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SEND PHOTOS: 300-Acre Berkeley Brush Fire

Developer Pitches New Proposal for Former Foodtown Lot

Condos, apartments, light retail project requested

The redeveloper of the former Foodtown lot on Route 70 has proposed scrapping plans to construct a hotel and banquet facility at the site in favor of a large condominium complex accompanied by light commercial development and rental apartments.

Building a hotel and conference center at the site is "not economically feasible," said Bob Smith, an attorney for M&M Realty Partners, the site's redeveloper.

Smith said two consulting reports, one ordered by M&M and one by Brick Township officials, both confirmed a lack of market for such a facility.

"The independent consultant said there just isn't enough business to support a hotel and conference center at that location," said Smith.

In place of that project, M&M has proposed a 192 unit condominium complex, about 19,000 square feet of commercial space and 72 additional rental units located on top of the commercial portion.

The amount of retail space and additional rental units could be scaled back if M&M cannot negotiate the sale of an additional one acre state-owned easement at the site.

Ron Aulenbach, an engineer on the project, said the switch from a hotel and confrence cener to the condominium complex would reduce impervious coverage from more than 90 percent down to 70 percent – better for the local environment – and the entire project would resemble Pier Village in Long Branch.

The condominum units themselves would range from one bedroom to multi-bedroom units, up to about 1,200 square feet, and would retail for about $300,000.

According to documentation from M&M, the condominiums, which would be located behind the commercial and apartment portion, would be gated and include access to Forge Pond and the Forge Pond Golf Course, as well as ammenities such as a game room, media room, pool with outdoor fireplace and fitness center.

The complex would be required to conform with current state affordable housing laws under the so-called Mount Laurel decision, said township attorney Jean Cipriani.

Aulenbach said the complex would be upscale.

"This is not something that's going to be rented out at $800 a month just to get someone in there," he said. "This is not going to be a situation where we're going to be building apartments with white formica countertops. This is going to be top of the line stuff."

In order for the new plan to come to fruition, the township council would need to vote in favor of changing the official redevelopment plan for the site, which still calls for a full-service hotel to be built.

Though M&M requested swift action so the project could get off the ground, the council did not take any action at its meeting Tuesday night, and several residents spoke out against the change.

"There's been a stall tactic for four years," said former township council member Michael Thulen. "They've managed to hold this property for four years and haven't had to put in any more than the demolition of the original building. This redevelopment plan was put together to put a hotel or banquet facility in place. The banquet facility was supposed to hold down the hotel."

Thulen said he was confident a hotel could make it in Brick despite the consultants' reports, citing successful hotels that have been constructed recently in Stafford Township and in Monmouth County.

"There has to be a market for hotels here, because people are building hotels in areas all around this town," he said.

Resident George Scott cautioned the council to research the new plan before voting in favor of it.

"They're going to put 192 units there," said Scott. "They're going to realize $57 million in that sale, minus construction costs. They're certainly going to make a nice profit, so let's not let them off the hook too easily and expect that the taxpayers are going to swallow this."

"Personally, I like it," said Councilman Jim Fozman, referring to the plan.

"I think it's time. I really do," said Councilman Joseph Sangiovanni.

Though M&M has been selected as the redeveloper of the site, no money has changed hands.

M&M will be required to pay the town a previously agreed-upon $7.5 million for the lot before construction can begin.

The site was purchased by the township in 2003 during the administration of former Mayor Joseph Scarpelli with the idea being to construct a community center there. Plans came later for a hotel and banquet facility, and ultimately a Republican-controlled council selected M&M as the redeveloper.

