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Middle Discusses Master Plan Report

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By Vince Conti

COURT HOUSE – New Jersey municipalities are required to revisit their master plan document at least every 10 years. The Middle Township Planning Board conducted a review in 2020 and issued a reexamination report (https://bit.ly/3kbjfp1). The public hearing and adoption of that report by the Planning Board occurred in November 2020 (http://bit.ly/3kbjtMT). 

Mayor Timothy Donohue said Middle Township Committee delayed discussing the reexamination report recommendations in the hope that the pandemic restrictions on indoor gatherings would lessen, permitting a public discussion and exchange on the recommendations.  

With a related stormwater management plan up for consideration soon and a need before the end of 2021 to reaffirm and gain state approval of the municipality’s centers, the delay was no longer an option. 

The committee Feb. 17 dedicated its work session to the discussion of the reexamination report recommendations. No formal action was taken. 

The master plan reexamination report updates the land use planning and serves as a guide for the municipality’s future development.  

Municipal Engineer Vincent Orlando presented the reexamination report recommendations at the work session. They fall into six major areas: 

  1. Short-term rentals: Increasingly, municipal property owners are turning to Airbnb and similar venues to advertise short-term rentals, especially in summer. One count said there were over 200 such ads. The Planning Board is recommending an ordinance to regulate short-term rentals to set minimum stay, licensing, and inspection requirements. The recommendation in the report is that short-term rentals be permitted but regulated in all zones. 

  1. Inclusion of rental apartments: The report recommends the municipality allow rental apartments adjacent to single-family homes, with the size of the apartment limited to a percentage of the total square footage of the home. Essentially, the living quarters would become accessory apartments, which would be regulated under zoning rules. Another aspect of the recommendation was permitting these units to be created as low- to moderate-income apartments open to municipal stipends and deed restricted as low- or moderate-income units, meeting Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) obligations. 

  1. Marinas: Increasing tensions between marina owners and neighboring residential areas led to a recommendation for a definition of two types of marinas that would be zoned for different areas, the two types being recreational and light industrial marinas.   

  1. Creation of light industrial zones: Light industrial zones, e.g., warehousing, storage, and light manufacturing areas, were removed from the municipality in the 2010 reexamination report. The Planning Board is arguing that they be included once more.   

  1. Adjusting setback requirements for townhomes to make housing unit development easier. The recommendation is to reduce some of the setback requirements. 

  1. Zoning changes: The Planning Board recommended nine areas of the municipality for zoning changes. Six of those nine areas are in the northern section (the Court House area) and three are in the southern section (the Rio Grande area).   

In addition, the report encouraged plans for the designation of redevelopment areas in the Rio Grande town center and along Indian Trail Road. The report also identified areas appropriate for public electric vehicle infrastructure, as required by changes in state law. 

Public comment at the meeting was light and largely limited to objections to the zoning change recommendation for a parcel of land located off the entrance ramp to the Garden State Parkway, at Exit 10, in Court House.  

A developer proposed a Hilton hotel for the site, which generated opposition from a neighboring residential development. 

The committee did not indicate when specific recommendations, including the proposed zoning changes, would be formally considered for adoption. 

To contact Vince Conti, email vconti@cmcherald.com. 

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