By Donald Wittkowski
Blitz’s Market, a landmark in Sea Isle City’s Townsends Inlet section, will be transformed into an entirely new grocery store as part of a multimillion-dollar commercial and residential development.
By a 5-0 vote Monday night, the Planning Board gave final site plan approval for the proposed project at the corner of 85th Street and Landis Avenue.
The development group said a new Blitz’s Market will anchor the project. Blitz’s has been a fixture in Townsends Inlet for about 30 years. Frank Di Renzo will continue to own the market when it is rebuilt, the developers said.
“People in the neighborhood love Blitz’s Market,” developer Christopher Glancey said. “I think they will love being able to go to a new store to do their shopping. It’s just another great addition for the Townsends Inlet section.”
Glancey, who is also the president of the Sea Isle City Chamber of Commerce and Revitalization, is teaming up with partner Bob Morris to develop the project.
In addition to having a new Blitz’s Market, the project will include nine luxury condominiums above the grocery store.
Earlier this summer, Glancey and Morris celebrated the grand opening of their upscale Dunes condominium, restaurant and banquet complex on Landis Avenue between 86th and 87th streets in Townsends Inlet.
Glancey declined to disclose the exact cost of the new project, but said it will be in the millions of dollars.
Glancey explained that the existing Blitz’s Market has reached the end of its useful lifespan and will be replaced by a more modern version. Construction is scheduled to begin in the fall and be completed by next spring.
Joe Romano, owner of Sea Isle Ice Co., spoke in support of the project during the public portion of the Planning Board meeting.
“It’s a beautiful building,” Romano said. “I think it’s an asset to Sea Isle.”
In other business Monday, the Planning Board scrutinized the city’s proposed updated master plan, a blueprint for zoning regulations, growth, economic development and other key issues on the community.
After discussing and tweaking the 58-page document for more than an hour, the board authorized a public hearing for the master plan. It is scheduled for 7 p.m. Sept. 12 at City Hall.
The public hearing will be a key part of the process of crafting the final version of the document before it is formally approved by the Planning Board, probably in the fall or winter. The board will be seeking public feedback and suggestions.
“This isn’t cast in stone,” Andrew Previti, the Planning Board’s engineer, said of the master plan likely undergoing further revisions based on public input.
Glancey and Romano were the only two members of the public who were present during the board’s discussion of the master plan Monday.
Romano cautioned the board not to “swing the pendulum too far” in the opposite direction of the city’s existing zoning and planning regulations.
Glancey said he was concerned that the updated master plan might recommend making too many changes that could “punish” commercial developers. He said the city needs to take “a hard look” at the document before it is given final approval.
This represents the first time Sea Isle has updated its master plan since 2007. In New Jersey, municipalities are required to update their master plans every 10 years, so Sea Isle is actually a year ahead of that timetable.
Sea Isle’s master plan covers an array of issues, including zoning, planning, economic development, housing density, commercial construction, flood protection, beach replenishment, transportation, parking and recreation.
“It’s one of the most important documents that any municipality in New Jersey can do,” City Business Administrator George Savastano said. “It forms the blueprint for the city’s vision of the future.”
At the same time, Savastano stressed that the master plan is more of a guide post for growth and other issues than anything else.
“It’s a plan, not a regulation or a law,” he said. “Sometimes, people can get confused by this.”
Savastano was one of the city officials to work with outside contractor Maser Consulting to create a draft version of the master plan. He said the updated version does not propose sweeping changes in the city.
“I don’t think it makes big changes. I would say it’s more of a refinement of what we already have,” he said. “This document, to me, will serve to refine that.”
Property owners in neighborhoods where zoning changes are proposed in the updated plan will be notified in advance of the public hearing.
Savastano noted that among the highlights, the master plan will explore converting the city’s old school into recreational uses and pursuing development opportunities for the marina area at the foot of the John F. Kennedy Boulevard gateway into town.
Sea Isle began to gather public feedback on the master plan last summer in a municipal survey that generated more than 3,000 responses. Traffic congestion, parking problems and fears about another Hurricane Sandy-type storm were all high on the list of public concerns in the survey.