KC January 25, 2013 at 06:49 AM
That white formica sucks?
KC January 25, 2013 at 06:52 AM
When and where is the meeting please.
KC January 25, 2013 at 06:53 AM
Agree!
BrickGuy January 25, 2013 at 06:55 AM
Mr. Pezarras, et al. I invite you all to discuss this at the following Facebook page...where it can get discussed without 'fake' screen names so we all know who is talking to who? I think that might add to the honesty and cut down on the personal attacks and political grandstanding. Mr. Pezarras is be to complimented for putting up with your accusations and dis/mis-information when, from what I can see, he attempts to answer all intelligent questions if asked. For the record, I am Paul Pallante. I've lived here since 2000 and have come to love this town, especially after seeing everyone pull together after Sandy. My feelings on this property have and always will be that it needs to be developed with the community in mind. I personally would like to see an analysis of how a development as proposed will affect our schools, traffic and police. More residents and retail space is not what this town needs. More redevelopment of existing properties is a better direction in my opinion. Beautify Brick! https://www.facebook.com/BeautifyBrick Join us!
KC January 25, 2013 at 07:03 AM
By comparison,Those were the good old days. Scarpelli was a good mayor. The town looked great then under his tenure. The Windward Beach concerts had real talents then. The library was new and nice. The schools were always horrible to tell the truth, but things were better under Scarpelli than now. At least our trash was collected and bulk as well. Here we are a month past Christmas and trees all over the place. Christmas trees and trees from Sandy or one of the other storms. It shouldn't take a month to clean such rubble up. This town needs a fundraiser to buy another truck. It is an awful eyesore. Garbage leaves and broken branches and Christmas trees everywhere. Mr. Pezzaras you want to collect ratables why not fine the residents who do not maintain their properties. With the monies you collect you can buy a truck and help the residents maintain their properties. Call it Project Clean Sweep. If Code enforcement gives you a warning and you don't comply you get slapped with a fine.
Sal Petoia January 25, 2013 at 05:22 PM
Bob: What on earth are you talking about! "…not an honest referendum…"! The referendum would have been for people to decide on whether the Ice Palace deal should or should not go through. The following is "verbatim" from the petition (and I will need to enter this a couple of times because of the length): "We the undersigned registered voters of the Township of Brick, Ocean County, New Jersey, hereby request a referendum election and submission to popular vote for the Ocean Ice Palace Bond Ordinance, designated as 'An Ordinance Of The Township Of Brick, In the County of Ocean, New Jersey, Providing For The Acquisition Of Land In And For The Township Of Brick And Appropriating $9,990,000 Therefor (sic), And Providing For The Issuance Of $9,900,000 In Bonds Or Notes Of The Township Of Brick To Finance The Same,' under the power of the debt-authorization referendum procedure granted to voters of the Township of Brick by N.J.S.A.40:49-27 and under the general powers of referendum granted in N.J.S.A. 40:69A-185. (continued below)
Sal Petoia January 25, 2013 at 05:23 PM
The undersigned voters demand that the Ocean Ice Palace Ordinance in its entirety with any changes (whether by amendment or resolution) by the Township Council be submitted to the electorate for a vote at a general or special election, with a question to be put to the voters of Brick Township in the form of a Referendum." That is what the petition said! What you claim as "hype" was telling the people what Acropolis and the Council were not telling… the extent of development on the site, all the bus and vehicle parking, the increase in traffic in one of the worst traffic hubs in the township, etc. It's called TRUTH, Bob. If the referendum had made it to the ballot, the people would have made the final decision, not Acropolis and the council. Maybe YOU are willing to let the mayor and council alone make far reaching decisions, but I and over 5000 people who signed the petition do not. Thank God for people who can think and act in the interest of the town!
scrabble girl January 25, 2013 at 05:26 PM
Do what I did and move..best thing I ever imagined doing. Everytime I return for a visit I am reminded of why I don't live there anymore...many days it was just to painful to get around.
Sal Petoia January 25, 2013 at 05:34 PM
For Paul Pallante aka "BrickGuy: I applaud you for your openness by revealing your true identity. I agree that more analysis should have been done before even getting to this point. I have to agree with Scott Pezzaras, too, in that the town could use the taxes from developing the site; however, officials should provide how proceeding with development as proposed will affect the tax rate. People may prefer paying a little more in taxes rather than have the large development. It is the people who should decide, not just the mayor and council!
BrickGuy January 25, 2013 at 05:47 PM
Thanks Sal...I agree with you...I don't feel represented by the people that I supported when I voted. When someone says they are going to do something and then they do the opposite, I have a problem with that...call me old fashioned I guess. This property should be left to a vote. I do not believe that this will end up being the 'plus' that they are talking about considering it may cost us more than any taxes that are brought in. This property also creates a unique opportunity to be set aside for the community. What about the benefit of a community center? What does that do to our home values when a prospective buyer sees what our community has to offer. We need to look at the community aesthetics and how we can improve Brick so we become a town with facilities equal to the promise of our youth. Paul Pallante Beautify Brick! https://www.facebook.com/BeautifyBrick Join us!
