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Strathmere Motel owner seeks use variance - Ocean City Sentinel: News

Strathmere Motel owner seeks use variance

Wants to turn property into multifamily housing complex

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Posted: Wednesday, May 23, 2018 10:03 am

PETERSBURG — An application to change the Strathmere Motel into a multifamily dwelling was withdrawn Thursday, May 10, after a two-hour hearing and several public comments.

About 20 people attended the meeting of the Zoning Board when the application was heard. According to the meeting agenda, the application requested a use variance to convert the motel into a multifamily dwelling. A variance was also sought for three units that were less than the required 650 square feet.

The property, located at 513 Commonwealth Ave. in the Strathmere section of Upper Township, is a nonconforming motel.

During the meeting, Strathmere Motel owner Stephen Maloney said he wants to rent out nine units to family and friends to live there seasonally and long-term while he works on development options for the property. Maloney also wants the property to be changed to a multifamily dwelling so it could be reclassified for a residential mortgage.

The building is not insulated and has no heat. No changes were proposed to the exterior of the building.

Ultimately, Maloney withdrew the application, but he still plans to rent units to family and friends this season.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, several residents spoke in favor of the motel and against the zoning change.

Strathmere resident Ed Tettemer said the request to change the motel’s zoning status should be denied.

“It seems the owner has decided the motel business is no longer for him, so instead of putting the motel on the market, where it would almost certainly fetch a good bit of interest and a fair return on the original investment, he’s asked folks to reside in the building which it was never intended or zoned for that activity,” he said.

Tettemer said that “it doesn’t seem in the interest of the town’s character to allow business owners to relinquish their commitment to the zoning of their property by simply closing up shop and expecting variances.”

He also said motel guests spend money in Strathmere.

“They get breakfast at The Shack. They rent a boat at Whale Creek Marina. They enjoy lunch at Twisties or the Deauville Inn,” he said.

The applicant was permitted to cross-examine those who spoke.

Maloney said Tettemer’s comments were “full of misinformation.”

Later in the meeting, Maloney said he had one inquiry to purchase the motel in November 2017.

Strathmere resident Christopher Kohles said “our concern is the intent would be to eventually move this into a multi-unit lot,” and that “moving it into a residential zone opens it up to a whole new thing.”

“If he cannot afford, or is having issues with his mortgage, that is not our problem,” Kohles said.

He added that resident have seen the dynamics of the town change and several duplexes built.

“They went up as two bedrooms and we see them on Zillow renting as four-bedroom units,” he said. “It feels like this is just another way to circumvent the rules that are in place.”

Strathmere resident Linda Bateman said she felt that converting the building from a motel to a multifamily unit would negatively affect Strathmere’s businesses. She also felt that zoning variances are not granted for financial issues.

“It’s not really something that should be considered in an application, I believe, by New Jersey law,” she said.

Bateman also said “zoning decisions have great implications. You can approve a variance for two bedrooms and a den and it becomes four bedrooms,” she said.

Resident Janice Connell said she was concerned about why the variance should even be considered and noted that Maloney said “he can do exactly what he wants (rent the property) without any such relief under the variance.”

She said one of the township’s zoning requirements is that the owner “prove the benefit to the community and the lack of detriment, not only to the community at large, but to the overall zoning plan. I didn’t hear anything about that whatsoever.”

Strathmere resident Ted Kingston said that “if we do cross that bridge and give a multifamily use for the property, there’s no way to go back over that bridge. He’s walking in here the next time with five to nine units that we’ve granted. That’s forever. What do we gain?”

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