At the end of a discussion about how much building is too much, Langert explained that he doesn't believe it is fair to tell people they can no longer build when others built in the past.
I called in and asked Langert whether he has interests in any large developments. He admitted that he is a partner in a large,yet to be built development. He also went on to say that he had made it public knowledge that he is a partner of this building project.
There is just one problem. Nobody can recall Langert ever publicly acknowledging his involvement in building, let alone his involvement in acquiring the needed approvals, or zoning changes.
I would like to be the first person to demand a full investigation into any involvement that Langert may have had regarding discussing his project with anyone on the planning or zoning boards.
Please read this article and then ask yourself if Langert should be on the Township Committee. The area that he is a partner in developing has been controversial, needed zoning changes and was opposed by the residents. Please note the names in the article.
from the Tri Town News
Lakewood zoners grant
VARIANCE for 29 homes
BY JOYCE BLAY
LAKEWOOD — Chestnut Street residents objecting to a proposed development on their block patiently waited three months to address the Zoning Board of Adjustment about it.
On March 1, the determined residents finally got their chance to address the board, but according to several of them, their pleas fell on deaf ears.
"I felt that they didn’t appreciate anything we said," said Chestnut Street resident Peter Pezowicz. "They just seemed predisposed to voting for it. Everybody just seemed silent about it."
Chestnut Street Partners, the developer, sought a waiver from the board to build 31 homes on 15.77 acres. The applicant will be permitted to build 29 homes.
Board member James D’Andrea did not vote for the variance the applicant needed, saying, "I cannot in good conscience vote for this [project]. There was [no public objection raised] that really swayed me one way or another. I just felt that the increase in density was not appropriate in this case. Obviously, six of the board members felt it was appropriate."
D’Andrea said the area on Chestnut Street where the development would be built was rezoned from R-40 (1-acre) to R-20 (half-acre) three years ago. He considered another zoning change to what he said would effectively be an R-12 zone too severe a change so soon.
Chestnut Street Partners, the developer of the project, originally asked for a density variance to build 31 homes, but agreed to eliminate two lots and to build a children’s playground to satisfy the requirement that recreational space be provided in the development.
"We feel this [meets] the definition of parks and playgrounds," said Abraham Penzer, the attorney who represented Chestnut Street Associates. The ordinance "doesn’t say passive or active. Our position is that if you want to sit and commune with nature in the wetlands, you can."
A large portion of the property is wetlands, necessitating the request for a variance so that each home could be built on less than 1 acre to make the project financially feasible, according to developer Joshua Goldstein, who spoke to the Tri-Town News last month.
Testimony was heard on Jan. 8 and Feb. 6, but no one from the public was able to address the board until March 1. By then, the board’s initial opposition to the project appeared to have faltered, according to Pezowicz.
"The last time people were asking tough questions," he said. "This time, I didn’t hear a peep out of (board members). The (developer) got everything (he) wanted without regard for the other people in the area."
Ken Sharkey, a neighbor of Pezowicz, also addressed the board on March 1. He agreed with his friend’s assessment.
"I wasn’t surprised," he said. "That’s just the way things go in Lakewood. Where’s it going to stop?"
Several residents of Chestnut Street were not upset by the prospect of new homes being built. They expressed their opinion by applauding Joe Russo, who described himself as the owner of the property on which the homes would be built, after he also addressed the board. Russo said he supported the waiver being granted.
"I believe this is a very good proposal that should improve the neighborhood and bring up [the value of] everybody’s [home]," said Russo.
As Russo was about to walk back to his seat, one of the board members called out to him for an explanation of his comments.
"Wait, sir," said John Patrick. "Can you tell us why building on smaller lots would improve the value" of everybody’s home?
"This is housing, not condos," said Russo.
Board members sat in silence for several minutes before Patrick continued his line of questioning.
"Applying your logic, [wouldn’t so many homes on so few acres] have a [detrimental] impact?" he asked.
"The houses on the block are [already zoned] smaller," Russo said and then walked back to his seat.
Several homes on side streets off Chestnut Street have comparable lot sizes to those proposed by Chestnut Street Partners, according to testimony.
Following the public comments, Penzer asked project engineer Brian S. Flannery if clustering homes on a portion of a development property will be the trend of future projects.
Flannery said yes, and added that the master plan in Lakewood would probably be adjusted in the future to reflect the state’s Smart Growth initiative, which he said supports clustering of residential developments.
Penzer told the board he thought the proposed Chestnut Street development would be an asset to the community.
"The houses will increase in value," the attorney said. "This builder is a known builder. The board will be pleasantly surprised."
Sharkey later said his concerns had not been allayed by the attorney’s words, nor was he surprised by Russo’s comments in support of the project.
"He (Russo) told me in January that he lived here for 45 years and only wants to get out," said Sharkey. "If he sold the property, why didn’t he move out? I always wondered about that. When I sold my house in Brick, I moved out. They’re going to have to tear his house down to build the houses."
Both Sharkey and Pezowicz speculated on Sunday that Russo’s compensation from Chestnut Street Partners was dependent on the number of houses approved by the board for construction there.
Russo was unable to be reached for comment.
More puzzling to both men was why the board members, who seemed to listen to Russo with what they thought was amusement, nevertheless approved the application to grant a waiver to build 29 homes on his property.
"The board seemed to be laughing at him, but they voted for it anyway," said Pezowicz.
"It’s crazy," said Sharkey. "I don’t mind the housing, but I thought there would be only four or five nice houses."
Patrick explained on Monday why he voted yes after asking Russo why he supported the project.
"Generally, I’m opposed to allowing R-12 and R-20 zones to be broken any smaller," he said. "(However, the applicant) gave up two buildable lots and provided a playground. He was just trying to hustle the most houses he could out of the project, but I thought I got as much (in return) as I could. (Even) if my vote (had been) no, it wouldn’t have changed anything."
Patrick also said that despite the concerns expressed by Sharkey and Pezowicz that a decision had been reached prior to the vote cast on the project, none of the board members had been in contact with each other beforehand.
He also said the project would not require a storm water basin to drain excess water from the site. Instead, said Patrick, a swale on the property will channel overflow water into several nearby streams.
Pezowicz told the Tri-Town News in December that he believed the project required a storm water basin.
Although no shovels have yet broken ground near his home, Sharkey said that just a few days ago he had again been approached to sell his property, which is adjacent to the Chestnut Street development site. Despite impending construction, he said he will not sell unless he is offered what he considers to be a fair market price.
"I put a lot of investment into my house and I’m not selling for less than $750,000," Sharkey said, adding that he has not yet received an offer he would accept.