DEP says Brown’s Point Marina must restore destroyed wetlands; redevelopment workshop to be held

This concept of Mariner's Village show's the multi-story building at the end of a neighborhood of single-family homes. The expansion of the Brown's Point Marina is featured prominently. Source: Mid-Atlantic EngineeringThis concept of Mariner's Village show's the multi-story building at the end of a neighborhood of single-family homes. The expansion of the Brown's Point Marina is featured prominently. Source: Mid-Atlantic Engineering

 

KEYPORT — The owner of Brown’s Point Marina, who is pushing for a redevelopment plan for part of his property, tore-up wetlands, built docks without permission and did not build to the proper standards, according to state records.

The expansion of the docks was done without state or borough permission, which has brought extra scrutiny to the construction at the marina during the past few weeks.

Indeed, several Borough Council hearings this fall discovered engineering deficiencies in how the docks were constructed, and that restrooms and an office were built and without the proper Unified Planning Board approvals for site plans.

IF YOU GO:

WHAT: Workshop to gather input on Brown’s Point redevelopment zone.

WHEN: Tonight — Thursday, Dec. 17, at 6 p.m.

WHERE: Keyport Borough Hall, West Front Street.

The expansion of the marina was an important piece of a proposed development called Mariner’s Village, dense mid-rise condominiums proposed for the north end of Broadway and Washington Streets.

The marina and the Mariner’s Village have since been separated into two projects and two companies, said Clay Perlman, the owner of Brown’s Point Marina. Perlman sold the development rights to Mariner’s Village to a company called Mariner’s Village LLC, the principal of which is a man named Roger Miller. However, Perlman continues to be the face of the project because it involves his property, he said.

But, the Borough Council declared the area where Mariner’s Village was to be built a redevelopment zone earlier this summer at the behest of Perlman.

Planners from CME Associates, the borough’s contractor, are holding a workshop at 6 p.m. tonight in Borough Hall to garner input from residents on what they want to see built in the zone.

DEP ISSUES NOTICE OF VIOLATION

In September, the state Department of Environmental Protection sent a certified letter to Perlman at the marina.

The two page letter cites eight points where the construction at the marina resulted in the clearing and damage to wetlands, or construction that deviated from what was allowed.

The DEP gave Brown’s Point Marina a permit in March 2015 to “legalize some prior unauthorized construction,” wrote Bob Considine, the DEP spokesman.

That permit also authorized  construction of some new docks and walkways. The marina was required to restore wetlands from a prior violation as a condition of the permit. That violation existed prior to Perlman’s 2004 purchase of the marina, he said.

“The marina started construction this summer of new docks and did not follow the issued permit,” Considine wrote in an email.  “Additional areas of exceptional resource value wetlands were cleared, and the docks/walkways were not built as approved via permit resulting in greater impacts to the remaining wetlands on site.”

NJDEP’s Notice of Violation to Brown’s Point Marina

A total of 3,600 square feet of wetlands was cleared in three sections to expand docks and build new boat storage and parking, according to the letter. Docks, boardwalks and walkway were not built to the permitted specifications nor were they built in the locations that were not permitted.

The DEP had previously ordered him to restore other damaged wetlands, but he never did, Considine wrote.

State officials met with marina employees last week. The DEP approved part of a restoration plan at that time, and they plan to meet in again in January to hash out the remainder of the restoration.

WHAT IS MARINER’S VILLAGE?

Plans for Mariner’s Village date back to at least 2006.

At that time, Perlman was lobbying for a 92-unit condominium, walkways from the condos to his marina on the slope from the north end of Broadway.

Brown’s Point Marina would have been expanded to bring boat slips directly behind the condos, which has was built without proper approvals in place.

This 2006 rendering shows a concept for Mariner’s Village. The plan was to build a large cruciform-style building on Browns Point between Washington Street and Broadway along N.W. First Street. The area was recently designated as redevelopment zone.

Some drawings even have a lighthouse.

The complex would have had driveways on Northwest First Street and Broadway.

Four inhabited floors in a cruciform-like shape would have been built over a ground floor of parking.

The proposal required the acquisition of several single-family homes on that block.

Perlman put the plans aside when the recession hit in 2008, but late last year Perlman began lobbying the Borough Council for a redevelopment designation for his property and surrounding land for the Mariner’s Village proposal.

Borough officials stressed that no plans were submitted at that time, and that a plan would only be designed after public input. 

However, former Councilwoman Joy-Michele Tomczk, now Joy-Michele Johnson, said last year that theoretical plans were discussed, and they included the expansion of the marina, the changes to the current residences and the inclusion of passive recreation.

When contacted this week, she said she could not say if the plans she saw were from 2006.

“My understanding was they were modified at least slightly (from 2006), but I really couldn’t say,” she wrote in a message. “We had only very preliminary concept meetings at that point in 2014.”

The proposal no longer includes condominiums, Perlman said. The new developer is interested in building apartments instead. The size, density and style of those apartments will all depend on how many of the surrounding homes can be purchased for the project, Perlman said.

In early 2015, the Borough Council authorized T&M Associates of Middletown to investigate Brown’s Point for a redevelopment designation. That designation was approved because debris leftover from the destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy had been left to sit on the property.

Borough officials ordered a clean-up of the property in response and the land was cleared during the summer.

The original proposal for Mariner’s Village is in conflict with the borough’s master plan and zoning. Maximum height for a building is 2 ½ stories and 30 feet, for example. But a redevelopment designation gives the Borough Council sweeping powers to override the borough’s existing land-use regulations.

ENGINEERING DEFICIENCIES DISCOVERED

On Tuesday, the council retroactively approved construction of the docks built this summer after several hearings with the marina’s engineer. The testimony and examination of plans turned up several deficiencies in the construction and layout of the docks.

One such deficiency is that the docks were secured to pilings that would be underwater if there was another flood equal to that from the surge caused by Hurricane Sandy. The docks would float away with the potential to crash into other infrastructure inland along Matawan Creek.

The council’s unanimous approval was given on the assurances that those deficiencies were or will be remedied.

It came to light during the hearing that construction of bathrooms and the installation of a mobilehome-style office were built and installed without proper zoning approvals. The buildings are permitted at the marina, according the borough’s construction official Bob Burlew. However, the planning board still needs to approve a site plan that includes parking and traffic flow. The buildings replaced structures destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. 

Burlew also testified that his office was aware of the DEP’s involvement at the property though no other evidence or testimony from DEP was submitted during the hearing.

The council’s hearing would not have occurred without the intervention on one borough resident, Michael Lane.

Lane, who intensely follows the Borough Council’s and Unified Planning Board’s actions, decisions and policies, has been urging caution about the Mariner’s Village proposal for years.

It was he who discovered a seldom-used borough law approved in the 1970s that requires Borough Council approval for the expansion or construction of docks and piers. The process is separate from zoning, planning and construction approvals.

Lane is continuing to lead the charge against the condos. He used his newsletter this week to issue a call for people to attend tonight’s workshop.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story said that Perlman did not return calls for comment. The article has since been updated with his comments.