The area around the Long Branch train station on Third Avenue appears to be the next area city officials are looking to improve.
Plans to rezone the area as a Transit Village were discussed by the Long Branch Council on Tuesday night.
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.
Other New Jersey towns such as Belmar, Matawan and Metuchen have already made Transit Village designations.
The area around the train station is currently a mix of residential (R) and commercial (C) zones. If the council were to adopt a rezoning ordinance, the area would then become one zone that containes allows a mixture of both.
"Certainly, Long Branch is, by far, a Transit Village waiting to happen," Planning Consultant Dave Roberts said during the meeting.
The areas that are a quarter-mile radius to the east and west from the train station out would be designated as a Transit Village
The area immediately surrounding the train station would encourage higher density residential development, Roberts said. 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.
Roberts said the city would also be eligible to receive funds from the Department of Transportation (DOT) to improve the area if it is designated as a Transit Village.
"Once the ordinance is adopted, or even introduced, we think we're in the position to submit that application to DOT," Roberts said.
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 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 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 said that could be accomplished by building a walkway at, above or below the street level.
Turner said the potential improvements for the area would be beneficial for the city.
"We are the gateway to the Jersey Shore, and we are the first railroad station outside of New York City within walking distance to the ocean," Turner said. "NJ Transit sees that and sees the potential there...and several property owners are interested in improving the area and enhance the business."
The council is expected to consider the introduction of the transit village zoning ordinance at its next meeting. If the ordinance is introduced and adopted, it will be sent to the DOT for review along with a resolution.