Long Branch to amend Transit Village ordinance

Staff Writer

LONG BRANCH—The City Council is expected to revise the Transit Village ordinance before the end of the year.

The council is expected to introduce and adopt the ordinance changes during the two December meetings, which will include several clarifications to the ordinance that was adopted in 2013.

“There has been a couple of things done to the ordinance in reduction of density, we’ve added more specific standards having to do with parking and the density bonuses,” consultant Dave Roberts said during the Nov. 24 City Workshop meeting.

In 2013, the City Council voted unanimously to adopt an ordinance designating the zone around the railroad station as a Transit Village District.

The district, bordered by Ocean Boulevard and Bath, Prospect and Chelsea avenues, would have four sub districts: a mixed-use core, higher-density medical/ residential transition, lower-density residential fringe and medical village.

However, the Planning Board has recommended changes to the Transit Village ordinance, calling for lower density housing west of the Third Avenue train station; and requiring developers who do not meet parking requirements to pay into a fund for accessibility improvements.

Roberts said the new ordinance specifies that developers who do not meet the required parking standards will be able to pay $15,000 per parking space.

He also said the ordinance sets a 10 to 20 percent affordable housing set aside for each project more than 10 units.

Several times in recent years city officials have said, that in order for the Transit Village proposal to be successful, there should be a better link and more access from the west side of the Third Avenue train station to the east side.

In recent years city officials, including Mayor Adam Schneider, have expressed frustration with NJ Transit for not funding access improvements at the train station despite repeated requests.

According to Roberts, the city has proposed a grade-level crossing in an effort to better link the two sides of the train station.

“We had initially proposed a grade crossing because that would fit in the budget of the grants we were trying for,” Roberts said. “We tried two years in a row under the [NJ Department of Transportation’s] Safe Route to Transit.”

Business Administrator Howard Woolley Jr. said the city’s previous attempts for grade crossings have been denied.

“The rail operations people are not in favor of grade crossings,” he said. “Carl [Turner, assistant planning director] in his travels has found two or three examples of much deafer means of closing off those crossings than the gate.

“We have taken that up and I have gotten some positive response from NJ Transit but not the rail operations. The only alternative if we can’t do grade crossings is to go over or under, both of which are extremely expensive.”

Roberts said one of the byproduct of the parking fund is the city could be able to leverage some of the funds for grants to improve the train station.

The DOT’s Transit Village initiative provides incentives for municipalities to redevelop or revitalize the areas around train stations using design standards of transit oriented development.