Residents Angered With Zoning Board Approval Of Santo Marina Application
Developer Ray Masucci granted a number of variances
Even though all but one resident objected to the density of the Santo Marina redevelopment plan, Board of Adjustment members voted 6 to 1 recently to approve 15 single-family homes on undersized lots.
"These houses are too close together," said Gene Faljean, Fairwood Drive, at the June 26 board meeting. "Our neighborhood is not the neighborhood it should be in. I left Staten Island because they were building on smaller and smaller lots. Is this what's going to happen to our neighborhood in the future? It just can't happen."
The vote came at the end of another four-hour long special meeting on the application. Zoning Board President James Fulcomer cast the lone no vote.
"I just thought there were too many houses," Fulcomer said after the meeting.
Developer Ray Masucci received a number of variances to build 15 single-family homes, a dockmaster's house, snack bar, bait shop and parking lot at the old marina site on Williams Street.
Linda Hayes, Cedarcrest Drive, told board members before the vote that they were obligated to uphold the township's zoning standards.
"It's a moral and legal obligation you have," she said. "Unless there is a compelling reason to issue a variance, you really don't have the right to do that."
The property - dubbed "The Cove on Toms River at Berkeley" - is located in the R-100 zone. Fourteen of the 15 homes will be built on undersized 55 by 100-foot lots of approximately 5,000 square feet. Homes in the quiet neighborhoods surrounding the project are primarily on 100-by-100-foot lots.
But with the variances granted by the board, Masucci will be able to build 15 homes where only 10 are allowed, on smaller lots.
All who spoke during the public portion of the meeting had no objections to the redevelopment of the marina portion of the application. The defunct marina dates back to the 1950s and was owned by the Santo family for many years.
"The one thing that most amazed me was that everybody agrees this marina needs drastic improvement," said John Paul Doyle, Masucci's attorney. "Mr. Masucci bought it no more than two years ago. Yet the person who ran it into the ground gets applauded?"
Doyle referred to former owner Paul Santo, who was sitting in the audience. Santo said at a previous meeting the property was sold to Masucci for $1.9 million through a court order related to Santo's divorce.
The property is located in Bayville, close to the border with Ocean Gate and fronts on the mouth of the Toms River. The marina property has long been in disrepair. Doyle called it as "the scourge of the neighborhood."
Few improvements made
Masucci has owned the property since July 2010. But the only improvement made so far was to install new bulkheads in the area where the dockmaster's house is slated to be built.
The rest of the property is in disrepair. Abandoned boats and cement blocks stud the site. The docks and pilings are warped and tilted. Up until a month ago, trespassers routinely roamed through the old marina office, a trailer and another house on the site.
Township Council President James J. Byrnes met twice with area residents at the site over the past two months. He told them on May 18 that local contractor Larry Irons would be removing the abandoned boats, debris, and cutting off the masts of sailboast and hauling them out of the water.The costs would be charged to Masucci, Byrnes said then.
But almost six weeks later, things don't look much different.
The boats are still in the water and the debris is still there. Orange plastic fencing encircles the decaying docks now and doors to the battered marina office, a trailer and another house on the site have been boarded up. That work was done weeks ago, after neighbors complained about the dangerous conditions.
Masucci said at the June 26 meeting cleanup on the site would start "tomorrow." But the site appears unchanged since the board meeting, as of late Friday.
The application has undergone several revisions. Masucci originally wanted to build 25 townhouses on the side. He later changed the plans to 19 single-family, three-story homes. The latest revision, with 15 homes, was the one approved by the board.
Masucci also cut the number of parking spaces, increased rear setbacks, moved the parking lot and reduced the number of boat and personal watercraft slips. He said he will leave it up to buyers to decide how many stories and what type of home they want.
Arlene LaMarca, Cove Road West, said she was "emotionally invested" in the project since she has lived here for 42 years.
"If we can't make this feasible, we are going to end up with another mess," she said. "This property has been a stain on the community for a long time."