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Future for Power Plant, Town Center Detailed in Master Plan

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By Camille Sailer

PETERSBURG – At its May 11 meeting, Upper Township Committee confirmed that it will consider changes to the municipal master plan for final adoption and public comment May 26.
At the April 27 meeting, members discussed the recently-adopted master plan reexamination report and allowed members of the public to comment. The report is a comprehensive look at aspects of planning that will impact the entire township, but certain sections attracted the most comment and attention, including the B. L. England Power Plant’s future and possible new zoning at the site, recommendations for the evolving Marmora Town Center, and changes in Strathmere’s building size limits.
While the Municipal Planning Board approves the master plan and Committee only needs to “receive” it, Committee members have introduced an ordinance that would implement the plan’s recommendations, including, and especially, an amendment of Upper’s zoning to support the recommendations.
Mayor Richard Palombo and Committee member Hobie Young are also on the township’s Planning Board, and noted earlier that they have discussed and reviewed the master plan and its proposals in depth.
At Committee meetings held late in 2019, previously proposed zoning changes for Strathmere drew irate comments from property owners, who were upset at the “lack of transparency” and that potential building size limitations would cause property values to decrease. These limitations were proposed to address, what other residents in Strathmere believe is, overdevelopment of the beachfront section of Upper. At that time late last year, Committee moved to return the proposed size ordinance to the Planning Board for further consideration, which resulted in the new amendment.
For Beesleys Point, the ordinance related to the master plan addresses the desire for new zoning to establish a “waterfront town center” at the B.L. England site, adjacent to the Tuckahoe Inn, an area of about 80 acres of the total 487 acres, with the remaining area held as protected wetlands. The plan includes recreational and entertainment uses at the site, such as a marina and kayak rentals. This zoning would permit power-related purposes since the plant’s site is one among several being considered for connecting electricity, generated by planned offshore wind turbines to land and onward to shore-based power grids.
Regarding the existing “town center” zoning, in Marmora, zoning has been adapted to meet Upper’s affordable “fair share” housing, under COAH (Council on Affordable Housing) provisions. This initiative was part of a wide-ranging settlement agreement that afforded many state municipalities discretion in meeting such requirements.
The plan amendments related to Strathmere include creating a floor-to-area ratio (termed “FAR”), similar to what other shore municipalities, such as neighboring Sea Isle City, have implemented. Changes also include a reworking of commercial and residential zoning and design, with recommendations that front porches be incorporated into new construction to avoid a “box-like” aesthetic.
To contact Camille Sailer, email csailer@cmcherald.com.

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