By Jay Cook |
MIDDLETOWN – A former gardening center on a Route 35 island is being eyed by a developer as a future shopping destination.
The property, located at 861 Route 35 North, is owned by WSJW, Walling, General Partners, of Atlantic Highlands. The property is the largest of four lots on the island. Neighbors include a Liberty Travel agency, a BP gas station and a Dunkin’ Donuts.
Frontier Development LLC, a Miami-based development company, is seeking major site plan approval from the Middletown Planning Board to raze the existing outdoor center and construct an approximate one story, 5,040-square-foot shopping center on the less than 1-acre lot.
The retail center would house one to three tenants and would have 34 parking spaces, according to the applicant. The plan needs approval from the planning board because Frontier is seeking nine different variances for the property.
Included in those variances are setback distances from the highway, necessary illumination and four different approvals for the number of and square footage of sign areas on the site.
Frontier will seek approvals for all variances at the proposal’s public hearing on May 3. (Update: The application has been carried to the June 7 meeting)
According to additional documents from the planning board proposal, the Township Environmental Commission has listed a number of concerns for the property. They are seeking soil tests due to pesticide use, considering the site’s former use. The commission also is concerned that the additional runoff from the project would be too much for the existing New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) sewer system.
In January of last year, Frontier Development had another proposal before the Middletown Planning Board for the construction of a drive-thru Starbucks at the same location.
That development would have been a one-story building covering 2,366 square feet of space on the property.
At the Jan. 6, 2016 planning board meeting, the proposal was not heard. A letter in Sept. 2016 from attorney Martin A. McGann, Jr., who represented Frontier Development prior to retirement, said the application for the Starbucks had been withdrawn, and requested all escrow funds be transferred to the current proposal.
Frontier Development is currently represented by Rick Brodsky, a lawyer with Ansell, Grimm & Aaron, PC, based in Ocean Township. Brodsky served on the Middletown Township committee from 1996 to 2003, and was mayor in 1998. He could not be reached for comment.
The property was first developed in 1958, according to Monmouth County public records. In 2017, the property was valued at just over $1.1 million.
Recent businesses operating there have included Middletown Florist, Middletown Lawn and Garden Center and Capelli Farms.
This article was first published in the April 27-May 4, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.
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