Barnegat Leader

Active Lifestyle Community Plan in Barnegat Moves Slowly

Feb 16, 2017
File Photo by: Jack Reynolds Christopher S. Vernon, owner of Mercer Management and Development, gives an overview of the community before approximately 100 people at Bonnet Island Estate on Stafford Township’s Cedar Bonnet Island in February 2016.

It was a year ago when a local developer announced plans for a proposed active senior lifestyle community in Barnegat Township. While the proposed project does not yet have a name, the developer hopes to stay in communication with township officials to work what he calls a “unique concept in Southern Ocean County.”

Christopher S. Vernon, owner of Mercer Management and Development, is looking to build the development at the old site of Shoreline Sand and Gravel on West Bay Avenue. Vernon purchased the Shoreline site through a bankruptcy sale in 2013; the Shoreline company had declared bankruptcy in 2010.

Vernon is also owner of Bonnet Island Estate and Mallard Island Yacht Club in Stafford Township, and the Stateroom in Ship Bottom

At the Barnegat community, Vernon has proposed such amenities as a community clubhouse, indoor swimming pool, community garden, fire pits, fitness facility, bocce courts, putting green, arts studio, pickleball and sports courts, and walking trails. Additionally, a large pond would be available for kayaking, canoeing and stocked fishing. Also, plans call for a bike and hiking path to be tied into nearby Cloverdale Farm County Park.

An array of residence options are being considered for the project, including single-family detached units, clustered cottages, neighborhood garden villas and elevator neighborhood residences. The housing styles would all be located in several separate sections.

Vernon said he has visited numerous other active lifestyle communities in various parts of the country.

“I think what we are proposing will be unique to Southern Ocean County,” he said. “This is a fairly new concept for age-restricted development. This lifestyle community provides a variety of senior residence options and services to meet the changing needs of our residents.”

Meghan Jacobs, marketing director for Mercer Management, said there is no time set for breaking ground or construction completion.

“What we need to do is stay in touch with the town,” she said.

Late last year, the township committee adopted an ordinance recommending that the 110-acre site be designated for redevelopment.

“This does not approve their specific plan,” said Township Engineer John Hess. “We’re just saying that the area needs to be redeveloped. It will need to go before our planning board, and it will also need approval from the (state) Pinelands Commission.”

Mayor Albert Bille said there has been very little discussion between the town and the developer.

“From what I can see, it’s a great concept,” said Bille. “But it will probably take a lot of time before everything is finalized.”

— Eric Englund

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