PHOTO: 10 Ocean, formerly known as Highlandia, later Harborview Tower, seeks to add units.  Photo credit: Allan Dean

ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS, NJ -   The attorney for Ten Ocean, the 10 story high rise at First Ave and Ocean Blvd., submitting an amended application seeking to add three new apartments to the 81 unit building at the Feb. 11 meeting of the Planning Board will still face challenges from former Planning Board Chairman Richard Stryker, a prominent businessman in the borough.

Stryker, owner of Bayshore Pharmacy on Route 36,and a native of the borough, was chairman of the planning board for six years and a member for more than 11 years. “Although I’m not on the planning board any more, I still have a major interest in everything that goes on here, and the planning board in particular, since I have devoted so much time to it,” the pharmacist said. He added that as a businessman paying taxes in the municipality, he also has an interest in how major applications that impact the entire community are decided.

In the case of Ten Ocean, known as the Highlandia when it was built in the 1960s, Stryker said he was reviewing the application before it was first presented to the planning board for action at last week’s regular planning board meeting. At that time, the owner was requesting approval to create three new apartments and add two more parking spaces.

Stryker said he knew the application needed more than planning board approval, because the changes requested consisted of more than simple interior changes. Not only that, he continued, but the parking spaces were planned to be created by taking away from designated fire lanes for emergency vehicles. Such changes, he said, require a D variance, meaning they required approval from the zoning board.

Stryker said apparently the board’s subcommittee met with the applicants, who chose to withdraw the application before last week’s meeting, and instead, have re-filed for a variance without the request for parking changes.

Stryker still does not believe the matter can be handled with simple planning board approval. “They’ve really got my interest up, because this is my community,” he said, “and I’ve researched further.” Such investigation, he said, shows the Highlandia was originally approved through a variance, which means it cannot be extended without zoning approval. The original variance allowed for 80 apartments. “This application says there are 81 apartments there, and I don’t know how or when that happened,” he continued. “So allowing for another three would certainly require a variance.”

Some years after the original approval, which included free parking, free laundry, and a free beach, according to advertisements from the era, the building’s owners have charged additionally for parking, and there is no free laundry or private beach access. “So adding additional parking spaces means increasing a revenue source they did not have when the original variance was granted,: he continued, adding he did not know from any records he has researched when or if approval was ever granted for increasing the revenue source through parking fees.

Further, Stryker said, the current parking spaces do not meet required specifications. If handicapped accessible parking spaces are added, including one for wheelchair access, which is wider than other handicapped spaces, “all of the parking would have to be re-lined nad brought up to standards. “ A quick survey, he said, showed that would reduce the number of spaces considerably,. “and you certainly can’t reduce numbers when it took a variance to get 80 apartments in the first place.”

The planning and zoning boards in the borough are combined, however, the mayor representative and council representative who serve on the planning board cannot vote on zoning matters which require the affirmative votes of five members.

The application as submitted for the Feb. 11 meeting does not address parking, which will be discussed between the applicant and the board before the application is heard. The application calls for replacing the current public rooms in the building, the locker area for the pool, the exercise room, and a community room, with the new apartments. The exercise equipment has been moved from the former exercise room to an area created from the back entry to the building, creating a small foyer there. The only community space that remains currently is the large foyer at the main entrance to the building by the parking lot, which has been newly remodeled.

Rents in the luxury building, which has been undergoing extensive interior renovations, range from approximately $1500 for a one bedroom unit on the first floor per month to close to $3500 for a two bedroom unit on the tenth floor, plus the parking fees and electric. Both the $35 a month parking fee and the $70 per month electric fees are being raised, say some tenants who have received notices of increases to $45 and $80 respectively.