The Long Branch Council has approved a zoning change for the area around the Long Branch Train Station on Third Avenue.
The area will know be known as a Transit Village and will extend a quarter-mile to the east and west of train station.
A Transit Village is a mix of residential and retail units planned around a train station which strives to make it more convenient for people to get to and from work or run errands by utilizing public transportation.
Planning Consultant Dave Roberts has said the area immediately surrounding the train station would encourage higher density residential development, and a mix of uses including hotels, supermarkets and parking structures. He said many of the areas around the train station currently only allow single-family developments, but that would change under a Transit Village designation.
Areas located inside the Transit Village further east and west from the train station can feature more residential uses and a smaller amount of commercial development.
Resident Diana Multaire asked the council if eminent domain, the power to take private property for public use, would be used to develop the area inside the Transit Village.
"We are absolutely not considering any use of eminent domain," Mayor Adam Schneider said.
Roberts said the city is now eligible to receive funds from the Department of Transportation (DOT) since it has made the Transit Village designation.
The DOT established the Transit Village Initiative in 1999 and it allows towns which have created one to get assistance and apply for grants for projects associated with improving the area.
"We have a project in mind for what could be done with that money and that is the critical (pedestrian) connection of the west side and the entrance of the train station," Robert has said. "We've heard from NJ Transit that they are willing o to work with us but are not willing to commit the funds (for this project)."
"It automatically makes the properties on the west side of the tracks more attractive to developers because they could market that as a pedestrian-accessible to their tenants," Roberts has said.
Roberts said there is currently a wall separating Morris Avenue from crossing the train tracks and that the plan would be to "penetrate" it and create pedestrian access.
Long Branch Assistant Planning Director Carl Turner has said that could be accomplished by building a walkway at, above or below the street level.