Planners approve luxury development

Staff Writer

 The historic boathouse building at the former Takanassee Beach Club site was reduced to a pile of rubble by superstorm Sandy.  KENNY WALTER/STAFF The historic boathouse building at the former Takanassee Beach Club site was reduced to a pile of rubble by superstorm Sandy. KENNY WALTER/STAFF With Long Branch’s approval, a cluster of luxury homes will take the place of the three historic buildings that once stood on the Takanassee Beach Club site in Elberon.

An application by Takanassee Beach Club LLC was approved by the Long Branch Planning Board during the March 18 meeting, green-lighting construction of 13 single-family and duplex homes on the 4.7-acre site adjacent to Lake Takanassee.

“We are proposing 13 units total, five single-family homes along the ocean and eight duplex-style units in a multifamily building closer to Ocean Avenue,” project planner Paul Phillips said.

The board granted several variances for the project, including for driveway setbacks, lot width, front yard setbacks and a setback for proximity to a flowing body of water.

The board also granted a density variance because the project has a density of 2.76 units per acre, which is below Long Branch’s 10-unit-per-acre minimum density requirement.

The site is located in the city’s C-4 zone, where waterfront, mixed-use development is permitted.

Architect Jose Ramirez said the homes would be constructed using a combination of stucco, glass, wood and natural stone.

The approval comes six years after developer Isaac Chera, principal in Takanassee Beach Club, purchased the site from the Peters family for $18 million.

In 2008, the developer received a Coastal Area Facilities Review Act (CAFRA) permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection to develop the site, which held the U.S. Coast Guard’s Life Saving Station No. 5 during the 1800s.

Under the CAFRA permit, Chera was required to restore and maintain one of the three historic buildings on-site, while securing a home for the two other historic buildings. Over the next five years, Chera was criticized by members of the local historical preservation community for not complying with the terms of the permit and failing to maintain the buildings.

In 2012, two of the deteriorating buildings — the 1877 Captain’s House and the circa-1903 Port Huron House — were moved to the grounds of a private residence on Ocean Avenue. Plans called for restoring the remaining 1897 boathouse and incorporating it into the new development. However, it was destroyed by superstorm Sandy in October 2012.

According to Steven Tripp, attorney for the applicant, the CAFRA permit has been modified in the past year, allowing the project to finally move forward.

“The proposal is waterfront mixed-residential development. The use is permitted and, significantly, we have CAFRA approval and a recent CAFRA modification,” he said.

The project plans include various public improvements.

“CAFRA also required beach access, a public beach easement and five parking spaces for public use,” Tripp said.

The city will also be granted access to repair and use the lake’s spillway, which controls the flow of water on the eastern edge of the lake. The spillway was destroyed during Sandy, sending floodwaters onto the streets surrounding the main part of the lake.

Dan Dougherty, project engineer, said the developers have granted the city access to the site for repairs to the damaged seawall and to construct a bulkhead and dam to protect the development from lake flooding.

“In order to get our CAFRA permit, the bulkhead wall along the lake as well as the reconstruction of the wall along the beach were both elements that were required,” Dougherty said. “We’ve been in contact with the city engineer.

“There will be an easement put in place for the city to continue to access that outflow structure to control the lake elevation.”

While the property owners are granting an easement, Planning Board member Kevin Hayes said the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) would likely fund the spillway project.

“That is all subject to a FEMA application with the city. FEMA is going to require the city to bid that out,” he said.

He said construction of the homes will not begin until the spillway and seawall are repaired.

According to Dougherty, the site has been eroded since superstorm Sandy.

“The wall itself, before it was damaged, was protecting the entire property,” he said. “So when superstorm Sandy came and the wall came down, it left the property vulnerable to further damage.”

During the meeting, some members of the public expressed concerns about the project, including members of the Whale Pond Brook Watershed Association, a volunteer environmental group focused on flooding from Lake Takanassee.

Faith Teitelbaum, a trustee of the association, requested that the developer remove two of the homes from the planned development in order to preserve the flow of the lake directly into the ocean.

“Presently, the lake is emptying out into the ocean. It is very beautiful,” she said. “This is the only free-flowing brook out to the ocean in New Jersey.”