Joseph Lamb January 25, 2013 at 06:16 PM
If this wasn't a mayoral election year, I would be more inclined to believe that M&M truly wants to build something. M&M has had it for more than 4 years and nothing has been done. M&M still hasn't paid Brick the $7.5 million for the property less the $800,000 for the demolition of Foodtown. The demolition of Foodtown didn't even go out to bid.
Joseph Lamb January 25, 2013 at 06:19 PM
This is tax abatement that was provided- As an incentive to construct in Brick Township, the redeveloper was granted payments in lieu of taxes on the project for the next 30 years. The property tax payments will be as follows: years 1-6 27% of total property taxes, years 7-12 40%, years 13-18 60%, years 19-24 80%, years 25-30 100%. “These are the types of incentives that towns need to give to developers in today’s economy,” said Council President Anthony Matthews. “Our other option is to not offer these incentives and watch this development move to other towns and take their jobs and economic benefits with them.” According to the agreement, construction on the property is to begin by September 2011 and will be complete within five years of obtaining the necessary permits. The Foodtown Redevelopment project should be rebid. This is outrageous.
Bob January 26, 2013 at 01:30 AM
@Sal lets be honest here. we all know that the ordinace had to be pulled because of the referendum. As you quoted the money 9.9 millon was for ACQUISITION. If my memory serves me right the sell price was around 5.2 millon. so what about the other 4.7? It was legal opinions that stated that AS PER THE REFERENDUM the money could ONLY be spent on the PURCHASE. Going foward there were questions about any future financing because of the referendum.Did the passage of the referendum limit the total amount of moneyt that could be paid? The second the bill went a penny over the 9.9 there would be more then likely a lawsuit, thus tying up the project indefinately. An honest referendum would have been an up or down to make the purchase or would have used the ACTUAL purchase price. The 9.9 millon price tag was used to HYPE up the puplic and scare them. Add the democrat party throwing their weight behind it and passing their propaganda around - the rest is history. I HONESTLY believe had Acroplis made a vision of the purchase known to the public before the ordinance it would have been different. His arrogance condemed the purchase long before the referendum. Oh by the way, where were you and your 5000 person army when we bought foodtown or Traders Cove? or all the other major bonded projects? Debt is still going up! Time to be honest and tell the truth. Elections have consquences. Did we have a referendum on the splash park NO the people come out and it was squished.
Sal Petoia January 26, 2013 at 12:35 PM
Bob: The petition to hold a referendum speaks for itself in clear plain language… simply to let the people decide on the fate of the ordinance passed by the council. And let me ask you a question. After the site was purchased for $5.2 million, what do you think the total cost of redeveloping the rink into a major sporting arena would have been? As to the other $4.7 million, you tell me ME and the rest of the community what it was for. Why is it that you, the mayor and the council didn't want the people to decide the issue. Everything was in place for a referendum to be held… a successful petition, the information as to the arena itself, the estimated income… If the project was to be as fruitful as they said, the mayor and council should have allowed the referendum, presented their case and leave it up to the voters. But they were convinced they could not sell it to the public. Once they realized that they couldn't stuff it down the throats of the taxpayers by their unilateral action, they dropped it rather than be embarrassed. By the way, I privately urged then Mayor Scarpelli to put Traders Cove on a referendum, but you would have no knowledge of that.
Bob January 27, 2013 at 12:15 AM
@SAl you make my point. 1-The town could not go foward due to legaleze. as was witten in the referendum, "An Ordinance Of The Township Of Brick, In the County of Ocean, New Jersey, Providing For The Acquisition Of Land In And For The Township Of Brick And Appropriating $9,990,000" key word - ACQUISTION. money could not legally be spent on anything else but the acquistion. if it had stated something different like acquistion and development, it might have been different. Or quite simple a yes or no vote And yes I do know there would be more expenses but like I said numerous times Acroplis NEVER presented it or made a case for it His aroagant stlye sunk this long before the referendum. 2 - so you "privately" told Scarpelli but publically held a referendum against Acroplis and you say there's no politics in the referendum .
BW January 27, 2013 at 12:34 AM
@Bob. I was a member of SOS as were a lot of other Republicans and independents, not just democrats. Acropolis had the township attorney working on the purchase for 9 months before the public even found out about it. In fact Dan Kelly was the mayor at the time and Steve and the rest of the council hid it from him.
Sal Petoia January 27, 2013 at 04:50 AM
