As you all know Lakewood has experienced explosive growth. I watch all of the Zoning and Planning Board meetings and I am astounded at high density plans that seem to get approval after approval for no rhyme or reason. Old single family houses are knocked down to be replaced by a cul-de-sac with 7 homes. Forget duplexes, now there are triplexes. Yes, a single property becomes 3 upstairs and 3 downstairs families with 9-12 cars. Blocks with 10 homes and 10 families suddenly host 20-35 homes with 40-70 families and 80-140 cars. Traffic is getting worse and worse. Simple streets that should take minutes to travel across end up congested all day long. So why are all of these properties getting approved?
Even assuming that no illegal activities are taking place to get these approvals, it is very clear that the builders and developers have very close connections with the powers that be. There are less than a handful of lawyers and less than a handful of Professional Planners who appear before the board. It is sadly comical to watch as application after application is heard and it is the same exact Planner standing up there before the board explaining why this application should be approved. More often than not, a key part of the argument rests on the following.
A) All we are asking for is a variance of 7 feet (in the front and another 12 feet in the back and 9 feet on each side etc). Yes we need 25 parking spots but please grant us just 18. Keep in mind – last week you approved a similar variance! I’ve been before this board so many times and for so many years and they approved applications that pushed the line almost as far as this one, so that is now the new precedent. All I’m asking for now is to get just a small addition to what I’m already ‘entitled’ to.
B) This town has a housing shortage. We urgently need to help build more houses and higher density so that people have a place to live.
C) The master plan calls for more high density housing and if you twist the words in the master plan it practically requires you to approve this very application because after all, the master plan obviously wanted this and therefore it is obviously good for our town.
In regard to A, zoning laws were made for a reason. Builders should be required to for the most part conform to the laws. Can an occasional variance be requested and granted? Possibly. If circumstances warrant. However, that should be the exception and not the rule. Lately, every application has more and more and more variances and the assumption is that they should surely be granted since it’s just a few feet here and a few feet there. After all is said and done it makes a big difference. Apparently the lawyers and planners are too comfortable with the board and they’ve pushed the line so far and created new base lines making hitting a home run far too easy.
In regard to B, it seems that the majority of new houses built are being marketed (and priced) to people that don’t currently live in Lakewood. While I have nothing against people wanting to move here, Lakewood is by no means responsible to make changes to accommodate, and enable hundreds of people to move into small spaces further stretching out already taught infrastructure. We talk and talk about one day having 225K residents living in Lakewood. WAIT!! Why do we need to do that? Besides for the now available housing in Toms River, Jackson, Howell and Brick, why does Lakewood NEED to grow to 225K residents? What if there is simply no room for that? Is there really nowhere else for people to live? When will it end? Do we need to one day accommodate 500K? Or can there be a point where we’ve run out of room? Why can’t that point be now? Why the need to stretch and stretch to fill every lot with 6-8 families?
In regard to C, this is our chance. Every 10 years a new Master Plan is discussed, reviewed and adopted. The plan that is currently being drafted will pave the way for the next 10 years in Lakewood. Every allowance mentioned in there calling for more housing and higher density will be used by lawyers for the next 10 years to request more and more variances, approvals, and soon quadplexes. We must all give input to our elected officials that we do NOT need Lakewood to grow to 225K residents (doubling our current size!). We need the master plan to carefully restrain further building and not allow rampant density to continue and get worse.
So who gains from all of the new construction? 1) Developers 2) Builders 3) Realtors 4) Lawyers 5)Professional Planners (remember – they are paid by their client to explain how building a cul-de-sac where there was once a single house makes perfect sense) 6)People in NY who can’t afford a NY house but jump for the opportunity to buy a duplex in Lakewood for $650K. I truly hope that no committee members gain from any of this….
But who loses? All of the residents of Lakewood. Our quality of life goes drastically down as the traffic and congestion goes up. Even people moving from Brooklyn will one day no longer want to move here as the congestion and poor quality of live will rival Brooklyn’s! So why do we need to wait until that point? Why allow the city that we love and live in to spiral downward? Please stand up and make your voice heard.
· We DON’T want more density.
· We DON’T want to create new cul-de-sacs all over town.
· We DON’T want our quiet block to suddenly turn into a feeder to dozens of new houses bringing traffic and dozens of new people and cars to the area.
· We DON’T need to be the haven to accommodate and invite people looking to escape congested cities only to lead to the ultimate congestion of our city
· We WANT zoning laws to be strictly upheld.
· We WANT to new Master Plan to more strictly limit new building and not encourage more density
· We WANT to reclaim our quality of life and not stand by watching a few people take it all away from us.
So what can I do?
Email your committeemen - firstname.lastname@example.org – email@example.com – firstname.lastname@example.org – email@example.com - firstname.lastname@example.org
Beg them to reconsider the status quo and take into account the needs of the majority of Lakewood’s current residents before the pockets of a few builders and developers. And if they don’t listen? Oh there are plenty of others that would take their place on the committee in a heartbeat. Let this be the beginning of a movement. Take back Lakewood. It’s 2016. Let this travel via social media. Let the voices of the public be heard. And if they are not heard through our current politicians, let’s replace them and find others who agree to represent the majority and not just the powerbrokers.
The movement starts now. What was once the ‘powerful and few’ against the ‘weak and many’ will now shift as the many (yes that’s me and you) exercise our collective voice as one. Email TakeBackLakewood@gmail.com to share what you did and can do to reclaim our town.