Age restriction removed from townhouse project

Staff Writer

HOWELL — The Howell Zoning Board of Adjustment has approved the Townhomes at Eagle Oaks application, which sought to remove an age restriction and to change the name of its principal street from Remington Court to Eagle Oaks Court.

The property is near Cranberry and Asbury roads.

Attorney Rob McGowan, representing the applicant, said the history of the project dates to 2004, when the applicant received approval to build eight large single-family homes.

In 2011, the zoning board approved a use and density variance to allow the construction of 28 townhomes instead of the single-family homes. As of today, only a cul-de-sac, sewer, utilities and light poles, and water extensions have been put in place.

“Unfortunately, at this point, with the advent of so many active adult age-restricted developments in town which have large amenities, clubhouses and so forth, it is very difficult for this 28-unit development to compete against that,” McGowan said.

“What we have tried to do to make this a desirable community (for buyers) is to make arrangements with the Eagle Oaks Golf and Country Club. We have been able to work out an agreement where our buyers can become members of the club at the sports membership level, and if they choose, they can move up to any one of the golf membership levels they want.

“Although (the townhouse development) does not have amenities, the residents will be able to participate in the facilities (at Eagle Oaks). We need to find some motivation to get 28 (buyers) to live in the middle of an empty field basically and we think it is the contact with Eagle Oaks …” McGowan said.

“We also find from our research that golf is a sport for middle-age individuals both because of the activity involved and the finances you need to participate, particularly in a place like Eagle Oaks. Therefore, targeting our project only to people heading toward retirement makes the market even more challenging. What we need is a 45- year-old-and-up executive, that kind of person, who can afford and find it desirable to live here at Eagle Oaks,” McGowan said.

Engineer Brian Murphy, representing the applicant, said the units will be smaller to fit the marketplace.

Landscape architect Roy DeBoer, representing the applicant, said the shift in the target market is to make the project buyable so it can to be built and sold.

“The biggest difference between the age-restricted adult (community) and the age-targeted product is that the anticipated age of the buyers (in this development) will be 45 and older. They are newly liberated adults. Their kids are gone. They have very high disposable income. They are true empty nesters looking to age in place and stay in the community,” DeBoer said.

He said the price of the townhouses could range from $550,000 to $650,000, presenting a $15 million to $18 million ratable for Howell.

“Things to ensure they are empty nest buyers are first floor master bedrooms, that was not in the original plan. A master bedroom and walk-in closets that do not attract families with children will occupy a large part of the first floor. The units have been reduced in size by about 1,000 square feet per unit and will each be about 2,400 square feet. Approximately 15 percent of the units will become two-bedroom. There are no formal recreation (facilities), but we improved the links for potential recreation in the Eagle Oaks (club),” DeBoer said.

“This project started in 2004 and at this point the only thing you have is a partially paved road and some sewer and water extensions. It has not been a project to which the market has rushed. The capital has not come to this project because (investors) do not see the opportunity to market it,” he said.

DeBoer said there will not be enough homeowners to support the operation of a clubhouse in the development.

The board’s planner, Jennifer Beahm, said although the size and design of the townhouses and the way in which they are marketed may be directed toward a specific demographic, there will be nothing to prevent the developer from selling homes to individuals of any age once the age-restriction has been removed.

No one from the public spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting.

A motion to approve the removal of the age restriction on the townhouses was approved by Vice Chairman Daniel Cardellichio and board members John Armata, Nino Borrelli, Evelyn O’Donnell, Thomas Posch, Ronald Campos and James Pastorick.

McGowan said the developer wants to start construction as soon as possible.