Access to new homes key issue in hearing

Morello Properties seeks to construct 8 homes in Marlboro

BY REBECCA MORTON Staff Writer

MARLBORO — There was a lot of tension filling Town Hall as the hearing on an application that proposes the construction of eight homes continued before the Planning Board on Jan. 21. Homeowners who live near the proposed development site are upset because the plans call for the reconstruction of their street in order to provide access to the new homes.

The application, known as Morello Properties, proposes the construction of eight single-family homes and one lot for a detention basin. The site is about 400 feet from Yellowbrook Road, a part of Holly Hill Estates off Dutch Lane Road near Marlboro’s border with Colts Neck.

The property is owned by Antoinette Morello and is in Marlboro’s R-80 zone (2 acres per home) and was previously used as farmland. The application seeks no variances. It seeks one design waiver in regard to one lot. The point of contention with the proposal is that the plans seek to break through a currently wooded space in order to provide access to the eight homes through Yellowbrook Road.

At a previous hearing, engineer John Ploskonka said John Morello, Antoinette Morello’s late husband, had requested that access be provided for his land when an application for a development came before the Marlboro Planning Board in the 1970s. The request was made so that the Morello property would not become landlocked with the construction of Holly Hill Estates.

The board granted Morello’s request and provided him with access to his property through the piece of property near Yellowbrook Road, Ploskonka said. Board members at the time provided Morello with an 80-foot wide access with space for drainage and utilities.

Antoinette Morello has since purchased the lot in question in order to create the access to the eight-home proposed development. The property now totals 23 acres after Morello purchased a 3-acre piece to the north near Yellowbrook Road.

Attorney Rick Brodsky, who is representing Yellowbrook Road resident Johnna Pomasan, said the original intent for the access parcel was for it to be given to a homeowners association for the residents in Holly Hill Estates. However, the homeowners association was never formed and the lot remained in the possession of the development’s builder, eventually being sold. The residents of Yellowbrook Road do not want to see that particular lot broken to allow a street.

Brodsky’s primary argument was that when Holly Hill Estates was built, the intent for the lot that is now the subject of attention was to remain undeveloped and that the access provided to Morello was meant to be limited. When Brodsky questioned the deeds and titles to the land, Planning Board attorney Michael Herbert pointed out that the board does not have jurisdiction in that area.

Herbert said that would be a topic for a chancery court to review.

Attorney Kenneth Pape, who is representing Antoinette Morello, agreed with Herbert and said no restrictions were placed on the land, according to the deeds. Pape also noted that Morello now owns the access lot, providing her with rights to the land.

Brodsky maintained there were restrictions placed on the land in terms of what could be constructed on the lot and said that no matter who owns the property those restrictions remain in place.

With little documentation on the matter, board members told Brodsky they needed to see something concrete to support his contention.

Township Councilman Frank LaRocca, who sits on the board, said he had reviewed the files pertaining to the land and did not recall seeing any documentation that specifically stated there are restrictions on the land.

A resolution was provided as evidence by Brodsky which stated that 38 out of the 39 lots in Holly Hill Estates could be built upon. The wording was not clear as to whether the resolution meant that only no houses would be built on the open space lot.

Planner Andrew Janiw was brought forth by Brodsky to further explain their reasoning that nothing could be built on the open space lot that Morello now wants to use as access to the proposed homes.

Janiw submitted a letter that was written in 2001 by Marlboro zoning officer Sarah Paris, in which Paris told an interested party that the lot could not be built upon.

Board members asked to know the context of the plan to which Paris was responding.

Based on the context of the letter it appeared someone had sought to determine the possibility of building a home on the lot, which would have required bulk variances.

Janiw said Paris’s letter described that nothing could be built on the property.

Reading from Paris’s 2001 letter, Janiw read, “However, the question remains as to whether the premises are deed restricted from development by a dually imposed condition of the Planning Board. At this time, this township imposed condition should be treated as presumptively valid” unless it could be proven by an applicant to no longer be valid.

Board members said they would like to hear from Paris in order to understand what she used as the basis of her determination at the time.

LaRocca noted that the only thing that is clear by documentation is that there is an 80- foot easement with access for utilities and drainage for Morello.

Pape had said earlier in the evening that Morello does not plan to disrupt all of the open space lot, but would stick within the original 80-foot easement that had been granted in the 1970s.

Moving forward, Janiw questioned other means to access the Morello property and which would be the best options. The planner noted an option which would have an access off School Road East. Going over that option, Janiw noted that Morello would need to purchase additional property to make that a viable option.

Ploskonka had explained that the School Road East option was difficult because the easement ended at the corner of the Morello property instead of directly into the land, which is where the additional property would be needed to form an entrance.

Janiw also said the School Road East access would cross wetlands. The planner then reviewed the option currently used in the application and pointed out that it, too, crosses wetlands and a flood plain.

Pape said the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has reviewed the Morello Properties application and has issued permits to the applicant allowing the proposed road to cross the wetlands area on the access lot.

The third approach would come through Colts Neck, Janiw said. He noted that Morello owns property in Colts Neck that is adjacent to the property in Marlboro on which the eight homes are proposed. Morello’s property in Colts Neck is on Westgate Court and is the location of Morello’s home.

Janiw said this alternative would be the favorable option in terms of environmental sensitivity and he said no additional property would be needed since Morello already owns both parcels.

Some board members were not pleased Janiw suggested that Morello should destroy her home on a street in Colts Neck in order to gain access to the property in Marlboro instead of going through an open lot in Marlboro.

Board member Syed Husain called the idea of asking Morello to knock down her home in order to build a road through the Colts Neck parcel absurd.

Pape said that option had been looked at by the applicant, but said a letter had been received from Colts Neck officials which states that such a breakthrough from the street in Colts Neck to the development parcel in Marlboro would not be looked at favorably by the township.

Janiw cited case law in the case of a residential development on the border of Howell and Brick Township. One street in that case was in Brick but was landlocked by the Garden State Parkway and the borders of Howell and Wall Township. He noted that the street was allowed to be built and said municipal borders are crossed. Reading the case law in that situation, Janiw said the reasoning was that roads are used across municipalities.

Planning Board members were unsure of such a move, as it may cause problems in terms of services such as busing for schools and the public safety aspect.

Board Chairman Larry Josephs was concerned as to how police, fire equipment and ambulances would get into the proposed Marlboro development quickly since those responders would have to travel through a part of Colts Neck (Westgate Court) in order to reach the homes in Marlboro.

“It seems to me that this proposal through Colts Neck becomes the easy way for the people you represent (the objectors to the Morello Properties application), but not necessarily the right thing in terms of public safety,” Josephs said to Janiw.

Janiw cited an instance in southern Ocean County inwhich two towns reached an agreement to provide services in times of an emergency.

Board members are expected to continue the Morello hearing at a special meeting in February, the date of which has not yet been set.

Contact Rebecca Morton at marlboro@gmnews.com