Land use ordinance passes
But more motels approved for demolition
By MAUREEN L. CAWLEY
WILDWOOD CREST – Commissioners adopted the new land use ordinance on Oct. 26, but not before motel owners had a final say.
Attorney Ron Stagliano represented a few motel owners whose site plans were scheduled to come before the planning on Thursday, Nov. 3. They wanted assurances that their plans would be considered under the old land use ordinance, which does not limit density, and not under the new plan, which does.
The new density limits will drastically reduce the number of units that can be built on a lot.
Attorney Bill Kaufman also attended the meeting to represent his client, Giovanni Sansone, the owner of the Little Italy restaurant on Cresse and Atlantic avenues. He also had submitted plans for the demolition and residential development of his restaurant site, which is in the motel zone. He wanted assurances that he would be considered under the old plans as well.
“It is our intention tonight to vote on the ordinance, as it stands,” Mayor Carl Groon told Stagliano. But he assured him that he had spoken to the borough’s attorneys and they agreed site plans that had already been submitted should be considered under the old land use law.
Before the final vote, Chris Ferrara, owner of the Seascape Inn, asked commissioners why the new zoning law would not allow motel owners to combine rooms beyond 650 feet without increasing the parking requirement. Ferrara said his rooms are 350 square feet, and the parking restriction prevents him from combining the rooms to form 700-square-foot suites and maintain one parking spot per unit.
“I guess that’s not a unique situation. I just wanted to appeal to the board to reconsider this,” he said.
Groon said that the requirement allowed motel owners to combine three smaller rooms to create two larger suites of 525 square feet and not increase the number of parking spots.
“The planning board thought that was best,” he said.
Groon reiterated that the board planned to vote on the ordinance that night, but that the issues and the discussion of them were ongoing.
Plans to demolish Ferrara’s motel and build condominiums were passed at the Nov. 3 meeting.
Planning board member and motel owner Tom Keenan, who voted against the new plan for the motel zone, also submitted plans for his property – The Mariner Motel.
In an interview last week, Groon indicated that the passage of the master plan did not mark an end to the discussion on the direction of the borough’s development. He said he planned to keep a close watch on the way that the real estate market affects the borough’s landscape and economy.
“I believe that things are happening so fast in our economy that we need to be vigilant all the time and make appropriate changes when they are necessary,” he said. “There needs to be an ongoing dialogue.”
He acknowledged that much of the development had gone unchecked until it was too late. Groon was elected mayor in May, long after the master planning process had been initiated.
“We can’t wait for the master planner to come every seven to 10 years and make changes. No one expected these numbers two or three years ago,” he said. “(But) we need to be vigilant of ever-changing market forces.”
City planners submitted a prepared draft of the master plan to the planning board on Sept. 5. The planning board made changes and adopted the plan on Oct. 6. It was passed by commissioners on Oct. 26.
The demolition of five motel sites: the Gold Crest Motel, the Bristol Plaza, the Mariner Motel, the Diamond Crest and the Seascape Inn were considered on Nov. 3. Plans to replace them with condominiums were approved.
Plans for Little Italy were removed from the agenda because the application was not advertised 10 day prior to the meeting, as is required by law, and revised plans were not submitted by the deadline, planning board secretary Darlene Devlin said.
The planning board also passed 21 resolutions on Nov. 3, memorializing plans for the demolition of motels and the construction of condos that were approved over the past two months.
“I expect it will slow down quite a bit now,” Devlin said.
Maureen L. Cawley can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can comment on this story by calling 624-8900, ext. 250.