Ocean City Board Vote Delayed for Soleil Condo-Hotel

first_imgBy Donald WittkowskiOpponents sparred with the developer of a proposed condo-hotel during an Ocean City Planning Board hearing Wednesday night that ended with no vote on the project.Instead, the board decided to continue the hearing for the six-story Soleil Resort until its April 6 meeting. It marked the second time in two months that the board delayed voting.Despite the lack of a vote, some fireworks were exchanged between the attorney representing the developer, Select Properties Inc., and the lawyer for the project’s chief opponent, the Flanders Hotel.The 111-unit Soleil Resort is proposed on vacant land that now serves as a parking lot next to the Flanders at the corner of Ocean Avenue and 11th Street. Soleil potentially represents a formidable competitor for the historic Flanders, one of the city’s iconic businesses.Flanders attorney Christopher Baylinson accused Select Properties of playing “a trick” by revising its plans to try to quell public criticism.“That’s not how this game is played,” Baylinson said.“It’s not a game,” shot back Nicholas Talvacchia, Select’s attorney. “We have a right to hear your objections.”Select is expected to submit revised plans to the board next week. John Heckler, a principal with Select, said the changes will address concerns raised by the public about Soleil’s parking, traffic flow, signage and hotel operations.During last month’s planning board hearing, more than 20 members of the public, many of them condo owners at the Flanders, spoke against the Soleil. They claimed the project would cause parking and traffic disruptions in the heart of town.In an interview after Wednesday’s hearing, Heckler stressed that he is “definitely” committed to building the project despite the opposition from the Flanders.The proposed site for the Soleil is within a redevelopment zone that envisions a “first-class resort hotel.” Critics allege that Select has no serious plans to build a hotel and simply wants to develop a condo project.An architect’s drawing shows how the proposed Soleil condominium-hotel complex might look at 11th Street and Ocean Avenue in Ocean City, NJ.Heckler and Joe Ernst, another principal in the development group, strongly denied those allegations.“It’s going to operate as a hotel,” Heckler said.“This property will operate with more hotel amenities than any other hotel on the island,” Ernst added.Features of the project include hotel-style maid service, valet parking and professional management. Select has pledged that Soleil would operate as a hotel at all times.However, a professional planner representing the Flanders scoffed at those claims. He said the Soleil is really a condo project in disguise and would lack the amenities to truly function as a hotel.“This looks like a residential project to me, not a hotel,” said planner Vincent Orlando of Engineering Design Associates in Upper Township.Orlando also criticized the Soleil’s proposed traffic flow, parking arrangements and signage. He said the project would not conform to the city’s redevelopment plan for a resort hotel at the site.According to Orlando, Select has engaged in a “classic bait and switch” by revising the project after a proposed hotel was approved by the planning board for the same site in 2007.Talvacchia, though, said it was another development group that wanted to develop the 2007 project. When that project failed to secure financing, the Pennsylvania-based Select Properties stepped in to take control of the development site.Soleil’s proposed hybrid condo-hotel ownership structure is crucial for securing financing for the project. Soleil’s condo owners would make their units available to overnight guests to satisfy the city’s requirement for the property to operate as a hotel at “all times.”Condo owners would not be allowed to stay in their units for more than 120 days per year, freeing up the rooms for hotel guests most of the time, Select has said.last_img

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