By Philip Sean Curran
MONMOUTH BEACH – New zoning rules in the borough will allow affordable housing to be built as part of a mixed-use development in the business district.
The regulations were contained in an ordinance that borough officials adopted 2-0 Feb. 26 so the community can meets its requirements for providing opportunities for affordable housing. Communities around the state are bound by a series of state Supreme Court rulings directing them to use their zoning powers to that effect.
“The obligation of a borough is to provide a reasonable opportunity based on the constitutional right to low- and moderate-income housing, which has been the law in this state since the 1980s,” said borough attorney Dennis Collins at the meeting.
The changes affect parts of Beach Road and Willow and Riverdale avenues. Housing could be built there as part of mixed-use projects with stores on the first floor and apartments on the second, Mayor Sue Howard said during the meeting.
“It’s currently not allowed by our zoning,” she said.
The changes are the result of a legal settlement the borough reached last year with the Fair Share Housing Center, a housing advocacy group, in order to resolve what the borough’s housing obligations are for a span from 1999 to 2025. The borough is obligated to provide seven affordable units. A Superior Court judge still must sign off on the settlement.
This week’s meeting of the governing body was the first in Borough Hall since Super Storm Sandy hit the community in 2012. The building, a former casino that was part of the Monmouth Beach Hotel and later turned into a government building in 1918, suffered flooding from the storm, with about 18 inches of water inside.
“This is a historic building,” Howard said in an interview after the meeting.
Part of the renovations included lifting the building to a 12-foot elevation to protect against future flooding. An exact price tag for all of the work was not immediately available, with parking lot renovations still left to be done.
“We took off all the non-original parts of the building,” Howard said. “It’s been finished for a long time. We just weren’t reopening it because we had little odds and ends to do.”
Until this week, the governing body had been meeting in three other locations around town since the storm, including most recently at the First Aid Squad building.
This week’s meeting was not the first event at the renovated building, however. The local fire company had its annual dinner there in December, Howard said.
“It’s nice to be back in the building,” said commissioner Dave Stickle after the meeting. “It’s a historic part of the town.”
This year will mark the seventh anniversary of Super Storm Sandy, which devastated shore communities in the state. Howard recalled after the storm hit, she was in Borough Hall at 5 a.m. to squeegee the floors.
“We’ve been through a lot,” said Howard, who was mayor in 2012. “And we’re thrilled that we saved the building. It’s the heartbeat of our town.”
The borough has permanently moved its municipal offices to a building that connects to the public library. Borough Hall will be used for government meetings, fitness classes and other events.
Howard said they did not expect to have an open house for Borough Hall until May.
“We think the building looks beautiful,” she said.
This article was first published in the Feb. 28-March. 6, 2019 print edition of The Two River Times.
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