Bob: You keep trying to make a distinction between the "acquisition" money and the rest of the $9.9 million. So what? The issue was the purchase and further development of the Ice Palace site. I'm sorry you seem so distressed that "your" arena didn't happen (not really!), but don't put the blame on SOS. Put it right where it belongs… on a mayor and council that were trying to over extend themselves without community support. They could have gone with the referendum and took their chances, but they didn't. And yes, I did make a recommendation to Scarpelli to put Traders Cove to a referendum. Again, so what? At least I tried to steer him in that direction. And aren't you forgetting the real purpose of this blog site? The issue today is what to do about the Food Town site, so let me ask you: Do you want to see the condos as now being proposed by M&M? If not, what? Your turn.
Bob January 27, 2013 at 04:05 PM
@Sal - I make the distinction because this is a legal matter and words have distinct meaning. Acquistion is just that. If the town Acquired the property at 5.2 they could not spend the remainder. The second theyspent anything else on the property you and others would be in court. AGAIN if the referendum was HONEST it would have been an up or down vote. Maybe limit the amount to an HONEST sum not the hyped up 9.9 which was only ment to scare voters.And yes I am sad that the mayor did not present a vision for the property. As a parent of children who would make use of the facility I know it would have been an asset to the town. SOS was started, I believe, in earnest. It was taken over by politics and used as a club to beat the mayor with. So you made a recomendation to Scarpelli about Traders Cove - Why no referendum? Are your sympathies with him and the democrats? Now be honest. That's what. I bring it up on this blog because because by not developing the property without a vision is WRONG. The Ice Palace purchase, I BELIEVE, would have made the Foodtown property ripe for a hotel. Reasons I've already stated. We need to stop thinking Brick is a town. We are a small city. I am not foolish enough to believe that there would not be growing pains but we need to move foward. The property tax is daming our community and the town needs other sources of income. Look at what Ritacco did. Just wait till the reevaluations come and the town loses a ton of money.
BrickGuy January 27, 2013 at 07:01 PM
The tax abatement on this property makes it a joke to think that it would bring value to Brick. When will our elected officials [I used to call them leaders...not anymore] realize that it is the SPENDING. Brick doesn't need more REVENUE, it needs to cut SPENDING. Where? Figure it out. Maybe Brick needs its own bi-partisan SImpson-Bowles type commission to study things and make recommendations. We can't proceed at the rate things have been going. To re-phrase an often used phrase "IT'S THE SPENDING STUPID!"
BrickGuy January 27, 2013 at 07:04 PM
Go to Beautify Brick! ...and see some pictures of BTHS...should we be worried about adding more condos in town when our schools look like this??? https://www.facebook.com/BeautifyBrick
Sal Petoia January 27, 2013 at 07:11 PM
Bob: This will be my last response to you because I am not going to change your mind, and you will not change mine. If you are adamant that $5.2 million could be spent for ACQUISITION only, then why did your council friends prepare an ordinance for $9.9 million? You say the SOS movement was politically motivated, and I say it was the will of the people; and again, if the elected officials believed that the people would have been more like you, they would have gone ahead with the referendum. They did not, which means they knew they were trying to push something that went against the people's desires and did not wish to deal with the backlash at election time. Of course, that isn't politics, is it! BTW, the mayor and council never addressed the possibility of building a community center/sports arena/ice rink/swimming pool/etc. with access to the river for fishing/canoeing at the Food Town site, despite already owning the property. The $9.9 million would have gone a long way for that purpose…. and we wouldn't be in the current debate about condos at Food Town. In fact, use of the site for that purpose could be considered even now. According to my records, it was reported that the ice rink could generate $1.152 million a year and that a community center and therapy pools would net $429,995 per year. Again, focus on the current issue which is the Food Town site. Maybe you can still have your sports complex. Why not try a petition drive? More below:
Sal Petoia January 27, 2013 at 07:35 PM
Continued from above: I do agree with you that we need to have vision when developing the site, and certainly a hotel and banquet facility would be better than the condo proposal. But these may still not be the best use of the land to provide a reasonable balance between income and compatibility with community interests. How about if the council puts together a committee to restudy possible uses. The committee could work with the planners and elected officials to suggest the best course of action. Also, thought you might know me, but obviously you don't. My sympathies are with the people. I'm an independent, and I support non-partisan government. Sure, I helped Dems in some elections because the R's were responsible for dumping non-partisan government in favor of partisan to suit themselves. But I also worked with Republicans when John Lea ran against Dan Newman, who I might add, was probably the best mayor Brick ever had. I even ran with Republicans in 1985 in a council election. So don't pin me in a corner about my political affiliations because you just don't know. We're both entitled to our preferences. For example, I'm rooting for San Francisco next week. Would've preferred the Giants, but…
