To the Editor:
The proposed hotel parcel and associated planning process have been far from transparent, with limited opportunity for engagement from the public impacted by the outcome.
Information used by the Middle Township Planning Board has been challenging to access. Scheduled meetings during which public comments and questions were promised were canceled.
Rather than delay this review until the COVID situation allows for improved collaboration, leadership appears to use the time to push through changes in the weeks ahead.
Why is this such a sudden priority and for this particular location? Plenty of other township areas would better serve more adjacent local businesses (bars/restaurants, shopping, etc.).
Moreover, the majority of establishments are along the Route 9 corridor and into Rio Grande. If this hotel is to truly serve as a "year-round" option for professionals and vacationers alike (especially for offices throughout the region), why wouldn’t a more centralized lot be targeted on the other side of the Garden State Parkway (GSP) and closer walking distance to restaurants?
Job creation is certainly a community benefit, but why is leadership not looking at the broader, holistic picture and realizing there are better-suited locations to maximize patronage and growth for other local businesses.
From an environmental standpoint, the 2010 plan put such emphasis on preservation, environment "and minimize development potential outside these centers."
It appears that, in 2020, we’re forcing a change despite being directly adjacent to environmentally sensitive areas (the parcel is wooded wetlands subject to coastal flooding and encompasses natural heritage priority sites and cultural resources).
Why, in a post-Superstorm Sandy era, is more stringent evaluation not conducted for developments adjacent to a Federal Emergency Management Agency special flood hazard area?
This lot is along a flood zone; whereas, many other existing town center locations are not and would be wiser long-term choices. My hope would be that the township plan for and recommend resilient, lasting zoning.
Have traffic implications, streets, and buffers been thoroughly considered? This hotel would increase vehicle traffic on an already precarious GSP on-ramp, not to mention a noisy lodging option for patrons so close to the thoroughfare without a tree line to insulate noise. I see future poor reviews/ratings due to noise and traffic that would be avoided with a different location.
A Middle Township Committee member, when providing an opinion pertaining to a different parcel for commercial purposes, stated that they did not want to “spoil” the “flavor of the area.” Why wouldn’t a consistent standard be applied here?
With regards to short-term rental authorization for residents to open their existing homes (Airbnb), there appears to be a significant reluctance to provide a recommendation to local leadership.
Wouldn’t these types of rentals be an opportunity, in the absence of a major hotel, for local property owners to directly benefit and put those dollars immediately back into the local economy?
There is a clear resident benefit here rather than generating revenue for an outside investment group (some members of which are not residents of the township). This all just doesn't add up.
At the most recent committee meeting, I was assured that everything has been conducted in accordance with the law. I can't refute that. What I can say, however, is that this process has not been conducted in a collaborative nor transparent manner.
Legality is the minimum threshold to measure by. Local committees have an obligation to proactively engage the communities on these decisions.
I would ask that the community participate and voice your opinion at the next Planning Board meeting, scheduled for Nov. 10 at 7 p.m. (limited to the first 100 attendees).