Prep school proposing changes to boro retreat

St. Peter

By paul cash

St. Peter’s Prep, Jersey City, plans new buildings on Ocean Avenue property

CHRIS KELLY St. Peter’s Prep is seeking approval of  the Sea Bright Planning-Zoning board to tear down this large yellow house and another building on its property on Ocean Avenue used for retreats and replace them with two new buildings.CHRIS KELLY St. Peter’s Prep is seeking approval of the Sea Bright Planning-Zoning board to tear down this large yellow house and another building on its property on Ocean Avenue used for retreats and replace them with two new buildings.

SEA BRIGHT — St. Peter’s Prep in Jersey City has big plans for its property in the borough. At last week’s Planning/Zoning Board meeting, school representatives showed the panel a plan for two new buildings on the 1.6-acre parcel the school owns at the southern end of town.

The lot, which fronts on Ocean Avenue, currently contains two structures, a vacation home for the Jesuit priests affiliated with the school and a retreat house for the students of the high school.

The school presented a plan that calls for demolishing both buildings and replacing them. Architect James Lindemon of Lindemon Winckelmann Deupree Martin & Associates P.C., Jersey City, said the house is to "become a very positive landmark for Sea Bright."

The main house on the property was originally built 100 years ago, but the school’s representatives said it was not found to be of any historical value. The reason they gave is that the house has been all chopped up and changed over the years. It is nothing like it was when it was originally built.

The plan calls for the new main house to be three floors, the same as the existing main house on the property, but it would be about 3 feet higher.

The new vacation house is planned to be roughly 48 feet high, and at that height the house would require height variance from the borough, which limits such buildings to a height of 35 feet.

In the architect’s plan, the first floor of the house is to be 12 feet above the ground. The town’s regulations call for the house to be a minimum of 11 feet above ground, and board members suggested lowering the house to diminish the difference with the town’s ordinance on building height.

Lindemon said the 12-foot height was done for aesthetic reasons. He explained that the extra foot would allow the priests to see over the sea wall when they are eating at the dining room table.

The new house is to have 10-bedrooms and six bathrooms. The plan also calls for a room on the third floor to be used as a small chapel where the priests can pray.

The retreat house is planned to be under 25 feet tall. The structure will be able to sleep about 25 people or "roughly the same amount as it does now," Lindemon said. The house is expected to have relatively light use. There are maybe 10 retreats at the most throughout the school year, according to McDonnell. The retreat house would rarely be used during the summer months.

In an effort to get the planned building to comply with the borough’s ordinances, board member Marshall Allan suggested a wider structure without a third floor.

Connolly told the board a wider structure could not be built because of environmental limitations. Connolly said CAFRA (Coastal Area Facilities Review Act) told them they could not increase the space on the lot deemed impervious. He said they have already used every square inch that can be used, so widening the base of the house is not possible.

CAFRA, a division of the DEP (Department of Environmental Protection), also has limited the architects in other ways. They said the priests were not allowed to have a back deck, which they wanted. Lindemon said they have a challenge going right now against the DEP.

Another concern expressed by the board is the amount of parking for the houses. The group said they have enough room to fit 15-20 cars on the lot. The retreat house should have very few cars, if any, McDonnell said. This is because the students usually come down on buses. The bus would most likely not be parked there.

The main problem that the group is having with the parking is the cars will have to park on grass. Lindemon said, "The DEP rejected all blocks that would drain and still hold a car."

The board told Lindemon to look into pavers, with grass growing through them. Lindemon said he did and that CAFRA rejected them.

Mayor Gregory Harquail asked the group when the priests would like to begin the construction. Lindemon told the mayor that the construction would start as soon as the board approved it, unless they did not get approval until right before the summer, in which case the construction might wait until after the season.