By John Burton
LITTLE SILVER – A long delayed and controversial townhouse development on a large undeveloped property at Oceanport and Eastview avenues is moving forward.
The developer for the project, the Kalian Companies of Tinton Falls, has begun clearing the approximately 4-acre portion of the roughly 14-acre wooded site to make way for the planned 31 townhouses and eight affordable units to be built on the property.
Mazin Kalian, company president, said he expects to begin construction in the next three to four months and hopes to have most of it completed and ready for sale by next summer.
“They are going to be upscale townhouses,” he said.
The 31 units will be between 2,500 and 3,000 square feet with two bedrooms – and a third room that can easily be converted to another bedroom – plus two-car garages. Most will have finished basements.
The affordable units will be a little smaller. Four will be three-bedroom units and four will have two bedrooms.
The plans for the project, now called Carriage Gate at Little Silver, goes back a number of years.
“We were on and off, on and off, for about 10 years,” Kalian said.
The proposal sparked considerable debate in the community as some area residents were upset over the size and scope of the project, located near the borough’s commuter rail station on land that is largely undevelopable because of its protected wetlands. Residents argued that a project that extensive would have a negative impact on the community’s infrastructure and on the quality of life for those living in the vicinity.
At the time, the mayor and borough council saw upsides to the proposal, including the offering of eight affordable units for low- and moderate-income earners which would help Little Silver meet its requirements under the state’s Council of Affordable Housing (COAH).
Another plus, officials stressed, was the developer’s plan to make it an age-restricted community. That would help prevent an influx of new residents with children, which would cause an increase in the public school population and a possible rise in property taxes to pay for added education costs.
Citing those reasons, the borough council agreed to rezone the area for the residential use and the planning board, over the objections of neighbors, approved the project in 2007.
The issue became more complicated in 2011, when the property owner at the time, Javin L.P., took advantage of a state law, passed in the wake of the economic downturn, to seek and get the 55-and-older age restriction lifted from the development, a move that again caused an outcry from residents.
Kalian said his firm amended its plan somewhat, based on what was heard at planning board hearings. He agreed to lower the buildings’ height, forego finishing attics to make it livable space and increased setbacks and buffers.
Had the age restriction remained, Kalian said, it was 50-50 whether he would have moved forward with the project – and certainly not in the last five to six years because of the economy and housing market.
He maintains the development wouldn’t have the impact people feared, because he believes its residents will be mostly empty nesters and young professionals who commute to New York City and northern New Jersey. “I don’t think it’ll have much impact on the school system,” he said.
Rosemary Brewer of Pirates Cove Road hasn’t been won over. “Thirty-nine units on 4 acres is not very good,” she said.
Brewer and others would have liked to see the borough buy the property for open space. “Instead, they’re taking down the last decent piece of forest we have,” she said. “Going forward it’s going to be a traffic mess and a parking problem.”
Mayor Robert Neff Jr., who was not mayor when the project was under consideration, said, “At the end of the day, after a long and torturous history this is a project that is finally going in.”
He stressed that the planning board and the developer “put together a pretty comprehensive developer’s agreement,” outlining Kalian’s obligations and that the company has been acting responsibility in that regard.