Sal Petoia January 27, 2013 at 07:44 PM
B W: You're right about Dan Kelly being mayor. And didn't he suggest a referendum be held to let the people decide?
BW January 27, 2013 at 08:16 PM
Yes he did and the township attorney told him it was too late to place it on the ballot. Acropolis and rest of the council then waited almost a full year to vote on the ordnance for the 9.9. I have to see if I can find it, because I am 99 percent sure it said for purchase and repairs.
Portia January 27, 2013 at 10:58 PM
Is the Developer's Attorney, Mr. Bob Smith the Senator from Piscataway who Chairs the Environment and Energy Committee and also sits on the Judiciary Committee? He appeared well-versed and on point on the specific issues that would need to be addressed moving forward. We must ask ourselves a key question moving forward: Do we want to continue paying hundreds of thousands of dollars on the financial debt incurred by this vacant property or move forward and if put on the Market today would we attract a buyer and yield the sale price of 7.5 million dollars? Admittedly, it would be nice to have a banquet facility/hotel but the reality is that it is highly unlikely that will transpire. Perhaps, common ground and compromise is called for so that we can stop realizing a NET LOSS year after year on the Foodtown Site.
Mike M January 28, 2013 at 03:05 AM
@Sal: I like your suggestion of putting together a committee comprised of residents along with township reps to study possible development plans for the property. Seeing that this article has received over 200 comments there looks to be plenty of residents who would be interested in participating. With such a unique property it would be a complete waste to allow a condo project here even if was financially feasible. Can't see much of a market for townhomes of 900 -1500 sq.,ft, priced at $300,000+ with a Rt. 70 location. How about putting a combination of township owned open space to be used as park/ walking path/ bike path/ gardens coupled with APPROPRIATE commercial space such as locally owned food and retail space. No more of those cookie cutter national chains w/ liquor licenses or mass retailers. Direct those tax abatements towards existing vacant lots such as the WOW site nearby. Whatever's done needs ample public participation and feedback
Sal Petoia January 28, 2013 at 03:25 PM
Mike M: Glad you and some others agree with me. The problem is getting the council members to agree. It's been my experience with over fifty years in the township that many officials, if not most, once elected, believe they know what is best for everybody. It's as though they are magically endowed with wisdom. It's only when the people (voters) speak out strongly that they may rethink things. Let's see what they do about this latest issue. By the way, thank you for supporting the SOS campaign.
Mike M January 28, 2013 at 04:16 PM
@Sal: Your very welcome on SOS- it made sense then and it still does today. I think you're right as far as politicians thinking they are "magically endowed with wisdom". As far as I can see most elected officials are endowed with a sense of power and influence and the opinions of those who voted them into office are not taken into consideration in their decision making process. I wonder what the most effective method is to facilitate a process where our opinions and ideas are integrated into the decision making process beginning in the early stages of any major project. Petitioning can be an effective process, as does a mass representation at council meetings, and in this case these methods may be needed, but it would be much more useful to be included from the "get-go". Mike Morton
Sal Petoia January 28, 2013 at 11:29 PM
Mike M: First, let me express my admiration for posting your full name. You are among a very few who have the courage to do so. We do need a means to inject public opinion into the governing process. True, people can attend council meetings, but so many are unwilling to pull themselves away from "Dancing With The Stars", etc. Plus, many believe their input counts for nothing anyway. In many cases they are correct. Who wants to go out on a cold rainy night to attend a meeting where for the most part politicians "gush" all over themselves or are at each others' throats. Use of Initiative and Referendum works, as demonstrated by the SOS campaign, but as you know from having been part of it, it is an arduous task. Nor could the public be expected to conduct a petition for every issue in town. Otherwise, what do we have elected officials for? But there is a way…. we live in an age of instant communications. The Patch is a good example. There is no reason that major undertakings under consideration by the council and mayor cannot be made available to the public and posted to obtain citizen input. This "public forum" would give the governing body a sense of what the community feels before proceeding too far down the road with an ordinance, a major project or a costly program. It would put the people in a "consultative relationship" with elected officials using an interactive format. Very controversial issues would need some means to resolve. Maybe an on-line vote.
BrickGuy February 12, 2013 at 03:27 PM
Beautify Brick/Friends of Forge Pond... Katherine Lockwood & Mike Morton will be holding a meeting at 7pm [ALL ARE WELCOME] @ the Brick Diner [formerly the Ocean Queen] on Rt. 70, next to the Jersey Paddler. Discussion for the evening will be the Foodtown property. [906 Route 70 Brick, NJ 08724]

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