Residents Hear More of Sea Oaks Townhouse Plan   

May 17, 2012
Photo by: Pat Johnson Sea Oaks residents Ralph and Adina Alster look over plans of their senior development that includes a proposed 29 townhouse development located partly on the driving range and the 10th hole of the golf course.     

A second meeting of the Little Egg Harbor Township Planning Board on May 3 was dedicated to hearing an application for 29 townhouse/condos proposed on the grounds of the Sea Oaks Golf Course.

Applicant Joseph Mezzina owns the golf course, country club and Inn at Sea Oaks and hopes to get planning board approval to build an additional senior planned residential development within the already approved senior development of Sea Oaks. When the Sea Oaks PRD was being constructed, the golf course and country club were bifurcated from the housing piece and sold separately to Mezzina while K. Hovnanian built the housing. The applicant contends he could develop up to 30 acres of the golf course based on the density requirements of the township’s PRD ordinance but would like a variance not to  all he wants to develop are the 29 townhouse/condos on a 4.2-acre lot that contains part of the existing driving range and part of the 10th hole on the golf course. 

The situation is a novel one, as Mezzinas attorney, Howard Butensky, admitted.

“It’s an oddball situation, ironic that what’s being sought is permission to develop less than what’s required,” said Butensky. “We’re looking for a variance to develop less than we’re required to.”

The township planner, John Maczuga of T&M Associates, agreed that “an oddity” in the ordinance requires a PRD to be at least 30 acres to qualify under that provision. The original intent of PRDs was to preserve open space  so-called cluster housing, where the homes are allowed to be closer together (denser) than what is commonly allowed within the larger community. Then more open space is preserved – and in this case that was interpreted as a golf course.

Maczuga said he supported giving the variance to Mezzina.   

Township planning board attorney Joe Coronato suggested the township committee revisit the PRD ordinance and tighten a “loophole” he said exists that allows PRDs to be built within PRDs. But that wouldn’t affect this application.

Butensky said he would agree that revisiting the ordinance and tightening the language would be beneficial and that his applicant had “no intention of proceeding further” with additional development of the golf course. But “nobody knows what the future will bring,” he added.

The board proceeded with hearing the application.

Mezzina’s traffic expert, David Horner, presented a traffic study that found there would be no adverse impacts to existing intersections if the townhomes were built. His firm had taken traffic counts during peak morning and evening hours and found the addition of 19 trips in the morning and 22 in the afternoon would not affect the waiting time at intersections. Increased waiting times coupled with the impatience of drivers are what cause most accidents. Horner also found the townhouse development would generate an additional 110 trips in and out of the Sea Oaks development each day – not enough to cause an impact even when events such as weddings and golfing events were occurring at the country club.

“During the worst-case scenario, the additional traffic generated by the townhouses only would add 10 to 20 seconds to the wait time at the Club House and Golf View intersection; that’s still acceptable,” said Horner. 

During the public’s turn to speak, Sea Oaks resident Pat Loehfelm said the times that were studied – the 7-to-9 a.m. and 4- to 6-p.m. rush hours did not reflect the reality of life in a senior development. “In a retirement community, many people sleep late and are eating dinner at those times. I don’t believe your study is fulfilling all the needs we have.”

Her husband, Fred Loehfelm, asked if Horner had taken into account the fact that Sea Oaks residents use Country Club Drive to get to their clubhouse, pool and other amenities, and Horner said that was all taken into account when the traffic counts were done in July 2010 and adjusted for growth in January of this year.

The next expert was project engineer Ron Curcio of Adams, Raymond and Hagen Associates. Curcio addressed some of the concerns voiced by residents at the last planning board hearing, held on April 19. He said the sanitary pump station would be designed with failsafe measures including back-up pumps, auxiliary power and alarms.

