Little Egg Harbor Amends Ordinance to Limit Development on PRDs
Residents of the senior development of Sea Oaks in Little Egg Harbor Township turned out for the June 28 municipal meeting to hear the township committee pass an amended ordinance that will keep communities such as theirs from being radically changed by further development.
The ordinance states that no golf course or open space within an approved planned residential development shall be subdivided or otherwise modified for additional residential units or new commercial uses within the PRD.
The ordinance came out of a particular planning board application by Sea Oaks Country Club and golf course owner Joseph Mezzina, who came before the board in the spring of this year for permits to erect 29 townhouses on part of the10th hole and driving range of his golf course.
His professionals, his attorney and engineers, held that there was sufficient open space within the entire Sea Oaks development to allow them to construct a separate PRD within the already developed PRD. This was termed a “loophole” in the PRD ordinance. Mezzina did not develop the housing in the Sea Oaks PRD, but residents there who purchased homes from K. Hovnanian said they had been sold their homes on a golf course for a premium and had reason to believe the golf course would not be changed. On June 7, the Little Egg Harbor Planning Board agreed with the residents and denied the application for townhouses on the portion of the golf course. The next day, Mezzina, speaking through his attorney, Howard Butensky, said he may appeal the decision to Superior Court or come back to the planning board with a larger housing plan.
The ordinance to close the loophole in the PRD would not apply to Mezzina’s case if it goes to appeal and wins.
However, during the township meeting, a resident of Sea Oaks asked if new developments would fall under the amended ordinance, and the answer of “yes” seemed to cover any new site plan that Mezzina might bring.
The amended ordinance also covers any other PRD in the township, such as Sunrise Bay, Cranberry Creek and Harbor Bay. PRDs are special zones that allow denser development than is normally permitted in the township in exchange for preserved open space. It used to be called cluster housing.
When asked by a member of the audience if an ordinance could be appealed, Committeeman Art Midgley said there was a 45-day window for appeal to Superior Court.
Sea Oaks resident Fred Loehfelm asked if the ordinance could apply retroactively to the 16 townhouses Mezzina received approval for in 2004 but has not started yet. Those were approved on a former putting range, as was the Inn at Sea Oaks, which has been built.
The township attorney said no, land use laws did not allow that.
Loehfelm also wanted to know how long Mezzina’s application was good for and was told that starting with the economic downturn, applications have been given extensions by the governor as a way to try to keep the economy going. Normally, an approval is good for only five years before an applicant must reapply.
Resident Nick Suhr thanked the committee for their efforts to maintain his development as it is. “I’ve lived on the most beautiful piece of property in the township for eight years,” he said.
Deputy Mayor Ray Gormley thanked the residents of Sea Oaks for their tenacity in returning week after week to the planning board while the application was before it. “It shows you really care about your community,” he said.
Mayor John Kehm reminded the public that the second municipal meeting in July will be held on Monday, July 23, at 5 p.m. to allow members of the committee to volunteer during the four days of carnival, July 25 to 28 from 5 to 10 p.m. at the George J. Mitchell Elementary School grounds. The carnival raises money for the township recreation committee and Tuckerton Masonic Lodge #4.
Assistant Township Business Administrator Michael Fromosky told the public that the township is moving forward with four additional bus shelters to be installed at various locations, including one near Mystic Shores, provided free of charge by New Jersey Public Transit.
The township committee also rehired a patrolman who had been let go during the economic downturn. Officer Joseph Falkiewicz was rehired as a patrol officer. “Joe was next on our re-employment list,” said Police Chief Richard Buzby. “When he was with us and while he has been working for the state (as a parks officer), he has been a very good police officer. He’s a good producer and a self-starter and is popular with his colleagues and in the community.
“He’s going to be an asset to the township as we plan and staff our anti-crime initiative.”
The committee and public gave a round of applause.
In other business, the township rejected bids for constructing a concession stand and restroom facility on the Little Egg Harbor recreation fields. Township Engineer Jim Oris said they came in too high, and he was given permission to go out to bid once more.
Public works Acting Superintendent Patrick Donnelly was congratulated for passing his superintendent civil service test. Donnelly was lauded for the fine job he has been doing for the township, in particular setting up an expanded recycling facility that now includes composting equipment.
Gormley reminded residents and lawn care professionals that they may bring their grass clippings and brush for composting.
— Pat Johnson