Toms River planners have approved a plan to subdivide a Hooper Avenue retail space, provided the applicant construct no more than three units in the building.
The plan by applicant Toms River Equities for a use variance to divide the former home of Coconuts Music and Movies at 1258 Hooper Ave. first came before the township's Planning Board in early December. At the time, board members expressed concern that the single space across from the Ocean County Mall could become a strip mall.
"I just don't see this building working divided into two or three units, or five units," board Chairman Bill Suchodolski said at the time.
The applicant returned in mid-December and proposed that no more than four tenants will occupy the space. A counter proposal of three units was made by the board and accepted by board members, according to the resolution outlining the approval passed by the board on Jan. 16.
A Jersey Mike's Subs and a Chipotle Mexican Grill are planned for two of the spaces; it remains unclear what will occupy the third or when construction will begin to retrofit the building.
Under the three-unit plan for the 14,568 square foot building, one space will be 3,648 square feet and the remaining two must comply with the 5,000 square foot minimum space requirement set by ordinance, according to the resolution.
During his first appearance before the board in December, applicant planner Brett Skapinetz contended that the space has adequate parking and would not resemble a strip mall. Further, finding one retailer to occupy the one space, which has been vacant for about two years, would be more difficult than attracting several smaller businesses, he said.
"There are fewer tenants than there used to be in that mid-size range," Skapinetz said at the time. "If it's multi-tenant, it doesn't become a strip center. It's the same building that's already there. All of the characteristics of the neighborhood stay the same."