VENTNOR – The Planning Board Wednesday, Jan. 10 approved two development applications that will add new ratables and make substantial improvements to a long-vacant commercial property in the Dorset Avenue business district.
The board unanimously agreed to lift a condition in a prior subdivision that created six residential lots on the site of the old St. James School on Portland and Atlantic avenues. The subdivision, which was granted in 2013 after Hurricane Sandy but before new flood elevations were approved, included a provision that the six oversized lots include shared driveways to preserve on-street parking spaces.
According to JJCC Longport, LLC attorney Eric Goldstein, the vacant lots have been on the market for more than six years with no activity because builders say prospective buyers do not want a shared driveway and the trend in building has changed since the subdivision was approved, he said.
“The goal is to get parking under the house and the house out of harm’s way,” Goldstein said.
The only revision to the original subdivision allows each home to have its own driveway, which would accommodate three off-street parking spaces.
The change increases the number of off-street parking spaces to 12, but the city will lose one parking space on Portland Avenue.
The prior plan had three 20-foot curb cuts, while the new plan calls for six 17-foot curb cuts. Adding the additional on-site parking spaces now allows the builder to increase the number of bedrooms to four from the previously approved plan, which allowed two bedrooms.
Ocean Avenue resident Jeffrey Meyers spoke against the project on behalf of his townhouse development’s homeowners association. He stated that Portland Avenue serves as a parking area for the Central Business District and that removing any on-street parking spaces would be detrimental to the neighborhood.
“It’s not unusual to have shared driveways on the island. We have shared driveways with no problems,” he said.
The board unanimously agreed to remove the condition and amended the subdivision plan to show six driveways instead of three. The plan also reduces the number of on-street parking spaces to five from the six spaces previously approved.
“The net gain of 11 parking spaces in the area is a positive,” Commissioner Lance Landgraf said. “Sandy changed a lot of things on the barrier island and we now encourage people to raise their homes with parking underneath.”
The loss of one parking space and the gain of six residential unit is “no contest,” Planning Board Chairman Jay Cooke said. He called it a “progressive plan that solves a problem.”
Board member and real estate broker Daniel Smith said building a two-bedroom home one block from the beach would not be “the highest and best use of the land.”
“The proposed plan is superior as a four-bedroom home,” he said.
The board approved a second application that allows the owner of a long-vacant commercial property on the corner of Dorset and Edgewater avenues to raise and reconfigure the location of existing uses in the building.
ECAC Properties, LLC was granted a use variance and several C variances to improve the property located a 101 N. Dorset Ave. The two-story masonry and stucco building will be raised to elevation 12 and the commercial and residential spaces reconfigured.
The building will be raised atop concrete block and include an internal stairwell. The first level will include one or two commercial units, depending on tenancy, and the second level will have a 1,450-square-foot, three-bedroom apartment.
The owner previously requested an interpretation of allowable commercial uses in the zone to allow a tattoo parlor, but that tenant backed out. A nail salon will be located in one of the commercial spaces.
“We don’t have a tenant for the tattoo parlor location,” attorney Brian J. Callaghan said.
The existing garage building facing Edgewater Avenue, which currently includes a studio apartment, will be demolished to make room for five off-street parking spaces for the residential units. The third floor of the structure will include two additional apartments. One will have two bedrooms, while the other will have one bedroom.
The board also approved variances for rear lot setback, lot coverage and signage.