BELMAR — The borough’s planning board has approved a developer’s proposal to demolish the First United Methodist Church and divide the property into four lots for the construction of three new single-family homes.
The property is located at the corner of Seventh Avenue and D Street. The developer, NMB 501 7th Redevco LLC, plans to build single-family homes on three of the lots, which would front Seventh Avenue. The fourth lot, fronting on D Street, includes the parsonage, which Bishop John Schol would use as his retirement home.
The planning board approved subdivision at its Monday night meeting, by a vote of 7-2. The majority included Jay Dermott, who chairs the board.
Prior to the vote, Mr. Dermott said, “There is a lot to discuss here” but added, “Certainly it has been made very clear … there will be a change in this church and one way or another, there will be movement on this property.”
Other members of the board who voted in the majority agreed.
William Lindsay, the mayor’s designee on the board, said, “It’s not easy to get these things done and please everyone in Belmar. I do believe the project needs to move forward,”
However, board members Robert Forte and Ted Protonentis, who voted against the subdivision, argued that the planned new homes did not fit the character of the neighborhood or conform with the borough’s master plan, and they also voiced concern about density.
“I believe the Borough of Belmar would be better served with two homes rather than three [to] better conform with the master plan, which is the key to this whole thing,” Mr. Forte said, adding that he does believe that homes on the property represent the best replacement for the church.
“Three homes on a substantial lot is not justifiable,” he said.
NMB 501 7th Redevco LLC is owned solely by William Shipers, an attorney at Belmar-based firm Shamy, Shipers & Lonski. He told members of the planning board that his single use LLC is the contract owner of the Methodist church property, with final acquisition dependent on the approval of the subdivision plan.
During the meetings, several members of the community commented on the project, with many saying that the project did not fit the character of the neighborhood and other homes in the area. Many questioned why the developer would not propose to build two homes on the site, instead of three.
After nearly four hours of public, board and professional comments, Mr. Shipers told the board he would amend his application to reduce building coverage to 30 percent of the site, eliminating the need for three variances, and increase rear yard setback from 38 feet to 40 feet for the three lots fronting Seventh Avenue. He also said he would increase the side yard setback on the western most home to 10 feet, to satisfy neighbors.
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