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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.

Gladd4 February 06, 2014 at 06:57 AM
I think open space and a community center would be great!
Chief Wahoo February 06, 2014 at 08:25 AM
Take your time. No rush at all. Pezzaras is taking over $200,000 from the taxpayers....what does he care how long it takes. Just make sure his checks keep coming out of your property tax bills ...the greatest thing about being a public taker.....no accountability !!!!! ANARCHO-CAPITALISM
BW February 06, 2014 at 08:45 AM
A park picnic area and a boat ramp. the end. No houses condos or apartments. No more retail we have a zillion empty retail spaces in Brick.
Sue Resch February 06, 2014 at 08:48 AM
Trader Joe's Food Store would be nice!
Glenn February 06, 2014 at 09:31 AM
Tax ratables should be the top priority, with out apartment rentals. If condos go in, they should have deed restrictions on rental periods, lets say 1 year minimums.
Mike M February 06, 2014 at 10:29 AM
Sue: I know that Wegmans was approached with this site and they declined; I think Trader Joe's was too. The location wasn't ideal and the demographics of the area wasn't right for them.
Mike M February 06, 2014 at 10:32 AM
Glenn: The hotel would be tax ratables and I doubt that even a one year deed restriction would make any difference. It would just be ignored by anyone intent on getting their unit rented.
Sal Petoia February 06, 2014 at 11:28 AM
I served on the new mayor’s transition team. One of the tasks was to make recommendations about the Foodtown site. I offered this possibility. Invite a large retail outlet such as Outdoor World or Cabella’s to check out the property. These are single use stores that offer a variety of goods above and beyond “outdoor” items. A proposal could be prepared and submitted showing aerial and ground views of the site; the road infrastructure that would indicate how out of town customers could reach the site; income and demographic statistics for marketability appraisals, etc. In addition, the location on Forge Pond would be ideal for displaying products associated with water sports. Further, perhaps an arrangement could be achieved whereby a portion of the site on the water could be set aside for public use, e.g. canoeing, fishing, holding picnics. The use would provide a good ratable with little impact on the school system; would draw customers from a large area in New Jersey; would help local businesses such as restaurants and other stores, etc. And setting aside a portion of the land for public use should satisfy those interested in maintaining some open space on the water. Further, neither business has a store in this area so it would open a new market for them. Of course there is no guarantee that either business would consider locating here, but it is at least worth a try. Most of the committee agreed that this could be a good solution to the Foodtown dilemma. The idea was forwarded by me to Mayor Ducey over a month ago, but thus far receipt of the proposal has not been acknowledged. A simple “thank you, but not interested” or “possible good idea and am looking into it” would be nice, but so far, nothing. Makes one wonder if any of these “advisory” teams are worth serving on.
Mike M February 06, 2014 at 11:59 AM
This sounds much better than what Jack Morris is proposing but does Brick really need new retail? Also, it is unfortunate but when you talk about additional business for locally owned businesses, it really wouldn't be the case around here. Nearly every restaurant is a national chain, nearly every retailer is a big box store. A retailer like this would almost certainly hurt the business of one of the few locally owned businesses, Jersey Paddler.
Melinda Murray February 06, 2014 at 12:22 PM
Open space, park and community center would so nice. The only concern I have,is who will patrol the place? With the drug problems in town, one big spot being the entrance off of Rt. 70 where you can launch you row boats. I fear it will just get worse. Now its bad enough that I won't take our little boat and launch it from there. If the powers that be haven't gotten that little spot under control in all these years,how will they control a much larger public spot.
Daniel Nee (Editor) February 06, 2014 at 01:27 PM
Glenn - You can't restrict a deed in that way. Certain deed restrictions were brought up during the time Nobility Crest was being approved, and it was flatly determined that such restrictions were not legal in New Jersey.
common sense February 06, 2014 at 02:50 PM
After the DEP had trash and debris there for so long now M&M wants to put more trash and debris there.For the sake of this entire town,PLEASE do not let it happen!
Mike M February 06, 2014 at 04:01 PM
@common sense- I agree that M&M's plan for condos, apartments and retail is not acceptable. We have too many vacant storefronts and to waste this valuable property on a "gated, high-end" condo project would be a shame. If you want to have a say in the process of providing alternatives for the Council to consider you can join the Facebook page of Friends of Forge Pond, NJ.
shorecorruption February 06, 2014 at 06:22 PM
Big indoor Water Park. That you pay to use, all year.
J.JONES February 06, 2014 at 06:37 PM
A BIG STATUE OF DUCEY OUR HERO !!!
#BiteMe February 07, 2014 at 08:21 AM
Why do we have an Open Space Tax? If it is to buy and preserve Open Space, then this is the perfect piece of land to preserve. That is why we bought it in the first place. Rip up the Black top and let whatever native trees and plants grow there naturally, grow. No need to plant anything. WHAT is the Open Space Tax being used for?
#BiteMe February 07, 2014 at 08:29 AM
Weren't we repeatedly told by the former Mayor and his administration that the property was already sold? If they were lying to us, shouldn't they be brought up on some kind of charges? Who knocked the building down? What happened to Acropolis ethic charges against Dan Toth? What happened to Fozmans charges against SanGiovannis daughter the lawyer for overbilling the town? was any of this illegal or even REAL? What is going on in this town?
Resident February 07, 2014 at 09:14 AM
Oh please not another retail center or apartments or condos. This town is way over developed on all fronts. I agree with the above poster, what is the open space tax being used for since their is basically none left? Make another park with access to forge pond for non motor boats and fishing, ball fields and a rentable community center/meeting hall. How many more empty retail sites do we need or apartments filled with a clientele that has skyrocketed the herion problem in this town?
Mike M February 07, 2014 at 09:38 AM
@Resident- You've just described the core features of a proposal that was presented to the Council last Fall by members of Friends of Forge Pond NJ and the Citizens Redevelopment Advisory Board. The one exception is that our proposal also included an aquatic center, which would be an asset to the community and a revenue producer for the town, and a mid-scale hotel that would generate tax revenues. We are holding a public meeting at the Library on March 19th at 7:30PM for any interested residents who would like to be part of the conversation. We, the residents, should have a voice in what goes on this property and this is an opportunity to let the Council and Mayor know what we'd like to see.
J.JONES February 07, 2014 at 11:45 AM
@ Pat the games are the same but the names have changed friends and family will continue ...The only difference is now its all one sided and no one to argue foul !!!
Sal Petoia February 09, 2014 at 09:04 AM
Mike: The apparent goal for this property is to find the most benign use that would provide a tax income to the town to help keep residential taxes from soaring. A large box store such as Cabella’s or Outdoor World would accomplish that. Setting aside some of the land for public use would be a bonus. It is true that these uses may conflict with Jersey Paddler, but from what I know, Jersey Paddler has a devoted customer base from all over the country. Cabella’s or Outdoor World, if even interested in locating in Brick, would likely have only minimal impact. In the final analysis it seems whatever use is found for the property it should be one that provides the maximum benefit to the township by achieving a balance between potential revenue, open space and least impact on the infrastructure. A hotel, conference center, etc. may be okay, but doubt that it would yield as much of a tax benefit to the township. In addition, I get concerned about transients a hotel would bring to or town. We have enough crime problems already.
Rebal Beckett February 10, 2014 at 08:52 PM
i say we put in a community garden so we can teach people how to grow vegitables themselves
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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