The Asbury Park Press reports: A developer asked the Lakewood Township Committee tonight to permit a zoning change that would void a senior community’s age-restriction status in order to attract younger family-oriented homebuyers and stave off hits from the poor economy. But a group of residents cried foul at the deed change, which would substantially increase the value of the property when the age restriction is lifted and buyers of all ages are welcomed. They argued the developer, Somerset Development, should have to either bid again for the property or pay the township the value difference from before and after the deed change.”They’re playing hanky-panky with the taxpayers,” said resident Berel Shushan, who projected the difference in value to be about $4 million.
Somerset head Ralph Zucker said, according the township, the increase in value was likely 10 to 20 percent.
“I’m not comfortable supporting this unless the township is compensated,” Committeeman Steven Langert said during Thursday’s meeting, where the 2009 budget was adopted with one of the lowest projected surplus in 10 years – about $4 million.
Zucker suggested such a request was unfair, citing similar cases in which the township did not charge a developer for a zoning change.
Somerset paid $9 million for the 36 acres on Pine Street from the yeshiva Beth Medrash Govoha, which had purchased it from the township for $10 in order to then sell it to build capital for its large Cedar Bridge development near the Blue Claws stadium. At the time, Somerset was planning to make the entire development, called Pine River Village, restricted to residents 55 and older. But as the economy worsened, buyers became scarce and foundations lay bare, leading Somerset and
many of the existing Pine River residents to advocate about a year ago for dropping the age restriction.
“We bought it fair and square,” Zucker said Thursday, as he gave a presentation to the committee. “We’re proud of the $9 million we put into the hands of the yeshiva – the yeshiva that many of these people attend.”
Most of the opponents on Thursday were current or former BMG students, though their objections were applauded by others in the audience.
Somerset needs the committee’s nod before it can seek approval from the state to modify the homeowners association. At least 67 percent of the Pine River residents need to support the measure before it can be adopted. Somerset officials say they have about 90 percent. Residents at the meeting declined to comment.
Lakewood Mayor Robert Singer said he will not consider the change until he is certain of the residents support.