Laurino Farm rezoning tabled as public protests

Proposal would clear the way for 180 townhomes on 60-acre tract

By elaine van develde
Staff Writer

By elaine van develde
Staff Writer

TINTON FALLS — The Laurino Farm may eventually go from corn to condos; but, if residents have their way, the crop will be nowhere near the 180 dwellings sought for the tract.

At the Sept. 2 Borough Council meeting, the public made it clear that compromise is in order when it comes to rezoning the tract. With the new zoning, the land would accommodate a maximum of 3.2 age-restricted homes per acre on the near 60 acres situated at the corner or Sycamore and Hance avenues. The density, above all, is a point of contention.

Despite the fact that council members made pleas that a clustered development of luxury, age-restricted homes may be preferable to an office and "McMansions," residents still resisted the potential for density that the ordinance proposed. They also raised road and traffic concerns.

So, the current ordinance to rezone the Laurino Farm was tabled.

The reason for the rezoning in the first place is to satiate a purported need for age-restricted housing in town; and, to accommodate one interested buyer’s desire to build 180 luxury age-restricted townhouses on the site. That interested developer is Sterling Properties, of Livingston.

Residents fear that once the property is zoned to accommodate a maximum of 180 Sterling homes, that proposed developer would cram them on the land and then plead to Monmouth County to widen surrounding roads.

Such a plan, many said, would eventually squeeze them out of their own homes or burden the area with so much traffic they could not leave their homes.

"We really need to think about what these people are going to do down the road," said resident Drew deGanahl. "Builders and developers have gotten away with murder …" He went on to talk about the possibility of roads being widened to support the traffic influx a new development off Sycamore Road would bring.

"We don’t want to get off track," Council President LuAnn Catlin said. "All of that business [traffic, roads and infrastructure] will be addressed by the Planning Board when there is a site plan."

Catlin also mentioned that since the Laurino property borders county roads, any fleshed-out site plans would be subject to the double scrutiny of municipal as well as county boards.

That did not console others who felt giving an inch would give a developer reason to take much more.

Borough Law Director Edward McKenna said those residents should be consoled because the county "thought the [plans for the property] constituted a highly intelligent approach to rezoning," which exemplified smart planning.

Because of the praise, he added, the county would be more likely to pitch in if roads and/or signal lights did have to be reconfigured.

Still, residents resisted the notion of high-density housing on the Hance and Sycamore spot, and criticized the idea of reworked roads, county support or not.

Pat Kerns, a new resident who moved to the corner of Sycamore and Hance from rural Maryland, said the county support and push for maximum lot coverage "sounds to me like you’re selling this [one development plan]… I can’t understand how you could stand to tolerate the maximum number of units — it’s just not fair to us."

And no one was going to tell him that the age restriction would limit traffic, either. "Just by [virtue of] multiplying the number of homes [with higher density], you have more cars," Kerns said.

Even if the county brought traffic lights to the congested areas, some said the lights and widening would only make chaos more orderly.

No matter what the plan, said 48-year resident Bob Billings, "I suggest compromise. I wrote [last year] to [the developer]. Unfortunately, I did not hear anything back. That doesn’t tell me he’s willing to compromise. I ask now that [the council and the developer] consider the number of units per acre. I think that’s the hang-up of most of the people in this room … [with less density] I’m sure we’ll be told [the developer] can’t make money that way. I know they can make money. [The Laurinos] can get less than $14 million and still do handsomely. Everybody can do well in the end. It can be done, but everybody needs to give a little. I’m just not so sure where Sterling Properties has compromised on anything."