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Ocean Grove neighbors want blocked hotel site cleaned up

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OCEAN GROVE – Neighbors on Spray Avenue expected a new waterfront walkway at the north end of Ocean Grove, one with a mix of retail, condominiums, single-family homes and a hotel.

What they have now, they say, is “an eyesore.”

“Now it’s just an overgrown mess. And I feel like there’s no end in sight,” neighbor Gail Alba said of the 5.6 plot. acres that once housed the North End Hotel, a monument that was demolished in the 1970s.

Neighbors begged Neptune officials to do something to clean up the land they see each morning from their front door.

The Neptune Township committee says that one way or another the land will be cleaned up. The township is reaching out to developer, Ocean Grove North End Development LLC, to clean up the lot. If the developer doesn’t, Neptune could go ahead and clean it up himself and put a lien on the property for the costs, Mayor Michael Brantley said.

North End’s latest redevelopment plans have been in the works for at least three years and include the construction of a 40-room hotel, 10 single-family homes, about three dozen condominiums and mixed-use commercial space.

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But the key to the project is an underground parking lot, which officials said was essential to the project. Ocean Grove already faces a parking shortage that is exacerbated during the summer months with beach traffic and Asbury Park patrons looking for free parking in the town just steps south.

The underground parking plan is still before the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, which is reviewing the developer’s application for a Coastal Area Facility Review Act permit. Without this approval, the redevelopment project cannot proceed.

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A chain link fence was erected around the plot about a year ago, initially seen as a sign that construction was about to begin.

But as the days go by without movement, neighbors say the fence now gives the impression that the huge lot, which lies just south of Wesley Lake and the Asbury Park Casino, has been abandoned. Some neighbors say the view has become so ugly that they no longer invite guests to take a stroll along the lake.

Eileen Michaels, another neighbor, said that look of abandonment led some to use the land as a dumping ground. She told members of the city committee that she saw people walking their dogs drop bags of their dog’s droppings over the fence rather than throwing them in a trash can.

Frank Gaciofano, who also lives on Spray Avenue, said the fence, which runs the length of his street, makes him feel like he and his neighbors are fenced in as well.

“We feel like caged animals,” he said.

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Susanne Cervenka covers Monmouth County government and property tax issues, winning several state and regional awards for her work. She covered local government for 15 years, with stops in Ohio and Florida before arriving in New Jersey in 2013. Contact her at @scervenka; 732-643-4229; [email protected]