By DON STINE
A plan to swap land to reduce development on a 32-acre tract at Route 35 and Deal Road in Ocean Township was vetted to the public at last week’s Township Council meeting.
Little feedback on the proposal was voiced at the meeting and Mayor Christopher Siciliano said he welcomes “more feedback community.”
“I am doing this because I live here too and this is the best possible situation for the township. This is not about one group or not- that doesn’t motivate me,” he said.
“We are not looking for a pat on the back but for some input and encouragement. This is not easy- it’s complicated and we need to make this happen. But I am confident we can give (the developer) something they can work with, in one shape or another,” he said.
A current development proposal by Paramount Realty wants to build a 112-room Marriott Hotel, a Wawa gas station and convenience store, a fitness center, and a restaurant along the Route 35 corridor, with 70 upscale townhouses on the eastern portion of the site along Deal Road.
The project has garnered both support and opposition from township residents. A grassroots effort, called “Save 32-Acres,” has sprung up to preserve the site.
The new proposal, if agreed upon, will take the 70 upscale townhouses out of the project and preserve that 17 acres as open space. Instead, 17 acres of vacant land behind Cindy Lane and Clearview Drive, property that backs up to the existing Twinbrook Village apartment complex, will be developed instead. The site once contained about 80 townhouses that were destroyed by fire in the 1980s with the property being vacant ever since, Mayor Christopher Siciliano said
Siciliano said the township acquired the property almost two years ago through a foreclosure and that it will be developed with enough affordable housing units to finally meet the township’s state-mandated requirement, which requires the township build another 42 units, for a total of 280 units of affordable housing, most of which have already been built.
The project would be built by Lennar Construction, which is the contractor scheduled to build the townhouses for Paramount Realty at the Deal Road and Rt. 35 site.
But Siciliano said the property has to be of equalized value and that process has not been completed yet.
“It has to be equalized value to them to even consider it and we are not there in the appraisal process yet. It has to be fair- it’s not just a one-way street. But, the time is right and we are here,” he said.
Peter Jungkunst and his wife, Jacqui Wenzel, founders of the Save 32-Acres campaign, said they still have questions about the proposal.
Wenzel said she is “excited” but “more nervous” listening to details about the proposed land swap.
Jungkunst said that the mayor should be congratulated for coming up with the idea, still realizing that many terms need to be worked out.
“Good for you. It is a wonderful thing that you proposed that,” he said.
“You’re welcome. We are trying to think outside the box. It is going to work out,” Siciliano said.