People appear unsatisfied with mall plan testimony

By Coleen Burnett
Eatontown — The series of Planning Board meetings examining the revamping of the Monmouth Mall — now being called the Heights at Monmouth — is hitting the homestretch.
The hearings began at the beginning of April. The latest session on the subject was held on June 4.

Another is scheduled for June 18. At that time, there may be one last session scheduled to discuss the issue before the final vote.

All of that is yet to be determined. But there is one thing is for sure – residents living near the Mall have grown frustrated. The same issues, such as the number of apartments and increases in traffic, have come up over and over again.

Residents say their objections are not being heard. They feel they are not being given answers to some of their questions. And they feel some of the answers they have gotten are in no way grounded in reality.

All this boiled over – at least a little bit – at the June 4 meeting.

The session led off with continuing testimony by the owner’s (Kushner Brothers and Brookfield Properties, formerly known as Rouse) traffic expert Gary W. Dean of Montville-based Dolan and Dean Consulting Engineers. One of his points was the fact that many use Grant Avenue as a shortcut. He suggested the installation of speed bumps on the road to discourage such behavior.

Dean’s remark didn’t fly very far with members of the Board.

“We just went through a whole thing of {removing} speed bumps in town. It’s probably not the best solution,” said Mayor Dennis Connelly.

“The only people who know shortcuts are the ones who use them every day… it’s only going to exacerbate the problem by putting in the 700 units,” said Wyckoff Road resident Ted Lewis.

Eatontown resident Shirley Jacobs made a point about the series of condos that are scheduled to go up in neighboring Long Branch. That project is expected to bring in up to 1,000 additional residents to the area. She doesn’t want to see the apartments built.

“This is like, overload,” she said in frustration. “They’re going to take to these highways and roads and go to the Mall.”

“Don’t give me any [crap]. Don’t tell me it’s going to save the Mall.”

Planning Board Chairman Mark Woloshin also had a few questions for the experts that, for the moment, have no answers.

The replies he got were some of the same phrases that were told to residents: “That’s out of my realm,” “let me get back to you –I don’t have that here,” or simply “I’m not sure.”

All this is scheduled to resume at another hearing June 18 at 7:30 p.m. At that time, the Mall’s owners will present their final witness, an economic planner.

A side note to all this is the still-unresolved lawsuit filed last year in Freehold. Four

Eatontown residents are claiming the board doesn’t have the jurisdiction to hear the case because the plan requires a zoning variance. The group also says that conflicts exist with three members of the board — Rich Robinson, Mark Regan, and Kevin

Gonzalez – because they all are former Borough Council members who voted for the zoning ordinance that allowed the redevelopment uses in the first place.

The case is being decided by Superior Court Judge Lisa P. Thornton.