Banquet Hall Proposal Pulled From Review Process

Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn

BRICK – A fourth hearing before the Township Planning Board for a proposed banquet hall to be built at the foot of the Mantoloking Bridge was cancelled since the applicant withdrew their application from

Coastal Area Facility Review Act (CAFRA) review.

  CAFRA was established by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) in 1973 and is designed to protect New Jersey shore areas from being overdeveloped.

  A CAFRA permit is required for any development on a beach or a dune; development located within 150 feet of a mean high water line; a commercial development having five or more parking spaces, and much more.

  In a letter to the Brick Zoning Board dated Jan. 24, 2020 Vilamoura Attorney John Jackson said the January 27 hearing would be adjourned with a new date for the application to be determined, leaving the door open for another application for the site.

  “We are very happy with the NJDEP,” said president of the non-profit environmental organization Save Barnegat Bay, Willie deCamp.

 We’re assuming what happened was the application was withdrawn, rather than experience a denial from CAFRA,” he said in a phone interview on Jan. 27.

DeCamp said that when CAFRA is going to deny an application, they call the applicant as a courtesy, giving them the opportunity of withdrawing the application before it is heard before the Zoning Board. “So there is no denial letter,” he said.

  Save Barnegat Bay sponsored a study on the effects the proposed 82.2-foot tall banquet hall would have on the bay, shellfishing, birds, and the environment surrounding the structure. 

  “The project does not satisfy the substantive requirements of the CAFRA program,” the report says.

  A CAFRA permit may only be issued if the proposed development meets air, water, radiation emission and effluent standards and all applicable water quality criteria and air quality standards; would cause minimal feasible interference with the natural functioning of plant, animal, fish and human life processes at the site and within the surrounding region; and much more, the report says.

  As part of the study, Save Barnegat Bay commissioned an evaluation by Dr. Russel DeFusco, an internationally recognized expert on endangered and threatened species and critical wildlife habitat who concluded that the project “would impair public health, safety and welfare; does not protect, but rather degrades critical and valuable habitat, including that for a variety of bird and other wildlife; and does not minimize, but rather significantly interferes with the ecological functioning of the site and surrounding area.”

  Save Barnegat Bay submitted the report to the NJDEP.

  Developers of the proposed banquet hall were requesting a height variance for the 82.2-foot tall building in an area that is zoned for structures no taller than 35 feet.

  “It would be the tallest building around, and it would be a hazard to birds during migratory season because birds migrate at night and rest during the day, many at Reedy Creek, which is in the area,” deCamp said.

  Dr. DeFusco’s report states that bird collisions with buildings cause the mortality of hundreds of millions of birds a year, nationwide, especially buildings located along migratory routes.

  “If this had been built, people would be shocked at how tall 80 feet is,” deCamp said. “The state did the prudent thing.”

  Calls to Vilamoura Attorney John Jackson and to Vilamoura principals, brothers Barry and Joe Maurillo, were not returned by press time.