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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

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Avalon to Study Future of Business District

AVALON B-1 BUSINESS DISTRICT GFX

By Vince Conti

ED. NOTE: CLICK HERE TO READ EXCERPTS FROM SHAY RODDY’S CONVERSATION WITH AVALON MAYOR MARTY PAGLIUGHI AND COUNCIL PRESIDENT SAM WIERMAN.

AVALON – For several years, the idea of a boutique hotel in the Avalon downtown business district has stoked controversy.

In 2016, a proposal was struck down by the PlanninBoard. In reincarnations, with altered designs, a hotel project in the B-1 Business District has still been unable to gain borough approval. The borough does have a designated hotel district near its border with neighboring Stone Harbor.  

Recently, discussions of a boutique hotel have gained traction. The Planning Board has even approved an amendment to the borough Master Plansuggesting benefits to allowing such land use within the business district.  

What has animated this change of heart is concern over the business district losing vibrancy. Long-term businesses have closed up shop, foot traffic has slowed, the district has become more of a seasonal area, with many of the remaining businesses closed in the off-season. The lack of restaurants has been a particular concern.  

In discussions on the merits of a boutique hotel, one focus has been on the facility helping to increase visitor foot traffic elsewhere in the business district. One benefit frequently discussed is the location of a year-round restaurant in any proposed hotel complex.  

Opposition to the concept of a boutique hotel in the business district has come largely from individuals who have homes in the most likely area for development of such a hotel, but there have been others expressing negative opinions on the plan, largely based on differing concepts of Avalon’s future.  

The Planning Board has not yet proposed a zoning ordinance allowing this additional use in the business district. Such an ordinance would require council’s approval. The Planning Board, according to board member and Council President Sam Wiermanhas discussed hiring a hospitality consultant to consider the details of a boutique hotel.  

At the borough council meeting Dec. 14, that concept was broadened in a way that gained favorable comments from the governing body members. The council is amenable to placing funding in the 2023 budget for an urban planning consultant who would study the needs of the business district beyond just a focus on a boutique hotel. As Mayor Martin Pagliughi phrased it: the consultant will tell us “what we have done right and what we have done wrong.”  

Actions now involve having the Planning Board send out Request for Proposal (RFP) that will help the borough narrow and define the scope of effort as well as to determine the likely costs. Assistant Business Administrator James Waldron said a detailed document, describing the consulting effort, should be ready for council deliberations in the March timeframe that usually also sees the approval of the annual budget.  

In the meantime, Waldron stated that a proposal for a boutique hotel in the business district could be submitted to the Planning Board and would be “considered on its merits.” He added, however, that in the absence of an approved zoning ordinance amendment, such a proposal would need to request a use variance. 

To contact Vince Conti email vconti@cmcherald.com. 

 

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