Commentary: An Absurd Diatribe

October 16, 2018
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Contributed by Tony Mercantante |

In response to William Kastning’s absurd Diatribe in this publication on September 7th, regarding the Township’s September 4th Redevelopment Hearing – BTW a Diatribe is defined as, a bitter and abusive speech or piece of writing –  let’s set the record straight and return ourselves to the planet earth. First, all of the meetings and hearings the Middletown Township Committee and the Planning Board have held on this matter to date have been done fully in compliance with the law, following the procedures outlined and required. This includes when and when not to include public comment periods and what those comment periods are to entail. The fact that Mr. Kastning finds the law to be inconvenient shows a lack of understanding with regard to the Land Use processes in New Jersey. We, and most other towns are in the business of working within the law, not around it, over it or under it.

Mr. Kastning says he recognizes “…the need to provide affordable housing” and he “applauds proper efforts to provide reasonable solutions just not this one.” Does he? During the hearing as Mr. Kastning was making these comments he was challenged to offer up an alternative location or locations in Middletown to provide for the 70 rental housing units or 140 for sale housing units that are required by the State. What neighborhood(s) should these be built in instead? So far we have heard nothing from him…crickets. Doubt we will. This location by the way is across the street from three other multi-family housing developments, behind a commercially zoned and developed property and very close to all three forms of local mass transit (train, bus and ferry). It is precisely where new housing should be placed, close to all of the services residents need, minimizing the distance travelled to reach such services, thereby a better traffic alternative to the community than most other locations.

Mr. Kastning seems very defensive of the farming activity on the property. He states “Why is it appropriate to cut down hundreds of trees which provide habitat for wildlife……?” What he doesn’t state is that the farmland use of this property is officially called “Woodlands Management.” That is what, per the state law, qualifies a portion of the property to be farmland assessed for property tax purposes. Well Woodlands Management is just a PC way of saying, “tree clearing.” Yes, the continued farming of this property will in fact result in most or all of the mature trees on it being cut down.

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Mr. Kastning states that he is a non-Middletown resident. That is correct, he lives in Holmdel. In fact, he lives just down the street from two of the largest developments on Route 35: the Holmdel Town Center and the Holmdel Commons. Both, located at Rt. 35 and Laurel Avenue, and both of these developments contribute significantly to traffic on Rt. 35. Combined these projects account for 595 housing units at 2.9 units per acre (105 of which are affordable) 531,692 sq. ft. of commercial development and from a layout perspective both are designed very similarly to the proposed Redevelopment Project in Middletown that he criticizes. Yet somehow they weren’t so awful as to dissuade Mr. Kastning from deciding to live just down the road.

At the September 4th hearing, Mr. Kastning attempted to dramatically claim that this property is “bigger than Monmouth Mall.” Well yes technically Monmouth Mall sits on about 64 acres, while this property is a 118 acres. What he failed to mention is that Monmouth Mall is 1,545,189 square feet of commercial building and has recently been approved to grow to 1,625,927 square feet, or nearly five times bigger than the 332,591 square feet proposed in Middletown. Not to mention that the Monmouth Mall site will now also add 700 new residential units (of which 88 will be affordable), double the size of the project proposed in Middletown. Also the residential density of the Monmouth Mall project is 11 units per acre, the same as Knollwood Gardens, which is on Kings Highway East directly across the street from the proposed development. The new development will be 2.9 per dwelling units per acre and 350 units, even though the zoning permits 4.5 dwelling units per acre or 531 units. So, what was the point of the Monmouth Mall comparison exactly? No point at all in fact. Just a scare tactic.

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Given that the population of both Holmdel and Middletown, and in fact, most of northern Monmouth County has been stagnant for more than 20 years, it would seem logical that much of the traffic that is going to these commercial centers will now go to whatever is built on the property Mr. Kastning is so concerned about. So it will mostly be the same cars and the same people already on Rt. 35 and the nearby roads, just simply going to a different destination. Not a lot of new traffic, just redirected traffic. The same can be said for traffic from the south in and out of Red Bank. Red Bank’s population is in fact lower than it was 50 years ago.

So let us summarize; the Redevelopment Plan approved by Middletown Township on September 4th will put in place restrictions that reduce the size of the commercial portion of the development from 616,809 square feet to 400,000 square feet and the applicant is proposing only 332,591 square feet, a 46% reduction. It also restricts the residential portion to, 400 units and the applicant is proposing only 350 units compared to the 531 allowed prior, a reduction of 34%. Those are significant reductions achieved by the Township working with the applicant through the Redevelopment Process. For those who think it should be even smaller, keep in mind it is easy to play fast and loose with other people’s money. It’s like someone asking you to sell your home for 30% or 40% less than it is worth, just to be nice to the buyer and because some neighbors think you should. Who does that? No one. Therefore, while it is understandable that people are concerned about large developments and how they might impact their lives, at some point common sense and reasonably fair considerations have to be the way to go. Spreading false and misleading information and fearmongering are not the way to go.

Tony Mercantante, P.P. AICP
Middletown Township Administrator


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