Their message was clear: "No more stores. No more traffic. No house on the golf course."
Eatontown residents came out in force Monday night to voice their opposition to another plan to redevelop the Old Orchard Country Club.
It was a packed house at an informal hearing before the planning board, with no application yet submitted for the redevelopment. The plan, being floated by developer National Realty and Development Corp., is to turn the country club and golf course, which borders Oceanport, into an age-restricted community on one side and retail center along Route 36.
The developer's traffic engineer and planners outlined their intention to rezone the property from a residential zone known as R-32 to a property split over two zones, R-20 and B-2. The change, which would have to be approved by the borough before an application would be heard by the planning board, would allow the developer to build 52 units in a 55 and over community on one side of the golf course. The portion of the property which fronts on Route 36, next to the Motor Vehicle Commission, would be slated for a retail center.
The property would be naturally bifurcated by a stream on the site.
Coming into the meeting the developer faced an uphill battle in convincing residents that more retail development and the redevelopment of the golf course would be in their best interest. To help make his case, Jerrold Bermingham of NRDC said he and his team went over the minutes of meetings from the previous failed plan for the site by another developer and made changes to his plan based on the concerns of residents and the borough, to make it a "more considerate plan."
According to Bermingham, these changes include:
- A reduction in the number of housing units from 600 to 175.
- Age restricted instead of single family housing, eliminating the likelihood of 60 school age children.
- Reduced traffic from the scaled back housing.
- A reduction in the scale of the retail center from two stories to one.
- A change in the kind of stores planned from a regional draw to a community shopping.
- An increase in taxes to the borough of $2.5 million.
Traffic engineer Henry Ney, and independent consultant for Birdsall Engineering, did the traffic studies and plans for NRDC's proposal. Ney outlined changes to the existing traffic patterns on Routes 36 and 71 that he said would improve traffic in that area, even with the addition of this redevelopment.
Some of the improvements would include widening of the roadways where 36 and 71 intersect and the addition of dedicated turn and through lanes there. At the retail center, which would be adjacent to the Motor Vehicle Commission, Ney outlined changes that would include the addition of and reconfiguration of jug handles, and the addition of a light, designed to ease current traffic jams going into motor vehicle and general congestion along the roadway.
Residents didn't appear to believe the promise of improved traffic at the retail site, but it was traffic in neighboring residential streets that most had their ire. One after another residents of Reynolds Drive and its associated streets came forward to say how bad traffic was in their neighborhood. In their opinion, this redevelopment would only make it worse.
"You can't get out of our streets now," one resident said. " If you do this, you're killing us."
But perhaps the strongest feeling in the room was from residents whose properties abut the golf course.
"It's not going to be an asset to Eatontown," said Robert Tungrian of Stirrup Lane. "I'm used to looking at the 17th hole... I'm used to looking at the deer. Eatontown is getting ripped up... The ink isn't even dry on the last one and we're entertaining this crap again."
Some residents said that they would prefer the added school children of a traditional residential plan. "Children and families are what make communities," said one resident.
Several residents said preserving open space was a priority for them and should be for the town, pointing to Tinton Falls recent acquisition of land for open space.
"Restore Eatontown to a community," Phil Sapienza, urged the board, "not just a bunch of stores."
Given the choice between $2.5 million in tax ratables and the golf course, by their comments, residents showed they'd stick with the golf course.
But as planning board member Mark Woloshin pointed out, that may not be a choice they ever get. The property is currently zoned residential.
"If somebody wants to come and buy that property, they could build homes there without much problem," he said.