Long Branch proposal eases restrictions on smaller projects

Staff Writer

I n response to a series of small-scale development proposals in recent months, the Long Branch City Council will consider a new fee structure and relaxed paperwork for some developers.

During the council’s Nov. 26 workshop meeting, city redevelopment attorney Robert Beckelman proposed the city adopt a uniform developer’s fee of a half percent of project cost in the city’s six redevelopment zones to replace the current sliding scale. The fee would fund costs incurred by the city for work done by attorneys, engineers, planners and other professionals.

“It shouldn’t be on the taxpayers to fund that development. It’s going to work better for us,” Business Administrator Howard Woolley Jr. said.

Beckelman said developers are currently charged $50,000 for projects more than $10 million, $25,000 for projects between $3 million and $10 million, and $10,000 for projects less than $3 million.

The new system would be more equitable for developers because, at present, a $3.1 million project is put into a higher fee scale even though it is just $100,000 over the $3 million threshold, he said.

The ordinance would potentially cap the developer’s fee at $50,000, though Councilwoman Joy Bastelli suggested a higher cap.

Along with the change in the developer’s fee, Beckelman proposed the city reduce what is required from smaller-scale developers to gain city approval.

Under the current ordinance, a developer must fill out paperwork associated with a request for proposals (RFP) or a request for qualifications (RFQ) before being given developer status. Beckelman proposed implementing a “request for designation” application for some developers. Under this proposal, a developer would seek this designation for a project less than $3 million, or a project less than five residential units or a square footage to be determined. “We’re trying to recognize the reality of somebody who wants to develop their property and wants to work with the city, but who is not a developer necessarily,” Beckelman said. “Those thresholds are probably a cutoff point to where we are probably dealing with a more experienced developer as opposed to a property owner who is looking to develop.”

Beckelman said the RFP/RFQ paperwork would still be required for larger projects.

“This creates a second process for current property owners or contract purchasers, or whoever the property owners would authorize to submit the application,” he said.

“It lowers the standards somewhat so that it recognizes the reality — that the property owner wants to develop but may not have a dozen years of experience.”

Beckelman noted that when the redevelopment zones were implemented in 1996, the idea was to have zone-wide developers designated. However, several smaller-scale projects have been proposed in redevelopment zones in past years.

“For various things that we’ve experienced — mostly the economy — we are seeing different types of projects,” Beckelman said. “As it’s been playing out, it … seems difficult to apply for the developments that are more and more being proposed.”

He cited a proposed beer garden and beer hall project on Second Avenue in the Broadway Gateway zone and a three-unit townhouse project on Ocean Terrace in the Beachfront North zone as examples of projects that would fall under the lesser designation.

The city has six redevelopment zones: Pier Village, Hotel Campus, Beachfront North, Beachfront South, Broadway Arts and Broadway Gateway.

During a subsequent meeting, the council is expected to pass a resolution requesting that the Planning Board review the ordinance. After the board’s review, the council would be able to adopt or reject the ordinance.