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Matawan Plans for Route 34 and Broad Street Taking Shape

The planning board continued pounding out details for an ordinance that would designate the property for a mixed use development

The continued fine-tuning an ordinance that would re-zone two pieces of property at the intersection of Route 34 and Broad Street for a mixed use development at their meeting Monday night.

Originally, the area being considered for rezoning included and was bordered by Broad Street, the Matawan Municipal Community Center, and the Henry Hudson Trail. Walgreens has been removed from the property under consideration because it would require the business to make several substantial architectural and building changes to comply with the ordinance, explained John Maczuga, the vice president and manager of planning for T&M Associates, to the planning board.

The proposed ordinance outlines specific regulations for any developer who wishes to build on the land, including building height, percent of building to be used for commercial and percent to be used for residential, amount of parking provided, and even which types of businesses are welcome.

The board is not required to design a mixed use development, according Maczuga, in order to rezone it. However, since they have to design the ordinance, they do have the opportunity to shape building requirements.

In Feb. 2012, the that allowed for a three story, 45-foot tall building with 10-foot setbacks from property lines and with 10% of the building reserved for commercial use. Since that meeting, the board has made several changes to the ordinance.

Based on requests from the board at their April 2 meeting, Maczuga edited the purpose section of the ordinance's preamble to emphasize the desire to grow commerce and attract transit oriented development; he removed the requirement for affordable housing; he created a comprehensive list of the types of permitted commercial businesses; he increased the permitted height of any building to five stories; he added requirements for storage space per residential unit; he added bike rack requirements; and he added several architectural and design requirements.

Despite the amendments, the board was not entirely satisfied with the ordinance, citing issues with how much space would be used for commercial versus residential and whether the development should be one building or several free-standing buildings.

Commercial Space v. Residential Space

A large area of concern for members of the board was how much of the property would be dedicated to commercial use and how much would be dedicated to residential use.

According to Maczuga, the property is currently labeled as a highway improvement zone, which is for commercial use. If the ordinance were approved as is, it could still be entirely commercial but could not be entirely residential.

"Right now it's approved for a shopping center. So the residential (component) is the add on. And I don't think you want to knock out commercial on that site, where too much residential doesn't make any sense," Maczuga said.

At the same time, he explained, residential property is more profitable for a developer than commercial property.

"You probably can't do that shopping center the way it was previously approved," Maczuga said. "You can't get carried away with commercial because it's a loser to developers. For marketing those units it helps, but it's not what drives it."

One Building or Several Free-Standing?

The way the ordinance is crafted, a free-standing commerical building is permitted as long as it incorporates into the development by architecture and amenities, Maczuga explained.

However, board member Robert Montfort expressed concern that a developer would take advantage of that.

"I would prefer somebody coming in and requesting it as a specific variance, rather than to allow it and you end up with one apartment building and four or five other buildings and call it mixed use," Montfort said.

Chairman Ken Cassidy pointed out that in some cases, a free-standing building may be better for both the business owner and the residents.

"Sometimes, I think a free-standing restaurant is a better idea," Cassiday say.

The board ultimately agreed to allow free-standing buildings, but have requested that Maczuga create a minimum and maximum amount of space that can be allocated to residential and commercial property.

The planning board will hold their next meeting on Monday, July 2 at the Matawan Municipal Community Center. If the board approves the ordinance, it must be approved by the borough council before it can go into effect.

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