aha building frontPHOTO:  Front view of proposed new building on First Avenue in Atlantic Highlands.  The building would house commercial units on the first floor and 18 residential units above.  Lofts and outdoor patios on the 4th floor are hidden behind the wall on the roof.  The plan requires 82 parking spaces.

ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS – A public hearing is scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 12 at Borough Hall on a proposed four story commercial and residential use project slated to be constructed on First Avenue where there is currently a vacant lot and a beauty salon.

Mazin Kalian of Tinton Falls filed the application on behalf of Atlantic Highlands Associates II,  LLC, which is planning the construction of commercial space on the first floor and 13 one bedroom and 5 two-bedroom units above. Kalian is president of  the company he founded in Red Bank in 1986 which has done construction throughout New Jersey as well as in Pennsylvania and Tennessee, specializing primarily in single family homes, adult communities and mixed uses. Kalian is hopeful of breaking ground on a second project in this borough, the site of the former Skipper’s Shop on First Ave. within the next few weeks.

At issue for a variance to permit the application is whether a loft is another name for floor, since loft is not defined in the local code. The code limits all construction in the historic business district to three stories and a  height no greater than 40 feet; the plans call for the five two bedroom apartments to have a loft in the third story apartments to be used as the second bedroom. Kalian said he does not believe the construction exceeds the 40 foot limit. Plans also call for 13 one-bedroom units  with commercial space to be permitted on the first floor. Although the building will also have an elevator, the builder pointed out appurtenances such as elevator shafts are allowed on roof tops and can exceed the 40 foot limitation.

Property planned for the construction 60 and 68 First Avenue, currently a vacant lot and a building owned by Mayor Fred Rast. That building includes a beauty salon currently rented by Cindy Fligor, wife of Councilman Lou Fligor. The councilman was in the news primarily in June when he lost the GOP primary race for mayor the which was won by Councilman Jack Archibald by a large margin. The day before the November election last week, Rast, a Republican who had backed Fligor in the Primary,  issued a letter urging residents to vote Democrat and support Randi LeGrice, the Democrat committee chairman, and council candidates incumbent councilman Roy Dellosso and Chamber of Commerce president Chuck Lero, who were ultimately successful by an overwhelming majority.

Neighbors on Second Avenue, which is adjacent to the proposed construction, are concerned about whether people in the new building would use residential street parking and access the proposed building from an adjacent parking lot at the rear of the property. 

The plans note that 82 parking spaces will be required and the municipal lot within 600 feet of the project will be used to meet that number.  The municipal lot has a total of 115 spaces for the use of patrons to the Historic Business District.

Allan Dean, whose historic house and property are immediately adjacent to the proposed construction, said he feels the project is a good one for the borough but questions whether the scope is too large. He admitted to having mixed feelings about the project, based on not having sufficient information on whether the loft question can be resolved, and if the lot adjacent to his property is being considered either for use or access. Dean, who served on the Planning Board from 1999- 2006, also wants answers to his questions about the geological structure of the land beneath the vacant lot. Before the beauty salon, Franklin’s 5&10 was on the site, he recalled, and frequently had water and drainage problems, with runoff going into the vacant property. He wondered whether the land can support a three or four story building, and if pile drivers are used in construction, whether it would be detrimental to his own more than a century year old home, located within 50 feet of the site.

Other residents questioned whether allowing a building taller than the 35 feet which is the height of most of the buildings in the historic business district, would create a canopy effect and cast shadows on the business district.  Although limiting height because of that possibility was a recommendation of planners earlier in the 21st century, it was never adopted by the governing body, Dean said.

Balconies planned for the second floor of the new complex and building floodlights would be opposite homes that are on the properties to the rear. 

Kalian, who is currently building Cottage Gate at Little Silver, adjacent to the railroad station, and has built thousands of homes in several states, said the lofts over the third floor apartments would not be visible from First Avenue.  He estimated rentals would range from $1500 to$1700 for one bedroom units and $2500 for the two bedroom units.  The property at 35 First Avenue, site of the former Skipper’s Shop, would also be apartments on upper levels and retail space at street level, similar in style to the proposal at 60-68 First Avenue.