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The Lakewood Township Committee and Industrial Commission have been quietly pushing forward a proposal to permit construction of 150 feet high rise buildings in a portion in the Township.

Township fire officials have warned the Township Committee that the proposal would increase our property taxes $6 million due to the need to double the size of the career department, according to a letter penned by Larry Loigman, a member of the Lakewood Board of Fire Commissioners.

A typical new duplex, such as in Oak and Vine,  assessed at $560,000, pays $560 in Fire District taxes for Fiscal Year 2023. According to Loigman's letter, approving the high rise building proposal could increase this tax by $308 to $865! This would be in addition to any other tax increases imposed by the Township Committee and Board of Education.

Mr. Loigman notes that the volunteer ranks have been dwindling - in the past couple of years 2 volunteer fire companies have closed down.

To make up for the loss of volunteers, the increase of the career department, (including for apparatus, communications and other equipment,) to the level needed to respond to a fire in a high rise building, would increase the fire district's current $10,944,234 budget by an additional $6 million.

At the same time, "the additional tax revenue which the Fire District would receive from a large office building would contribute only a negligible amount to that budget."

Mr. Loigman also highlighted the fact that, should they wish to do so, immediately increasing the budget by $6 million would not be feasible without a public vote as the District is constrained by the Property Tax Levy Cap Law.

Mr. Loigman also quotes Chief Yahr, who stated, "we will be left in a desperate place before [desired staffing] is realized."

Read Commissioner Loigman's full letter below.

East of the Garden State Parkway, near the Brick Township border, (bounded by Cedar Bridge Avenue and Route 70), are several blocks of Township owned land. A portion of the land is located in the ABC zoning district, which does not permit development of schools, and a portion of the land is located in the LP zoning district which does permit development of schools.

At the request of the Lakewood Industrial Commission who is seeking to facilitate the anticipated sale of property in accordance with certain standards, the Township Committee recently introduced an Ordinance which would rezone the portion of the ABC zoning district to the LP zoning district, eliminate schools as a permitted use, and amend the maximum height permitted from 65 feet to 150 feet.

The LP zone currently permits professional offices and office buildings; banks and other financial lending institutions; doctors, dentists, and other recognized medical practitioners; medical laboratories; assisted living facilities; nursing homes; corporate headquarters and executive offices; hotels and conference centers; public and private schools; recreational facilities including ice skating rinks, bowling alleys, and other indoor recreational activities; facilities for the provision of health and human services including spas, gyms, health clubs and like facilities; scientific or research laboratories devoted to the research design or experimentation and processing and fabricating incidental thereto; restaurants; and retail centers, department stores and supermarkets.

The Amended Ordinance will eliminate schools from this list. It will also include warehouses, outdoor storage, and terminal facilities; manufacturing, compounding, processing, packaging; monument signs; as well as parking garage structures and automated parking systems as accessory uses to permitted principal uses.

Currently, the LP zone has the same area, yard, and lot requirements as the M-1 Zone (which includes most of the industrial park):

Minimum Lot Area: 3 acres
Minimum Lot Width: 300 feet
Front Yard Setback: 50/100 feet
Rear Yard Setback: 30 feet
Side Yard Setback: 30 feet with an aggregate of 70 feet
Maximum Building Coverage: 40%
Maximum Building Height: 65 feet

Accessory Building
Rear Yard Setback: 10 feet
Side Yard Setback: 10 feet

The Amended Ordinance will create a separate area, yard, and lot requirement for the LP zone, as follows:

Minimum Lot Area: 3 acres
Minimum Lot Width: 50 feet
Front Yard Setback: 50 feet
Rear Yard Setback: 30 feet
Side Yard Setback: 30 feet with an aggregate of 70 feet
Maximum Building Coverage: 65%
Maximum Building Height: 150 feet

Accessory Building
Rear Yard Setback: 10 feet
Side Yard Setback: 10 feet

So the takeaway is... 150 feet high buildings, but no schools allowed.

Having seen Commissioner Loigman's letter in real life, it is quite boggling how, as previously reported here on FAA News, when the Planning Board reviewed the introduced Ordinance for consistency with the Township's Master Plan, Board Member Bruce Stern specifically asked if the fire department had any concerns with the proposal. In response, Board Engineer Terry Vogt advised him that he was told by Township Attorney Harold Hensel that he reached out to the Fire District and that they did not have any concerns at all with the proposal!

Additionally concerning regarding this high rise building proposal is that according to a report by Lakewood News Network, Mayor Coles claimed that the zoning amendment will match the permitted height to "match the Cedarbridge Corporate Campus," and that "there are no plans to build high-rise buildings on the site."

This is wholly inaccurate. The Cedarbridge Corporate Campus is located in the DA-1 zone which used to have a height limit of 75 feet. In April 2021, the Township Committee amended this to 90 feet, and 120 feet high with fire department approval. In contrast, the LP zone currently has a height limit of 65 feet and the pending ordinance will increase that height to 150 feet, with no requirement to receive fire department approval.

Additionally, Mayor Coles acknowledged to LNN only that schools will be eliminated as a permitted use, and warehousing and corporate uses will become permitted. Missing from the facts of the proposal is that the zone also currently permits hotels with banquet halls and that under the Amended Ordinance, hotels with banquet halls will be permitted at 150 feet high.

On another note, Township officials are already under negotiations to sell this entire property to one, as of yet unnamed, developer. It is concerning to see Township officials doing all the leg work of rezoning the property before the sale, all so that this unnamed developer should not need to seek any variances from the land use boards! Seems like an unnamed someone is getting special treatment...

The Township Committee is set to hold a public hearing and vote on final reading on this proposed ordinance at their next meeting this Thursday.

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Anonymous said...

Does the FAA have to approve such a zoning change next to an airport?

001 said...

While it will be nice to have high rise buildings, the taxes don’t pay.
Let’s hope Larry Loigman wins as he has in the past with other townships!

Anonymous said...

And the building would have 30 year tax abatements