Condo-Hotel Project Wins Approval From Planning Board

Condo-Hotel Project Wins Approval From Planning Board

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Shown with the Flanders Hotel in the background, the Soleil Resort property at the corner of 11th Street and Ocean Avenue is currently used as a parking lot.

By DONALD WITTKOWSKI

A proposed luxury condo-hotel that has languished on the drawing board for more than 15 years has received final approval from the Ocean City Planning Board at the same time the property is listed for sale.

Dubbed Soleil Resort, the project would include 111 condo units in a six-story building overlooking the Boardwalk at 11th Street and Ocean Avenue next to the historic Flanders Hotel.

The planning board granted final site plan approval on May 12 during a Zoom meeting that produced no comments from the public.

During three stormy public hearings in 2016 that led up to the planning board’s initial rejection of the project, opponents claimed that Soleil was too big for the surrounding neighborhood and would create gridlock on local streets already congested during the peak summer tourism season.

Soleil’s developer, Select Properties Inc., of Colmar, Pa., responded with a lawsuit challenging the board’s denial. In 2017, a state Superior Court judge ruled that the board had exceeded its authority and acted in an “arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable” manner when it rejected the project.

The judge ordered the board to approve the project, concluding that it fully complied with the requirements of the city’s redevelopment zone where it would be built. Faced with no other choice, the planning board gave its initial approval in 2017.

The board’s vote on May 12 for final site plan approval included conditions that Select Properties agreed to with the planning board.

“It was a given for final site plan approval. They jumped through all the hoops and did all they could,” John Loeper, the planning board chairman, said in an interview Wednesday.

Neither representatives of Select Properties nor the company’s attorney could be reached for comment Wednesday.

It has been a long, arduous process for the developers since they first proposed the project in 2005. Since then, Soleil has gone through a number of changes to reflect the wishes of the planning board as well as the conditions in the Ocean City real estate market.

As part of the planning board’s final site plan approval, the developers must start construction within five years, Loeper said.

However, the nearly two-acre property is listed for sale on LoopNet.com, a commercial real estate website. The sale price is currently not publicly disclosed, but when the property first hit the market on LoopNet.com in 2018 it was listed for $30 million.

According to the listing, the property has “full approval for a condo-hotel resort with nearly 120 units.”

An architectural rendering on a sign at the Soleil Resort property depicts what the condo-hotel would look like when completed.

The site is currently used as a parking lot. Signs placed on the property include an architectural rendering of the project and boast that Soleil Resort will be “The Ultimate Luxury Condominium Resort.”

The high-end theme is also promoted on the project’s website at SoleilResortNJ.com. It says the project “promises to set the new standard for luxury condominium living in Cape May County.”

Amenities would include maid service, a pool and sun deck with ocean views, a spa, a restaurant and a parking garage with nearly 400 spaces, according to the website.

The condos would include three bedrooms and two baths within 1,100 square feet of living space. They would also have balconies or a covered porch. Prices are not listed for the condos.

City Councilman Keith Hartzell, Council’s liaison to the planning board, said the entire project must be built before Select Properties can start selling the condo units.

In the past, developers have said the resort would function as a hotel. While the six-story building would remain a hotel resort, the individual units would be sold as condominiums, they said. Under Select’s plan, individual condo owners would rent out their units to hotel guests.

The project drew intense objections during the 2016 planning board hearings from some local business owners and members of the community who contended that Soleil was a poorly disguised condominium complex, not the condo-hotel that the developers insisted they plan to build.

In particular, the project aroused fierce public opposition from residents in the adjacent Flanders Hotel, which operates as a condo-hotel. Soleil was regarded in 2016 as a potential competitor for the Flanders, one of the city’s most historic and iconic businesses.

But now, Soleil Resort is being touted a “complement” for the Flanders.

“The redevelopment plan envisions a first-class year-round resort hotel at the corner of 11th and Ocean that will complement The Flanders Hotel, support Boardwalk business and stimulate tourism,” according to a planning board report.

“The resort hotel is to be a destination that capitalizes on this unique location with architecture, amenities and a streetscape carefully designed to reinforce the historic architecture of The Flanders Hotel,” the report adds.

The parking garage proposed for Soleil Resort would also serve the Flanders. Already, the Flanders uses part of the Soleil property for parking.

Soleil would have to make 152 of its parking spaces available to the Flanders as part of the requirements of a 1995 deed restriction for the property.

An aerial photo included with the LoopNet.com sales listing shows the location of the proposed development site.