Foodtown Redevelopment Clears DOT

The Foodtown site has been awaiting redevelopment. Currently, a contractor hired by the town to do roadway reconstruction is using the lot as a staging area, officials said. (Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

BRICK – The township took a big step in closing the chapter on the redevelopment of the former Foodtown site since the State Department of Transportation has no traffic-related objections, said Mayor John G. Ducey during the Sept. 26 council meeting.

The council hired a traffic expert who did a report and put in a request for a Letter of No Interest, “which means, we’re good with it,” the mayor said. “This is excellent, excellent news. Big news.”

The traffic study showed that there was more traffic at the site’s prior use – first as a Bradlee’s and then as a Foodtown – than there would be for what is proposed at the site. An objection by the DOT could have resulted in a delay of 18 to 24 months, Ducey said.

(Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

In May, plans were finalized for the site, which would pass from township ownership to two developers who would each pay $2.5 million to develop a privately-owned recreation center and a retail area with three pad sites.

“We got that letter, so the State DOT agrees: they have a Letter of No Interest, so we don’t have to go through that 18 month to two-year process and we are moving on from there,” Ducey said.

Going forward, the next step is for the two developers to file a final site plan to delineate shared parking, draining locations, and other engineering concerns, he said.

After the site plan is completed, it would be reviewed by CAFRA, which should take about three months, Ducey said.

“The longest part from here until the end was the DOT, and that is behind us because we have the Letter of No Interest,” Ducey said.

In other news, citing an article he recently read in The Brick Times, resident John O’Rourke asked if the township could use surplus funds to make up for a $720,000 shortfall to the school district since they had to revise their budget after an unexpected cut in state aid.

“The [school] business administrator James Edwards is going to appeal this, and even if he is successful in getting some of the money back…could the council make up the difference?” O’Rourke asked.

(Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

Township Attorney Kevin Starkey said that the Board of Education and the township are two separate governmental entities.

“So it’s not like a check could just be written and given to them, they have to manage their own finances as the township manages its own, even though the taxpayers are, generally speaking, the same,” Starkey said.

The state generally does not allow transfers, whether there’s a surplus, a deficit or what the conditions are of either government, Starkey said. They’re designed to operate separately.

“I just thought it might be something you’d want to consider,” O’Rourke said.

And finally, Ducey said there was more good news for the township: the state awarded Brick a $246,633 Municipal Urban Aid Program Grant to be used towards Birchwood Park Phase 3 roadway improvements after Township Engineer Elissa Commins and Township Grant Writer Tara Paxton submitted the application.

The total cost to finish the remainder of the streets in Birchwood Park is estimated at $905,000, so some township money is still needed for their completion, Ducey said.

When the next capital budget is approved in June/July 2018, the rest of the funds would be approved, so this time next year the bids would open and paving could begin, he said.

“So that’s great news for Birchwood Park. I know they’ve been waiting, or at least the people who live on these particular streets. Everyone else has been happy because their streets were done a couple of years ago,” Ducey said.

The streets include parts of Orangewood Drive, Orangewood Court, Elmwood Drive, Elmwood Court, Elmwood Place, Oakwood Drive, parts of Sprucewood Drive, Larchwood Drive, and Boxwood Drive.

The next council meeting will be on Tuesday, October 10 at 7 p.m.

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Judy moved to Ocean County from New York City in 1988, and began her second career as a feature and news reporter in the mid-1990's. She has worked for Micromedia Publications since 2008, primarily reporting for The Toms River Times and The Brick Times. Judy has also worked for The Leader Review in Point Pleasant Beach, The Brick Communicator and The Asbury Park Press. Reach Judy by e-mail at Judysmestadnunn@gmail.com.