ABSECON — City Council is expected to hold a hearing at its Thursday meeting on a redeveloper’s plans for a failed age-restricted project in a former school building that has sat vacant in the middle of the city for almost a decade.
Council is scheduled to formally hear the proposal by Boardwalk Design & Development to redevelop the Absecon Gardens complex in the city, said City Council President Jim Vizthum. An immediate decision is not expected. The company’s proposal shrinks earlier plans by about 25 percent while dropping the age restrictions that limited tenants to people 55 years and older.
“What’s going to happen is they’re going to present the compromise, each side will talk and hopefully a lot of members of the public will be there to comment,” Vizthum said.
Vizthum said he would not attend the meeting because of his family’s business involvement with Thomas Sykes, one of the owners.
Anthony Cappuccio, the president of Boardwalk Design & Development, could not be reached for comment. Last month he said, “I’m very happy with the agreement and I’m very anxious to go to sales. We just keep saying that over and over again: ‘We’re anxious to go to sales.’“
The hearing is the latest move in the lengthy, multi-year process around the long-vacant building.
The former H. Ashton Marsh School was built in 1914, holding nearly 100 people in grades 1 through 8. It served kindergarten through fourth grade when Absecon students departed in 1990. The Atlantic County Special Services School District partially renovated the building, then moved out of the rechristened Winchell School in 2003.
City officials originally hoped to capitalize on the shuttered school by permitting redevelopers to remake the building into an age-restricted apartment complex. Like others across the country, they believed wealthy seniors would benefit the town without growing its schools.
But as in other towns, again, Absecon officials have had to revisit the projects when they went unbuilt because of oversupply and the 2008 financial crisis. The city Planning Board supported lifting age restrictions in 2011, following a 2009 state law, but development has been mired in litigation that this agreement may resolve.
Neighbors have opposed similar conversions, speaking at length on the negative outcomes they expected to occur.
The Absecon Planning Board unanimously rejected a proposal last month that would have rezoned the Visions at the Shore tract on Pitney Road and permitted some all-ages development.
Attorney Jack Plackter, who represented Visions owner Amboy Bank, said an appeal was planned.
Others from the Save Absecon committee said they plan to attend Thursday’s hearing.
Barbara Brown, who lives near to the Absecon Gardens building, said she has long opposed the project.
“It’s going to have a great impact on my quality of life,” she said, adding the Save Absecon group was upset with the developer. She is currently being sued by Cappuccio, she said, with a court date scheduled for Jan. 24 in front of Superior Court Judge James Isman. Cappuccio’s suit alleges defamation, libel and slander.
The agreement set to be discussed Thursday generally reduces the overall Absecon Gardens project by about 25 percent, while increasing parking spaces.
Housing would not be restricted by age.
The existing building would hold 40 housing units, with and additional eight Church Street townhouses in the first phase.
A second phase would add 10 townhouses on Church Street.
When complete, the project would include 58 housing units and at least 121 off-street parking spaces. Mechanic Street would not be realigned.
Six units would be set aside for low-income residents and six would be designated for moderate-income residents. The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development defines low income in Atlantic County as up to $54,850 for a family of four, while HUD rules define moderate income as up to $65,130 for a four-person family.
Building heights would be limited to 55 feet
The complete agreement is available at in the offices of the City Clerk, City Hall, 500 Mill Road, Absecon, between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. weekdays. It also can be downloaded from the municipal website, absecon-newjersey.org.
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