Chad Ludeman of Lokal 3 Penny LLC of Cape May unveiled conceptual plans for an “eco-friendly, boutique” motel for couples on a flag lot off Wood Street to the Tuckerton Land Use Board last week.
Ludeman is proposing to build a 23-room, single-story motel around a pool with a hot tub, cold plunge pool, sauna and spa on 7.1 acres behind Greenwood Cemetery. The landlocked parcel is zoned B2, a designation that allows motels, hotels, schools or commercial buildings. To access the property, Ludeman is proposing to build an 18-foot-wide, 387-foot-long roadway on a residential lot (lot 5.03) from Wood Street. And that proposal is what led the land use board to carry the application to its next meeting on Oct. 21.
Although the board listened for three hours to the application and some of the protests from Wood Street residents – 25 of them represented by attorney Robin LaBue – in the end it came down to the question of how the 28-foot-wide strip of land in the R-100 zone, where 100 feet of frontage is required, was created. Board attorney Robert Shinn suggested that there was no lot 5.03 until attorney Howard Butensky created a deed.
“This is something you should follow up with, otherwise the hardship you describe is something you yourself created. We need to see the chain of title,” said Shinn. He suggested the applicant hire a title search company. “It’s important for the borough to know how this lot was created.”
The applicant’s attorney, Peter Chacanias, said the lot was shown in a 1981 subdivision of the original lot 5 when that was purchased from the Chilcoate family.
During the public comment period, Albert “Sonny” Skeie said the property was originally his when he purchased it from Dave Chilcoate. “His daughter wanted a lane to go back so her son could build a house back there,” said Skeie.
Another resident of Wood Street said he had purchased his property from Chilcoate at the same time as Skeie. “My property was the original farmhouse,” said Richard Fitzgibbon. “That piece of land does not have a lot number attached to it. It was a minor subdivision to create two lots. It was his intent (Chilcoate) to have the property in back in case his children wanted to build on it.”
Fitzgibbon, who is a Realtor, also said no one has ever paid taxes on a lot 5.03. “I sat with the (borough) tax assessor for an hour today and that does not exist as a lot.”
If the lot in question (5.03) was created in 1984, it was illegal, said board member Wayne Tonnesen, because the borough’s ordinance creating the R-100 zone was adopted in 1974.
Another issue facing the development of the larger parcel where the motel would be built is on-site wetlands. The larger parcel located in the B2 zone has extensive wetlands on it and is a tributary of Lake Pohatcong. Recently the tributaries of the lake have received C1 status through the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, which means any building must have a 300-foot buffer from the wetlands.
Chacanias said that would not be a problem, as the motel is to be sited away from the wetlands. The applicant is also asking for a waiver on an environmental impact statement.
A traffic study done by David Shropshire and Associates said the number of trips generated by the motel would be very low: 11 in the morning, 12 in the afternoon and 17 during peak hours on Saturday. “It’s not a large facility,” he said, adding that what is permitted in the zone, schools and churches, would generate much more traffic.
“From a planning perspective, it won’t be a detriment to the public good,” Chacanias stated.
Tonnesen asked how 17 trips an hour on a Saturday would compare to a residential use of the property since the access point is in a residential zone. “Have you done a traffic study of Wood Street itself?” he questioned Chacanias.
Board member Mike Dupree said Wood Street has become a major thoroughfare as an alternative to Route 9 from West Creek to Tuckerton. “In the southern portion it is barely a two-lane highway. If a car and a pickup truck travel at the same time, one has to drive the shoulder.”
Shropshire said if a school were to locate there it would generate over 91 trips, “nine times higher than what we are proposing.”
“A school that doesn’t exist,” said board member Jim McAndrew.
Earlier in the testimony, Dupree asked how Ludeman had come across the property. Ludeman answered that it was the only B2 property in the borough, and the fact that it was in the woods was a selling point. “We have three hotels and one vacation home in Philadelphia, and a mini-resort in Cape May. Since COVID, building in urban areas did not make sense. So we decided to look in shore towns. Cape May and Long Beach Island are too expensive, but Tuckerton is just 15 miles from LBI. We wanted to do something different, a nature retreat. We like the site. It is fully wooded and has nice, mature trees.
“We see it as an eco-resort, a retreat, a place to relax and disconnect. There won’t be any TVs in the rooms. We want the focus to be on nature.”
Ludeman said they hope to do a carbon-neutral product, orienting the buildings to the south to provide for solar panels, and are looking into heating the pool with a geothermal heat source. There would be no restaurant, no liquor license, but perhaps a food truck just for the guests, he added.
“We have no desire or intention to do large events, no live music,” he continued. “And our quiet hours would start at 9 p.m. and we would make sure everyone was behaving themselves. With technology: cameras outside and noise sensors in the rooms that would alert us over the phone. And if it didn’t stop, we would turn off their Wi-Fi.”
— Pat Johnson