Route 9 Project Gets Preliminary Approval

The Township of Ocean Planning Board reviews a resolution for the Waretown Route 9 project. (Photo by Stephanie Faughnan)

  WARETOWN – More than 100 new homes and some commercial development might be on its way after the township’s Planning Board approved the first step.

  The developer plans to build townhouses, affordable housing units, and a commercial building on the site, located on the east side of Route 9, opposite Pancoast Road. Although originally referred to as Oceanaire East, property owners told the planning board they intend to change the project name.

  Decades ago, Herman and Marsha Zell purchased the 24-acre wooded site known as Block 241.11, Lots 12.02, 13.01 and 13.02, Block 343, Lot 20 and Block 352, Lot 1.

  The property owners submitted an application to the township’s Redevelopment Committee last September to advance their proposal. Facing restrictions imposed in conjunction with COVID-19 mandates, authorities held the meeting in the Waretown Firehouse. They opened the bay doors to allow residents to personally attend the hearing and listen to the proposal.

  Approximately 75 residents brought their own chairs to sit outside and listen to expert testimony submitted by Keith Davis, the Zells’ legal counsel. Many of the locals disagreed with representations made in conjunction with the application. They continue to express disappointment that the Redevelopment Committee and township leaders granted the developer approval to move forward with their plans.

  Davis came back to the Planning Board a few weeks ago with changes in the original proposal. Although only one resident stayed for part of the four-hour hearing, planning board members questioned the attorney and his experts.

  Both Mayor Lydia Dodd and Deputy Mayor Dr. Ben LoParo sit on the municipality’s planning board. The two expressed concerns that the new application called for a substantial alteration to amenities planned for the residential portion of the project.

  “There was also a change to the townhouse layout and stormwater management plan,” LoParo shared. “The change to the amenities for our residents was the most significant. They deserve better than what was proposed on the revised site plan.”

  LoParo felt so strongly about his objections that he voted no in the initial presentation a few weeks ago. He was therefore precluded from voting at all during last week’s preliminary approvals.

  The townhouses are not age-restricted, and purchasers will be part of a homeowner’s association. D.R. Horton plans to take on construction of the residential portion, which also includes two affordable apartment buildings. The proposed market rate units will be approximately 35.865 feet tall and include garages underneath them.

  “The development consists of a residential component of 117 townhouse units,” Davis shared. “Of that, 99 will be at market rate, with 18 low- and moderate-income units consistent with the township’s affordable housing units.”

  Towns are required by state law to set aside a percentage of new homes as “affordable.”

  Units available for sale are expected to start at $300,000 and go to a maximum of $350,000. Affordable housing rentals would be priced in accordance with government standards.

  D.R. Horton agreed to prepare documents for the development’s homeowner’s association that would prohibit residents from converting or using their dens, living rooms, and dining rooms to bedrooms.

  Local residents appear less concerned about amenities for the new townhouses than they are about other issues. Traffic represents a major concern along Route 9, particularly as occupants begin to fill the new Tradewinds apartment complex across from the Waretown Shop Rite.

  David Horner, a traffic engineer, provided testimony to the Redevelopment Committee, using 2019 data to formulate his report. Horner said he relied on information from that year because it represented a time when COVID restrictions were not in place.

  Plans for the new project include three access points, including the main access across from Pancoast Road. The area will be controlled with a traffic light, allowing straight, right and left turns out of the entrance.

  “There will be a full left turn lane from Route 9 into the development,” said Horner. “There will also be an access point of the property for right turns in, and right turns out. The third access point is at the northerly portion and will be right turn out only of the commercial facility.”

  Plans also call for a sidewalk and streetlights along the Route 9 frontage of the property.

  The Zells received approval to subdivide their property and plan to retain development of the commercial building alone. No information was available concerning prospective tenants for the 7200 square foot space that would be made available.

  Stormwater represents a major component of the proposed plans and requires review by CAFRA, the state coastal management program, which falls under the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP).

  Wetlands do exist on the property and cannot be developed according to the proposal. A specified tree save area will also be designated.

  The planning board deferred to the developer’s landscape engineer regarding the proposed landscaping and berm. Planning board member Dr. Shawn Denning asked that it be done in conjunction with Scott Taylor of the Taylor Design Group, one of the township’s professional experts.

  “We’d like to make sure it’s big enough to provide a large sound buffer,” said Denning.

  Residents have complained the Zells have paid reduced taxes on the undeveloped property as a tree farm. State records confirm that the landowners received a farmland assessment since at least 2017. The Department of Agriculture requires that no less than five acres of farmland activity be devoted to an agricultural or horticultural use for the two years immediately preceding the tax year.

  The Township of Ocean Planning Board passed a resolution memorializing approval of a preliminary major subdivision and site plan for property located on Route 9. Work on the project cannot start until the developer receives necessary approvals and final site plan approval from the planning board.