The proposed 900-foot street off Country Club Lane would be built to state standards: 24 feet wide with a 40-foot cul de sac at the end for emergency vehicles. Each townhouse would have a two-car garage and space for four vehicles if the garages were used for cars. The proposal would also create 15 additional parking spaces off the road to accommodate visitors to the townhouses.

The developer proposes to build a drainage basin to reduce stormwater runoff. Curcio said four agencies had reviewed the basin, the township, the county, Ocean County Soils and Conservation and N.J. Department of Environmental Protection CAFRA, and determined it would significantly reduce the water now coming off the hilly site. The drainage basin would be 3 feet deep with the first foot at the bottom designed to infiltrate water into the ground. A 6-inch drainage pipe would be located at 1 foot, 7 inches off the bottom and would drain slowly to the other basins on the site – first to the pond by the 10th hole. The basin is required to reduce the flow rate by 75 percent. The developer would also create swales in the back yards with perforated pipe to take some roof rain.        

Curcio also said although there would be landscaping, there would be no buffer or screening of the townhouse/condominiums because they are being marketed to golfing enthusiasts who want a view of the golf course. Butensky also defended the lack of screening, saying “Golf course lots are a premium.”

Although the developer did not offer any floor plans, it was noted that the PRD ordinance restricts the number of people living in a unit to three. Two-bedroom units are planned.

Butensky said the number of bedrooms restricts the number of residents, and a standard Homeowners Association contract would also restrict the number of occupants.

This is when the planning board learned that Mezzina was planning two separate homeowners associations besides the Sea Oaks HOA; one for the 16 units already approved behind the Inn at Sea Oaks and a separate one for the 29 units proposed for the driving range.

Butensky said he would provide the HOA documents at the final site plan approval stage, but said they were standard. “They are all basically the same.”

During the public comment period, George Brady, who owns a neighboring property, asked questions about the stormwater system because he contends the existing stormwater system for all of Sea Oaks is connected and already impacting his property, and he is concerned additional development would cause additional stormwater flow to his property.

Curcio said he did not design the other basins and is responsible only for the one he is designing for the 29 townhouses.

Brady said when the entire area was wooded, there was no problem with water flows to his property, but when Sea Oaks developed its property, it replaced a 6-inch-wide drain pipe that leads to his property with a 24-inch drain pipe.

Brady also contended that after approving Sea Oaks development of 375 homes, the township planning board granted waivers to the developer, allowing for a reduction in the depth of the retention ponds. “They issued a waiver that allowed them to only remove 195,000 cubic yards of soil, in essence reducing the depth of the ponds from 16 feet to 6 feet; that’s 7,000 dump truck loads of soil that didn’t have to be removed, a fact that has affected how much water runs off that site.”

Butensky said Curcio could testify only to the application before the planning board that evening – the 29 townhouses.

But Brady pointed out that all the stormwater retention ponds are connected. “The bottom line is there is a hell of a lot of water coming on my property that never happened before; according to the (state’s) RSIS (Residential Site Improvement Standards), all stormwater is supposed to stay on site.”       

Sea Oaks resident Judith Orvuska was next to the podium and said she was upset that the future tenants of the townhouses would have a nice, unobstructed view of the golf course when some residents already living on Golf View Drive would now see townhouses rather than trees lining the 10th hole. “These (planned) condos are now obscuring what used to be a nice view – does anybody care?” she asked the planning board.             

Resident Harry Morton was concerned for the golfers who would have to cross another road to get to the 10th hole and said Club House Drive was already congested with the inn, restaurant and clubhouse traffic.

Numerous other residents said they had paid a premium to have a lot facing a golf course, and situating a condo development on what was once golf course would impact the worth of their homes.

With time approaching the end of the meeting, the board carried the application to May 17 at 7 p.m. in the courtroom of the municipal building on Radio Road.

— Pat Johnson              


Map showing the proposed new townhouse development (dark green) within open space of the Sea Oaks Golf Course and surounded by existing homes.         (Photo by: Pat Johnson)
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