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Brick Awaits DEP Departure From Foodtown Site As Development Plans Linger

Local group hoping to hold its own meetings on plans for the site

The former Brick Foodtown site on Route 70, Feb. 4, 2014. (Photo: Daniel Nee)
The former Brick Foodtown site on Route 70, Feb. 4, 2014. (Photo: Daniel Nee)
The most useful role the former Foodtown site off Route 70 has played in years is nearing its end, as state officials prepare to exit the site following its use as a Superstorm Sandy debris management site.

From piles of Brick Township's storm-soaked debris to the multi-row graveyard of boats hauled from the depth of Barnegat Bay, Sandy's wrath led to another year of waiting for something – anything – to be built on the site, which fronts Route 70 and backs up to Forge Pond. Though owned by Brick Township, the site has been under the control of the state Department of Environmental Protection for more than a year.

"We’re waiting for final closeout from the DEP, with a walk-through," said Business Administrator Scott Pezarras. "The last time I walked past there, there was one boat still sitting on a trailer."

But once the state has removed the debris, there is still no clear plan for the site. Last year, the township's chosen redeveloper M&M Realty Partners, asked the township council to change that agreement to allow the company to build 192 condos at the site, along with 72 rental units and some retail storefronts.

The redeveloper's agreement would have to be changed since the current agreement with M&M requires a full service hotel to be built on the property. M&M has said marketing studies indicate such a hotel would not be economically feasible in Brick. But the plan to build condos and rental units at the site drew ire from council members as well as members of the public, who blasted the plan at meetings following the proposal.

Still, the proposal remains on the table, though the council has not taken any action on it.

Another proposal for the site has been put forth by the grassroots group Friends of Forge Pond, which favors a passive park and kayak access at the waterfront, alongside a large portion of the site that would be sold off the accommodate a smaller hotel. The proposal from the group also included potential plans for an aquatic center and therapy pools to generate revenue for the township, plus a community center.

John Zingis, one of the leaders of Friends of Forge Pond, said he has not heard back from township officials on the plan, and redevelopment of the site seems "dead in the water."

"We have a new mayor and a new council, and we understand that," said Zingis. "We decided to leave them alone for the month of January because they have things to do."

But the group, since they made their presentation to the council in September, has met with some township officials and informed them of grants to help the plan come to fruition. Still, there has been no action on the part of the council.

"Nothing is going to happen until the council takes action on what essentially is a signed contract with the developer," said Zingis.

Pezarras said the Friends proposal has not been reviewed by either the township council or the township's administration, though they will be "having discussions on that in the near future."

No money has changed hands in the deal with M&M. Though the township selected M&M to eventually take over the site in a $7.5 million deal, the deal would only be completed after the township approves of M&M's plans. As the site's redevelopment agent, the township council could also vote to back out of the deal with M&M and go in another direction.

"We’re still gathering information and updating information, and we’d like to be placed on the agenda," said Zingis, adding that his group was planning its own public meeting on redevelopment, likely in March at the Brick library.

Chief Wahoo February 10, 2014 at 09:28 PM
Keep paying that open space tax......Pezzaras and his surplus thank you. ...... who cares if you are worried you can't afford your mortgage because your property tax escrow is now higher than the mortgage payment ANARCHO-CAPITALISM
forREALNJ February 11, 2014 at 08:51 AM
I would like to see a indoor year round water park ( like Great wolf lodge/ or I play America) giving Local people a Staycation spot, and a option for people in the summer when its raining or extremely hot ( you cant use the beach) they have some place else to go, giving Brick some Revenue NOT always Seaside or Point not to mention giving some teens/ young adults employment
Mike M February 11, 2014 at 10:05 AM
@Liz: This property is one of the best remaining pieces of land that can be developed into something that would provide the residents of Brick with something that is beneficial to all of us. A condo project with more retail space definitely doesn't do this. Indoor water space is one that would provide healthy year around activity for residents of all ages. Great Wolf Lodge is great but its probably too expensive for most area families. You, as well as any other resident interested in the future of this property, should come to the library on March 19th at 7:30PM to discuss ideas about what would be best for the town and residents.
Sal Petoia February 11, 2014 at 10:11 AM
Mike: I could be supportive of an indoor water recreation use provided it is privately owned and a tax generator for the town, plus that there are assurances there will be sufficient business to sustain it so that it doesn’t go “belly up” in a couple of years and we’re stuck with yet another vacancy.
Mike M February 11, 2014 at 10:52 AM
Sal: I've had a number of very constructive conversations with folks from USA Swimming about this. There are several ways that an aquatic facility can be constructed and successfully operated by a privately owned entity; USA Swimming has assisted in establishing such businesses throughout the country and would be available to assist here if asked.

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