The final moment for an ordinance that could have helped to pave the way for the development of the Manalapan Crossing project was anticlimactic.
At its meeting on Nov. 10, the Manalapan Township Committee tabled an ordinance that would have permitted the development of housing units on property at Route 33 and Millhurst Road, Manalapan. At present, the zoning on the property does not permit residential uses.
In front of a standing room only audience of residents in town hall who were prepared to object to the adoption of the ordinance, Mayor Jack McNaboe asked Township Attorney Roger McLaughlin to address the matter.
“Ordinance No. 2015-14 will be tabled for the remainder of the year. This ordinance cannot be carried over to 2016. It will die at the end of the year,” McLaughlin said.
A motion was made to table the ordinance, and McNaboe, Deputy Mayor Mary Ann Musich, Committeewoman Susan Cohen, and Committeemen Jordan Maskowitz and Ryan Green voted yes to scrap the proposal.
Many of the residents in attendance are members of a group called Manalapan Strong, which organized to object to the Manalapan Crossing proposal.
Vito Cardinale of Cardinale Enterprises has proposed building Manalapan Crossing at Route 33 and Millhurst Road. He has described the project as a mix of commercial and residential development — including apartments over commercial uses — along with a hotel and conference center, and a medical facility dedicated to research into neurological disorders. Manalapan Strong previously said in a statement that “while the Republican members of the governing body have portrayed this development as a means of bringing in tax revenues, many contend those revenues will be offset by new, additional municipal services costs relating to education/schools, fire protection, police and public safety, garbage collection, etc.”
Although a public hearing was not held once the ordinance was tabled, residents had the opportunity to offer comments on the issue later in the meeting.
Bernie Frojmovich said, “We believed this ordinance could have a permanent negative effect on our suburban town. Most upsetting to us was how quickly this ordinance was being pushed through, with only 27 days between its introduction and possible adoption.”
Jay Lutsky said, “Manalapan Crossing is Brooklyn, not Manalapan. Tonight we were watching democracy work … I teach my students that.”
Ken Wolckenhauer said many residents objected to the size and scope of Manalapan Crossing as it was presented by the developer.
“We recognize the complexity of the issue; the need for the township to build affordable housing and the need for retail in this area of the community. Many of us are prepared to step forward and work for solutions,” Wolckenhauer said.
Speaking about Manalapan Crossing, Butch Budai, who chairs Manalapan’s Zoning Board of Adjustment, said, “My feeling is that there was a lot of misinformation out there. The entire township is going to have to pay for (affordable housing).”
Budai was referring to the fact that municipal officials have said a court may order the township to provide land for the development of affordable housing and it is unknown where those units may be built and how many affordable housing units and market rate units will have to be built to address the court’s demand.
“The affordable housing obligation will add more children, more police, more fire protection needs and more costs to property taxes,” Budai said.
Deborah Smarth said, “I am happy you made the decision you made regarding the ordinance. You heard us. The election results were clearcut. We are ready for 2016. Next year is another election and Manalapan Strong will not go away.”
Regarding the election, Smarth was referring to the Nov. 3 victory by Democrat David Kane over Republican Rebecca Ginsberg in the race for a seat on the Township Committee. Kane declared his opposition to Manalapan Crossing and will become the first Democrat to serve on the governing body since 2011.
George Spodak, a former mayor, said, “I do not want our town to look like downtown Red Bank. Manalapan Crossing will decrease the quality of life for all residents. There is no justification to do this.”
Donald Antonelli said, “Develop the property (at Route 33 and Millhurst Road) for what it was zoned for — commercial. Renters (of apartments at Manalapan Crossing) do not have skin in the game. They will use our town for its school system.”
Judith Tolchin thanked the committee for tabling the ordinance and said, “Manalapan Crossing is not something we want. The air used to be a lot sweeter in Manalapan. … The roads were not built for the volume of traffic that is on them. … We want this to be an attractive community.”
Following the comments, the committee members said they had listened to the residents’ concerns and that was reflected in the decision to table the ordinance that would have opened the parcel at Route 33 and Millhurst Road to residential development.
“We are asking Manalapan Strong to work with us,” Maskowitz said. “There is an 800-pound gorilla in the room — affordable housing. Our obligation may be between 800 and 1,000 units and we have two years to hit that goal.”
Cohen told the residents, “We heard you. We listened. We tabled the ordinance.”
Green, who had voiced his objection to Manalapan Crossing, congratulated the residents who fought the proposal and said they had put in a lot of time to marshal their forces and their objections.
“That was democracy in action,” he said. “You were successful, but that is for 2015. 2016 is a new year.”
McNaboe said, “I had apprehensions about this project. With (the former state Council on Affordable Housing), we had rules we did not like. Now there are no rules (for affordable housing). We are good until Dec. 8 and then a builder can come in (and propose) 50 affordable units and 200 market rate homes. That is where children will come from. My fear is that a man in a black robe in Trenton is going to tell (Manalapan) what to do; not the five people on the Township Committee (making the decision).”
Asked to comment on the committee’s action regarding his firm’s proposal, Vito Cardinale, the president and CEO of Cardinale Enterprises, said, “The committee is reviewing the ordinance further. They have been very diligent on all parts of the plan. I believe this additional time will help both the committee and our company get more comfortable with some of the finer details of the project.”
Cardinale said he never thought that going to the Manalapan Zoning Board of Adjustment and seeking a use variance for the residential component of Manalapan Crossing was a good option.
“We want to make sure the Township Committee and its professionals are in favor of our project and our relationship with the township,” he said.