Resort plan won't need to use eminent domain: Asbury Park (NJ) Press, 3/16/06

Long Branch approves revamped redevelopment alignment

By Carol Gorga Williams

New potential plans for the Ocean Place Resort and Spa emerged during a [Long Branch NJ] City Council meeting Tuesday and could include provisions for a second tower, more hotel rooms, parking facilities and acquisition of more land.

Officials expect to see a more formal presentation within the next 30 days. Such a presentation would be made at a caucus meeting. A date has not been scheduled.

During the regular meeting, council members voted to authorize the assignment of the developer's rights currently held by Tiburon Ocean Place LLC to Ocean Place Development LLC.

That will allow the current owners to arrange a partnership with four men from Washington, D.C., officials said. The city originally entered into a developer's agreement with Gem Holding Inc. in 1986 for construction of what was then the Ocean Place Hilton Hotel, and Gem signed, with the consent of the city, its rights to Tiburon in 2000.

Now Tiburon wants to enter into a joint venture for the hotel/campus zone with Orr Partners-Op LLC. This would enable the hotel to refinance the property and will result in a redevelopment plan without the need for any further eminent domain proceedings or property acquisition, according to the resolution.

However, the plan could ultimately use land from Abbottsford Avenue in the project. In 2004, the city bonded an additional $1 million to acquire nearly 4 acres adjacent to the Ocean Place in the hotel/campus zone. However, the money also could be used to acquire property in the other oceanfront zones, Mayor Adam Schneider has said.

The hotel/campus zone, one of six redevelopment zones in the city, surrounds the conference center between Madison Avenue and Laird Street. The city wants the land for potential use as retail or office space, construction of structured parking or a smaller hotel or convention center, Council President Anthony Giordano has said.

City Attorney James G. Aaron and City Business Administrator Howard H. Woolley Jr. briefly reviewed plans for Ocean Place. They said the plan includes the second tower, additional rooms in the main building, additional infrastructure and parking facilities and acquisition of Abbottsford Avenue.

Also Tuesday, the council approved an ordinance limiting height in its RC 1 Beachfront Mixed zone, which involves the northern end of town, at the ocean, north of the present redevelopment zones.

Because city ordinances had previously permitted midrise apartment buildings no taller than six stories or seven stories when the first floor is used for parking, officials wanted a review to see if that should remain a permitted use. The new ordinance no longer permits midrise buildings in that zone.

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