By ED SALVAS
There was applause from the audience in the Asbury Park Council Chambers Monday when the Planning Board voted to deny an application to tear down Holy Spirit Church and replace the century old church with private homes.
The 4 to 2 vote came on a motion to deny the application of JLD Development Group which proposed replacing the church with four private homes on Second Avenue and two on Bond Street.
The two dissenting votes were cast by Planning Board Chairman Barbara Krzak and board member Eric Galipo. Both Krzak and Galipo said their votes were based on the city zoning ordinance which Galipo said was an “unfortunate reality.” Krzak said it takes an application like this for the city to possibly create an ordinance to preserve historic properties.
Those voting in favor of the motion to deny were Mayor John Moor, Jim Henry, Jennifer Souder and Daniel Sciannameo.
Attorney Thomas DeSeno, an outspoken opponent of the development plan, had made an effort in court earlier Monday to block the meeting, saying there had been insufficient notice of the meeting, which was carried over from last week. But the meeting was allowed to proceed.
JLD Development Group attorney Matthew Posada introduced Joseph Grabas, a member of the Monmouth Country Historical Commission, who said he was an expert with 44 years experience in the land title search business and had appeared more than a dozen times as an expert witness. Grabas said he studied the history of Asbury Park, including the writings of founder James Bradley, and found no recorded restrictions on the use of the property, other than those involving set-backs.
Grabas said Bradley acquired the property from Ocean Township in 1871 and was a businessman wanting to improve his property, and was never more than one of seven members of a commission that governed Asbury Park.
Much of the meeting was taken up with comments from the public. Anthony Silva of Neptune, a graduate of Holy Spirit School, said if the board voted to approve the proposal, they “would be giving away something that makes this town special.”
He was followed by Robin Mennie, a business owner in the city who has been circulating a petition to save the church, said she has faith “the church will stand.”
Kay Harris, president of the Asbury Park Historical Society, read a statement suggesting the developers “consider a completely different property in Asbury Park to develop and allow another church to acquire the church building as is or go back to the drawing board to reconsider your vision while preserving the building.
At that point, Isaac Freidel, Pastor of the Shore Christian Church and the Dream Center of Asbury Park, said his organization had made an offer to purchase the property so it can survive as a church. Robert McAllan of Wall Township. said he was a graduate of Holy Spirit school and called the Planning Board’s opportunity their “Pennsylvania Station Moment,” recalling the New York decision to tear down the historic station. He has lived and worked in Asbury Park and is a former member of the city Board of Adjustment and knows how it feels to regret some of the decisions that were made.
Longtime resident Rita Marano pointed to pictures on the wall of the Council Chambers and noted they were mostly pictures of things torn down. “Bradley built several churches,. This is not only about zoning. It’s about the history of Asbury Park.”
The entire three-hour meeting was recorded by APTV and can be seen on FiOS Channel 28, Optimum channel 77 and also on Roku, Apple TV and at www.AsburyParkTV.com.