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ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS, NJ - Last week Judge Owen McCarthy overturned the Atlantic Highlands planning board’s approval of developer Steven Denholtz’s proposal to build 16 homes on the waterfront tract known as the McConnell property.

Judge McCarthy’s ruling confirmed the position long-held by local residents who believed the development plans failed to meet the local zoning and procedural requirements, and he remanded the proposal back to the local board.  

“This decision is a big win for the community” said Robert O’Connor, President of Neighbors for Waterfront Preservation.   It validates the concerns of hundreds of residents who want open space, not over development, especially along the borough’s waterfront.” 

Among the issues addressed in the decision was whether or not a conditional use variance should have been required for the construction of a sewage pump station on the property.   The judge agreed with the objectors that a variance should have been requested by the developer (and required by the planning board) and the notice filed with local residents was insufficient. 

“The planning board was misled by its paid professionals and the developer, and now the board will have an opportunity to press the restart button and view the application through the appropriate lens," continued O’Connor.  

The decision also validated concerns of residents that the final planning board meeting was held on a day when their legal counsel was unable to attend, despite having notified the board a month ahead of time that his attendance would not be possible.  The judge agreed, concluding that the Board’s action was “arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable.”  

"This decision provides a window for the developer, the borough and the county to come together to preserve this property once and for all," said O’Connor.  "The community is counting on our elected officials to act responsibly and reject any proposed development.  Now more than ever, our well-being is driven by our ability to have open access to Sandy Hook Bay.”

[Editor's note:]

As the executive director of Monmouth Conservation Foundation, Bill Kastning offered the following statement:

"Time and time again, Monmouth County residents have come together to protect the open space they love. Judge McCarthy’s decision validates the hard work of these local residents to protect one of the last major parcels of land abutting Sandy Hook Bay. MCF looks forward to the opportunity to work with all parties to create a permanent public waterfront space for people to enjoy."

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