SEA ISLE CITY – The center of town is set for a major change with the approval of a four-story, 46-room hotel at the corner of JFK Boulevard and Landis Avenue.

The building, to be known as The Ludlam, will include restaurants and bars on the first floor and rooms above, according to Christopher Glancey, one of the developers. The project will take up most of the block, replacing the venerable La Costa Lounge, the Coast Motel and Casino Steak and Pizza.

On Monday, Feb. 3, members of the Zoning Board gave site plan approval and approved variances for the project, including height variances. The board heard hours of testimony on the proposal at a special meeting Jan. 21st, including from residents opposed to the project. The board adjourned that meeting at close to midnight after hours of testimony, taking up the application again on Monday.

Construction is set to begin in the fall, Glancey said, with work continuing through the summer of 2021 and an expected completion by June, 2022. The existing businesses remain open this summer, he said. Glancey and business partner Bob Morris purchased the property in 2018, for a reported price of $7.3 million.

Glancey declined to give an estimate on how much the construction project will cost, saying he did not want to begin detailed construction plans until approvals were in place. The cost will be in the millions of dollars, he confirmed.

“I think the neighborhood in general thought it was just too big for that site,” said Vincent Orlando, an engineer hired as an expert witness by neighbors in opposition to the plan. He said neighbors did not object to plans for a new hotel, they believed the proposal was too large.

During the Feb. 3rd meeting, resident Bill Baker said the owners knew the zoning limitations when they bought the properties.

“They know what they’re allowed to build,” he told the board. “The fact that they have the arrogance to come here and ask for any variance, in my opinion, is wrong.”

At both meetings, residents criticized the scale of the project, but not every speaker was opposed to the planned development. Some argued that Sea Isle City has plenty of houses for rent but few hotel units.

“It’s something that’s severely needed in this town for the sake of the businesses,” said resident John Fee, a Realtor and member of the local chamber of commerce.

Business owner Stephen DeCredico said the project would be good for the future of the town.

“I find no negative to improving the business climate of the island,” he told the board on Monday. “The project, in my opinion, is a positive for me as a business owner, for me as a property owner, and for the town as a whole to bring high-end clientele to this island.”

Plans call for the hotel units to range from single rooms to three-bedroom suites, and for 20 of those to have a kitchen, an element of the proposal that also required a variance.

Orlando contended the plans did not provide enough parking, especially if the multi-room suites will have room to sleep 10 and there are restaurants, banquet facilities and bars on the property. But the applicants argued successfully that the plans meet the requirements under the ordinance, with one parking space per hotel unit, Orlando said.

Plan opponents also sought, unsuccessfully, to convince the Zoning Board that the variance allowing 20 hotel units to include kitchen facilities should be a “D” variance, which requires a higher standard than the “C” variance that was granted.

As Orlando explained it, the “D” variance would need at least five votes in favor, while a “C” variances merely needed a majority. The board approved the “C” variance in a three-two vote, while the site plan approval was unanimous. The approval for a height variance was approved four to one.

Doreen Corino, an attorney representing neighbors opposed to the project, did not respond to a request for comment.

Glancey said he and his partner incorporated some suggestions from neighbors into the final design, and worked with board members in developing the project. He said that included three work session meetings before requesting site plan approval.

“I think they’re trying to do something that will be a very attractive unit,” said board member Patricia Urbaczewski at the Monday meeting. “What is there now is horrendous. It’s not attractive.”

The board voted four to one in favor of allowing the kitchen facilities and was unanimous for the site plan.

The site is close to the beach and Sea Isle City’s Promenade, and around the corner from the city’s Excursion Park, which features an amphitheater and numerous events and movie nights in the summer.

The location is one aspect that drew Glancey to the site, he said, adding that it’s also difficult to find a large parcel to develop on the barrier islands.

The existing buildings date from the 1970s, he said, describing his planned project as a major improvement for one of the busiest sections of the beach town.

The project is across the street from Diamond Liquors, which Glancey owns. He and Morris also constructed The Dunes, a block-long condominium, restaurant and event hall near Townsend Inlet on the site of the former Busch’s Seafood.

The partners also bought The Impala Island Inn in Ocean City and are nearing completion of an expansion of that beach-block motel to be called The Impala Suites on the site of a former storage building on the north side of 10th Street, across from the existing property.

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