Berkeley Gets Boost From Key Committee For Town Center Approval

Mayor hopeful state Planning Commission will approve Berkeley's massive redevelopment plan on June 20


The end is in sight.

If all goes well, state Planning Commission members will endorse the Berkeley's Town Center plan on June 20, Mayor Carmen F. Amato Jr. said.

"We are now at the end of the road, really," Amato announced at the June 12 Township Council meeting.

The township moved even closer to next week's approval today, when a key Planning Implementation Committee agreed to recommend the Town Center plan at the Commission's public hearing in Trenton next week, he said.

"I will be in attendance on June 20 to provide public testimony," Amato said. "We are at the end of the line. We are on our way."

The Planning Commission's endorsement would spell the end of the to get the redevelopment plan approved and the beginning of the end for the dilapidated Beachwood Shopping Center on Route 9.

The battered, vacant shopping plaza has been an embarrassment to more than one township administration. It's also a danger, with cracked windows, sagging overhangs and crumpled roof sections.

The L-shaped mall - once home to a Woolworth's, supermarket, bowling alley, Jersey Mike's and a slew of other stores - has sat unused and slowly deteriorating for almost a decade. Sections of roofs are starting to cave in and yellow tape lines the parking lot to keep trespassers out.

But developer Donato J. Donofrio is still interested in redeveloping the property. The Township Council approved another six-month extension for his firm REC Centers, LLC as the designated redeveloper for the Phase 1 redevelopment plan at Tuesday's meeting.

The decaying buildings and roughly 150 acres of property have been owned by the Johnson family for decades. Brothers and Eugene Johnson have died.

But the site comes with other problems. The Johnson family's former asphalt plant behind the shopping center is contaminated by piles of coal tar illegally dumped years ago. The tar has to be removed and the soil remediated.

Donofrio and the Johnson family have worked out a settlement for clean-up costs of the asphalt plant property. The contamination does not extend to the shopping mall section, Amato said.

Donofrio is currently limited to developing only 30 percent of impervious coverage on the site. If the state Planning Commission approves the Town Center plan, that percentage would jump to 70 percent, greatly increasing the number of ratables.

foggyworld June 17, 2012 at 02:15 PM
This should be stopped now. Sure, make the owners clean it up and then leave. Why are we rewarding people who have trashed this town for a decade or more? What kind of very wealthy property developer leaves that mess for the rest of us to look at because he refuses to maintain things unless he gets his way about building it up. We do NOT need a Town Center and we do NOT need a single condo because with every unit will come parking spaces for more cars to keep we who live east of Route 9, from shopping locally. I went to a bank on Route 9 the other day and it took 9 minutes to make a legal left hand turn back onto Route 9. Why are the powers that be doing this? We had our taxes raised through the sky and only received in exchange, one instead of two weekly garbage pick up dates. We are paying fiddled increases based on someone's dream of what these houses might sell for. Now it's foreclosure or out. So I want to know why our Mayor is tripping so heavily in the shoes of his predecessor? The wealthy developer does not live in town and has shown bad neighbor behavior all over this county by leaving properties to rot until he makes it so bad that those in power cave in to his world view. Well, Mr. Mayor, I think Bayville needs a huge property tax reduction. And I don't want to hear about the tax revenue because with those condos will come the need for more room in our schools, more cops and more everything. This is ugly, unneeded OVERBUILDING. Why?
foggyworld June 17, 2012 at 02:17 PM
There is a natural sand pit there. How about some attractive fencing and some trees. Let the town own it for way down the road actual needs. Right now we don't have needs and we also don't have money.
foggyworld June 17, 2012 at 02:22 PM
This is far from teamwork. The Mayor is not doing anything but reward the very bad behavior of the property owners and the former Mayor. If we don't have laws on the books to force those owners to clean up the dump they have allowed to fester, then the politicians ought to be very busy writing all sorts of new laws. But instead we who live in the area and cannot even shop here are now confronted with the thought of hundreds of new cars blocking our way to freedom really. The Toms River cuts us off as does the current traffic on Route 9. No more cars ought to be berthed on Route 9 - ever and the Mayor is looking at things just the same way the former one did. No change and no gain.
foggyworld June 17, 2012 at 02:30 PM
Methinks the property developers have been on that hard-working woman's case for over a year. So she will be gone and replaced no doubt by yet another pizza store. Or maybe a nail place. That is part of the problem. Redevelop into what? We can't as a community support two small supermarkets nevermind the surplus of food and drug stores we have. What will come will be new and ultimately empty so we can watch it happen all over again. But this time it will be loaded with cars aimed at the only over-used main road in town. Dumb planning as brought to us by both major political parties. No thanks.
foggyworld June 17, 2012 at 02:53 PM
600-800 cars is not going to help any of us "shop in town." We can't move on Route 9 as it is so this promises no relief. We are a town in trouble. There is a huge recession being felt here and we can't support two small grocery stores so the notion that there is money here to be spent in retail space isn't sound. Mall after mall has been added here and trees have been removed permanently and yet the retailers are not making it and we don't need another square inch of that sort of space right now or in the near future. But we do have to cut the taxes because the non-civil servant portion of the taxpayer base is large and cannot keep up with the schemes and plans of dreaming politicians - and their friends. Think through what is being proposed before you cheer it on please.


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