By Jay Cook |HAZLET – The township has rolled out the welcome mat for the establishment of a new hotel on Route 35 South in Hazlet, on the Holmdel border.On Nov. 30, the Hazlet Land Use Board unanimously approved a four-story Holiday Inn Express hotel at 2780 Route 35, to be situated on a wooded lot behind an existing two-story Holiday Inn hotel and a commercial building housing Hazlet Pharmacy and Casual Male XL.Some neighboring residents along Miller and Orchard avenues in Holmdel expressed ire during the four-month-long process. Holmdel’s governing body passed a resolution opposing the project, citing quality-of-life concerns for its residents. Holmdel’s mayor, Gregory Buontempo, told the board the new four-story hotel “is literally going to be on top of these one-story homes.”But the plans earned the seal of approval from those who want to see more businesses in town.The current state of the 3-acre lot to be developed as a Holiday Inn Express hotel, which will be four stories tall with 93 rooms.Barbara Ronchetti, a Hazlet committeewoman, said Hazlet has been trying to encourage new businesses along the Route 35 corridor to boost the value of property and increase ratables. Not far away, several large businesses are shuttered, including Kmart, Pathmark, Sports Authority, Frank’s Nursery, Red Oak Diner and Friendly’s.The hotel, Ronchetti said, would be a nice addition to Hazlet. “With our redevelopment plan in place, I feel this hotel will be a great tax revenue for our residents and a very pleasant sight on our highway.”But Steve White, who lives near the hotel property in Holmdel, saw no convincing reason Hazlet should allow two hotels on essentially the same property.“It’s not like we have a theme park here, a convention center or conference halls here,” said White, criticizing the business plan. “All we have is a beach and that really doesn’t justify a hotel.”He added, “Think about it, guys. Think about what you might sign off on.”The new Holiday Inn Express proposed by Gode Hotels would be 13,663 square feet with 93 rooms on its four levels. At its closest point, the hotel would be 92 feet from the nearest property line, where at least 80 feet is required. Building plans describe an indoor swimming pool, small market, lifestyle lounge and a fitness room.Also included in the application was a financial subdivision, meaning the total 7-acre property would be split into two. The existing Holiday Inn will now be on a 3.9-acre lot and the new hotel would be built on 3 acres of an undeveloped, wooded and sandy lot.At the first meeting in mid-August, hotel planner Yomesh Patel told the board the new Holiday Inn Express would be an “upper-scale” hotel, aimed to “attract the right type of clients.” It will not be pet-friendly, smoking won’t be allowed inside or on the premises and it would not market lodging to truckers and laborers, the hotel’s experts said on Nov. 30.Attorney Jeffrey Gale, representing Gode Hotels, said in August the existing Holiday Inn could be sold and rebranded in the future as a Quality Inn or similar style hotel. The Holiday Inn is currently owned by Gode Hotels, the applicant for the Holiday Inn Express.Residents along the border in Holmdel took issue with building another hotel that would stand right behind their houses. Miller Avenue resident Dean Labarca is the closest to the new hotel site. He said it doesn’t make sense for the space.“This is like something that takes place in Brooklyn,” Labarca said. “This is the suburbs. To put this two pounds of baloney in a one-pound spot I think is ridiculous.”An aerial view of the new property approved for a new Holiday Inn Express in Hazlet. It lies between the rear of the Hazlet Pharmacy and behind homes along Miller Avenue in the foreground. Google MapsWhat made the application unique was how the entire hotel property was not a permitted use in its current business park zone. Yet it was specifically noted in Hazlet’s June 2017 master plan reexamination to be changed to the business highway zone, where a hotel would be allowed.Gale, the attorney, told The Two River Times his client did plenty to accommodate the homeowners. They agreed to remove overgrown shrubbery at the hotel egress onto Miller Avenue, replace a dilapidated 6-foot fence with a new, 8-foot privacy fence and prohibit large truck parking along the rear of the property, which is adjacent to residential property.“That’s part of the reason you go through the hearing process,” Gale said. “The hearing process is never intended to be one-sided. It’s an opportunity for the applicant to present his case, it’s also an opportunity for the surrounding property owners to express their specific concerns.”When built, the Holiday Inn Express would join Holiday Inn, Best Western Hazlet Inn, Holmdel Motor Inn and the Shore Point Motel as lodging options along Route 35.Gale said Gode Hotels’ next step would be to apply to the state Department of Transportation because the plans detail an ingress from Route 35, a state highway. They would also need to draft parking and easement agreements with the Hazlet Pharmacy and Casual Male XL property owner to allow for a driveway between the two properties.Gale added he could not give a definite time on when ground would break because he isn’t privy to Gode Hotels’ financing situation. But he said his client accomplished the most important thing – “to accommodate the neighbors and address their concerns.”This article was first published in the Dec. 7-14, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.