MIDDLE TOWNSHIP — A proposal to build a $16 million hotel just off the Garden State Parkway got a big boost with the introduction of an ordinance rezoning the property off Stone Harbor Boulevard.
A public hearing is planned for the Aug. 19 meeting, set to start at 6 p.m. at Township Hall, 33 Mechanic St. A final vote on the ordinance is also expected at that meeting.
On Tuesday, July 30, Mayor Tim Donohue said he has asked the project developer to give a presentation at that meeting, to inform residents of the plan and answer questions.
“There is a neighborhood close to the site. If I lived there, I’d be very curious about the development,” he said. “We haven’t heard from many people since we introduced it.”
As presented at a meeting earlier this summer, the proposal calls for a four-story, 100-room Hampton Inn hotel to be built at 414 Garden State Parkway, now the site of the architectural firm Design Collaborative.
Plans call for the new hotel to be completed by 2021.
Cape May Hospitality is planning the construction. The firm estimates it will bring $2.5 million in new business to the township a year.
The ordinance, introduced unanimously July 15, would change the zoning of the property from rural conservation to town center.
At the July 15 meeting, former Mayor Dan Lockwood questioned the need for the ordinance. A political ally of Donohue and fellow Republican, Lockwood suggested the developers could also get a variance from the Zoning Board instead of rezoning the property.
“Is that a rhetorical question?” Donohue asked.
Committeeman Mike Clark said the developer approached the township requesting the change. Marcus Karavan, the township attorney, said the zoning change would expand the town center designation, which would offer certain benefits to the developer.
At previous meetings, township officials have stated that the Cape May Court House town center zoning area includes property on the opposite side of the parkway. Proponents of the project have argued that the property should have been designated part of the town center since the zone’s creation.
At the same meeting, Donohue said a previous proposal would have meant an expanded convenience store, such as those that are often called super Wawas, being built at the site. He said he has asked for a deed restriction that would mean the property could only be developed as a hotel if the zoning change is approved, “so that if we did approve the zoning change, the property wasn’t suddenly flipped and another use we weren’t quite as excited about came in.”
If Township Committee rezones the site at an upcoming meeting, the project will still need a site plan approved by the Planning Board, state approval under the Coastal Area Facilities Review Act, better known as CAFRA, and approval of a plan to bring a sewer line to the site.
At previous meetings, Donohue has supported the zoning change, which also has the endorsement of the township Planning Board. He believes the project will be good for the township.
The Cape May Hospitality investment group consists of Ernie Felici, Greg DeMarrais and Robert Frey. Hampton by Hilton, formerly known as Hampton Inn, is owned by Hilton Worldwide Holdings, and is described as upper-midscale lodging.