PETERSBURG – Upper Township’s Zoning Board met virtually Oct. 8 to begin the deliberative process regarding the petition by property owner Stephen Maloney for site plan approvals for a major new project, in Strathmere.
Maloney is also requesting a use variance for the expansion of a non-conforming use in the resort commercial zone and potential height and bulk variances to construct a 15-unit hotel on the main thoroughfare of the village, at 513 Commonwealth Ave.
The meeting featured lengthy presentations by Maloney’s legal representative, as well as his architect and site planner. Maloney’s presentation of his application will continue Nov. 5, at the next Zoning Board meeting, when it is anticipated that the project’s septic engineer will present his assessments with, perhaps, input from others.
The proposed project elicited significant opposition among residents, who demonstrated their disapproval with lawn signs and by speaking during public comment at several Upper Township Committee meetings.
However, Mayor Richard Palombo pointed out that it wouldn't be appropriate for the municipal governing body to take any position on an application before the Zoning Board, which is an independent body under state law.
The project, called “The Inn at Strathmere,” would occupy the site, which is home to an existing building, known as the “Strathmere Motel,” operating for decades, and built in 1923.
The building was used as a motel since 1959, and in his application submitted to the Zoning Board, Maloney, who bought the property, in 2011, describes the current building as outdated.
Maloney’s application focuses on the benefits of modernizing the use of the site, making it more accessible to guests, improving Federal Emergency Management Agency compliance, and making a sizeable investment in the county’s tourism base.
In contrast, in an earlier statement opposing the project, Linda Bateman, president, Strathmere Improvement Association, noted, “We have not heard from anyone in town who is not opposed to this. This includes more than 500 people we have emailed about the proposal, as well as about 1,800 who are part of a social media group. We are very confident that the majority of people want the new ordinance Upper recently passed limiting development in Strathmere upheld.”
The ordinance to which Bateman referred passed May 26, 2020, when the municipality approved new zoning limits for Strathmere to limit development at the request of property owners.
The new ordinance was developed and recommended by a subcommittee of the municipal Planning Board. Final approval was controversial, as some property owners claimed they were not fully informed of provisions, and some feared the ordinance would impact property values.
According to the proposal submitted, the new structure would include the parking lot to the north of the current building and incorporate parking underneath.
The proposed 15 units, which, according to the proposal, is one fewer, but all larger, than the current building, would include small kitchens. In its application, the project is described as not just “a large box with windows,” but is designed as a series of buildings, and further, would not block anyone’s view of the beach.
The proposal sums up its advantages, stating, “A hotel is an entirely appropriate and beneficial use in a shore resort, the subject lot is able to accommodate that use, and the size and design of the hotel is consistent with comparable uses in comparable zones.”
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