Will a controversial 10-story mixed-use complex approved to be built along the Toms River be allowed to alter its plan, paring down the height of the building to six stories?
Meridia Toms River, proposed by the Capodagli Group development firm, received approval last year to build its 10-story “twin towers,” as they came to be known, along the riverfront in place of a former derelict motel that was condemned by the township. Proponents touted the project as one of the most significant investments in Toms River history with the chance to open up public space along the waterfront, bring new restaurants and businesses to the lower floors and a public amphitheater to the downtown area. But detractors said the complex was simply too large, and its 285 apartment units divided between two 10-story portions would change the downtown area into more of an urban landscape rather than a suburban fishing village, as some had initially imagined for the section.
After the project turned ultra-controversial during this year’s Republican primary election, with rivals Mayor Maurice “Mo” Hill in favor of the development and rival councilman Dan Rodrick squarely against the size of the project and what he sees as overdevelopment across the township, a plan was quickly put together to reduce the complex to a single building with six floors, though 285 apartment units would remain. Rodrick handily won the primary election and is now facing former Board of Education President Ben Giovine, representing the Democratic party, in November’s general election.
The fate of the downtown redevelopment project could be decided Wednesday night, though it is not atypical for large-scale projects to contain enough testimony, cross-examinations and public comments that a single hearing can last over several board meetings. It also remains to be seen what, if any, political influence could be wielded from the floor given the proximity to the upcoming election.
Capodagli is being represented by local attorney Robert C. Shea, who had been a supporter of Hill’s campaign. Renderings of the six-story version of the building first emerged after a photo was shared at a fundraising event for Hill held at Shea’s home over the summer.
Regardless of the outcome of Wednesday night’s hearing, Capodagli already has approval for the 10-story project in-hand, theoretically allowing them to move forward on the project as originally proposed. The new plan, however, reduces the number of apartments slightly, to 281 units, and includes:
- 281 total apartments
- 53 studios
- 145 1-bedroom units
- 38 2-bedroom units
- 22 2-bedroom affordable housing units
- Two 3-bedroom market rate units.
- 21 3- bedroom affordable units
- 14,731 SF of retail space.
Originally, the project was approved for over 16,000 square feet of retail space.
The proposal maintains 389 indoor parking stalls in a two-story enclosed parking deck and 22 exterior parking spaces (including 11 handicapped accessible spaces), a “right-in/right-out” access from West Water Street to the ground parking lot and the parking deck, “left-in/left-out” access from Irons Street to the parking deck and a “left-in/left-out” access from Herflicker Boulevard to the parking deck and service areas. The “right turn” access from West Water Street is newly-proposed.
Additional site improvements include an outdoor amphitheater, an elevated boardwalk, loading areas, trash enclosure areas, retaining walls, lighting, and landscaping.
Variances are required for various setbacks, a minimum building step-back and maximum building coverage, though nearly all of these – in one form or another – were previously granted in the original application process.
The hearing begins at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2023 at the township’s municipal building, 33 Washington Street.