some questions raised concerned storm water runoff, traffic, and preserving wildlife now on the site.
One resident said developing the site will force the deer to move, making their way into other areas of the township. Ocean Township, along with many other Monmouth County communities, faces a problem with the overpopulation of deer.
Others, including the Environmental Commission, want open space preserved to the largest extent possible.
A previous developer wanted to put a Stop & Shop on the same site but a change in the zoning by the township prevented the project from moving forward. That led to a lawsuit that is expected to be heard again, and possibly decided, on Feb. 28.