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As previously reported numerous times here on FAA News over the past recent days, 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.

As the days go by, and the Township Committee is poised today to rubber stamp this proposal, more and more troublesome issues have risen.

As previously reported here on FAA News, 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 and to purchase additional equipment.

As Fire Commissioner Larry Loigman so eloquently wrote, "the additional tax revenue which the Fire District would receive from a large office building would contribute only a negligible amount to that budget."

It is troubling that, as previously reported here on FAA News, Board of Fire Commissioners Chairman Yaakov Steinberg worked hard against a letter to the Committee regarding this projects fiscal impact by saying that they were requested to make recommendations only regarding safety concerns, and they were not asked to a financial impact study.

It is more troubling that, 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!

It is even more troubling that Mayor Ray Coles, who has discussed the specifics of the proposal with Township fire officials and therefore obviously has firsthand knowledge of the proposal, has tried hard to downplay the proposal to the Lakewood News Network, first claiming that the zoning amendment will match the permitted height to "match the Cedarbridge Corporate Campus," and then that "there are no plans to build high-rise buildings on the site."

It is also troubling that instead of selling this property to the highest bidder at public auction, the Township is giving the land to Lakewood Industrial Commission which permits the LIC to resell it directly with no public auction (which will result in a final sale price at a lower cost).

And it is even more troubling that 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...

And yet again this Wednesday morning, another troubling issue cropped up - the Lakewood Industrial Commission.

The LIC promotes commercial growth in the Township's industrial park.

At their monthly meeting on Wednesday morning, they received two public comment emails opposing this high rise building proposal. The emails urged them to kill the deal before our taxes go sky high, as high as the high buildings.

Instead of taking this opposition to heart, or at the very least, denying the potential tax increase, LIC Executive Director Steven Reinman simply waived his hands up in the air, saying "the zoning has nothing to do with us. That lies with the Committee and Planning Board. Our job is simply to sell land for ratables and businesses."

This is patently absurd. Moreover, the Township's proposed ordinance clearly sets forth the LIC as the ones who are requesting the zone change in order to assist their contract purchaser.

The Ordinance states in part:

WHEREAS, the Lakewood Industrial Commission has requested that this portion of the ABC Zone be returned to its designation as part of the LP Zone to facilitate the anticipated sale of property by the Lakewood Industrial Commission to a purchaser seeking to develop these properties located in both zones in accordance with the provisions of the LP Zone; and

WHEREAS, the Lakewood Industrial Commission additionally requests the Township amend the
LP Zone’s permitted uses section, bulk requirements for the area, yard, and lots section, and the parking requirements section.

There it is. In black and white. The LIC has a contract purchaser who seeks to develop the property with 150 feet high buildings. Therefore, the LIC has requested that the Committee change the zoning to permit 150 feet high buildings here.

How in the world can the LIC cry "not involved" and simply point fingers at the Committee and Planning Board??

Oh, and by the way, a precursory review of tax maps indicates that the entire area to be rezoned is over 1.3 million sq feet. At a Minimum Lot Area of 3 acres, it appears that over 10 buildings could be built here. (Taking into account roadways and drainage basins the net product will likely be less than that).

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

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Anonymous said...

It's clear that nobody at the LIC or the Committee wants to accept responsibility for making this "150-foot high-rise zoning change" request. They're each pointing their fingers and blaming each other for this very expensive-to-the-taxpayers idea. Apparently, the mystery buyer has got some serious influence over them. It makes you wonder what's really going on behind closed doors??

Anonymous said...

Could it be student housing for the research facility Bais medrash?
Remember they applied for this a few years ago and withdrew perhaps this will be kollel apartments for a yeshiva
Who else has such a powerful influence over the township committee to create gridlock traffic on rt 70

Anonymous said...

We need FAA to do an expose’ on the as-yet-unnamed buyer..