Thursday, March 09, 2006

Lakewood - Chateau Grand

Lakewood - A slight 'twist' on the proposal of the Chateau Grand's conversion into 66 town houses.... APP: Don't write off the Chateau Grand just yet. In a surprise decision, the Planning Board ruled Tuesday night that a proposal to raze the banquet hall on Route 9 and replace it with 66 town houses shouldn't be heard by the planners. It should be heard by the Board of Adjustment. The decision left the would-be developer, Lakewood Equities, LLC, momentarily speechless. "We're kind of caught by surprise," said Abraham Penzer, the developer's attorney. "We're totally devastated." The technical question that confused township planners for more than 90 minutes was whether the proposed neighborhood was far enough from Route 9 to comply with Lakewood's development rules. Those rules — recently adopted with the long-term hope that New Jersey might widen Route 9 — say residential development must be at least 100 feet away from the crowded state highway. The idea is that undeveloped land would be cheaper to buy when and if more land is needed to widen Route 9, said John J. Franklin, a Planning Board member. And Township Committee members have recommitted in recent weeks to strictly enforcing the 100-foot buffer to show state officials how serious their push for a wider Route 9 really is. So, is the neighborhood proposed for the Chateau Grand site at least 100 feet from the highway? Sort of. Well, it really depends on whom you ask. Penzer and the developer's engineer argued that because the nearest development to Route 9 would be more than 100 feet away — that would be the back end of the decks behind one row of town houses — the proposal complies with the rules. The proposal calls for 66 four- or five-bedroom homes on the 8.25-acre site. Plans also show the property could have two entrances along Route 9 and would include a cul-de-sac, 200 parking spaces and a community building attached to an end unit. "This is not your typical plan of putting up a town house and that's it," Penzer told the board. "My client wants to make something beautiful." The Planning Board may agree with the aesthetics, but ruled that since the property lines of some individual town house lots would be only 88 feet away from Route 9, the development violates the rule. Penzer even agreed to make a legal commitment to not build on any land within 100 feet of the highway, but the board was unswayed. It voted 5-to-3, with one abstention, to move the proposal to the zoning board. Kevin Kielt, Planning Board secretary, said Lakewood Equities has options..
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