Multimillion-dollar hotel plan needs zoning change

MIDDLE TOWNSHIP — A proposal to bring a four-story, $16 million hotel to Middle Township by 2021 needs a change in zoning, one of many steps a company called Cape May Hospitality needs to complete in order to build the project.

The 100-room Hampton Inn hotel is planned for the northbound entrance to the Garden State Parkway off Stone Harbor Boulevard, now the site of the architectural firm Design Collaborative at 414 Garden State Parkway. The site is one of the few in New Jersey to have an address on the parkway.

Representatives of the company presented the plan at the Monday, May 20, workshop meeting of the Middle Township Committee to request the site’s zoning be changed from rural conservation to town center.

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“They’ve got some work to do,” said Mayor Timothy Donohue. If Township Committee rezones the site at an upcoming meeting, the project will still need a site plan approved by the Planning Board, state approval under the Coastal Area Facilities Review Act, better known as CAFRA, and approval of a plan to bring a sewer line to the site.

Donohue said he supports the zoning change, which has the endorsement of the township Planning Board. He said he believes the project will be good for the township.

As proposed, the hotel would be the only Hampton Inn in the county, said Tom Hillegass, an attorney representing Cape May Hospitality. He estimated the hotel will bring $2.5 million a year in new business to Middle Township.

“It’s very rare that you can put a Hampton Inn in this area,” Hillegass said.

The property is set on the east side of the parkway in a forested area near the marsh. According to Scott Brown, an engineer working on the project, the site should have been listed as part of the Cape May Court House town center designation.

In April, the Planning Board endorsed the zoning change, in part citing a previous recommendation from 2014.

Hillegass said the four-and-a-half acre site does not include wetlands, but there are wetland areas adjacent to the property.

He described the site, which is highly visible from the parkway, as the perfect site of the hotel.

The Cape May Hospitality investment group consists of Ernie Felici, Greg DeMarrais and Robert Frey. DeMarrais and Frey were not at the Monday meeting, but Felici, a Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, resident, addressed Township Committee.

“I’m not new to the Jersey Shore. My grandparents met in Stone Harbor. My dad grew up lifeguarding in Brigantine and spent his formative years coming to North Wildwood,” he said.

DeMarrais has been involved with developing more than 100 hotels in 15 states, Felici said. Felici described Frey as the main partner in Cape May Hospitality. Frey lives in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and vacations in Stone Harbor. According to Felici, Frey sees the project as an opportunity to do something in an area he loves.

Hampton by Hilton, formerly known as Hampton Inn, is owned by Hilton Worldwide Holdings, It is described as upper-midscale lodging. As Felici mentioned at the Monday meeting, it would be one of the few national chain hotels in Cape May County, where most hotels, motels and inns are family or individually owned.

He said most hotels in the county are seasonal, while the proposed Hampton property would be open all year and focus on business travelers as much as on the summer crowds heading to the beach.

Part of the focus will be tourism beyond the beach, he said.

“While the overflow shore business will be the low-hanging fruit during the summer, it is our goal to capitalize and focus on serving the local community,” he said. “We understand that the community offers other amenities, destinations and events other than the wonderful coastline. We hope to serve traveling youth sports, weddings, traveling birdwatching groups, golf, just to name a few.”

The hotel will serve breakfast, Felici said, but is not planned to have a restaurant, which he said will mean additional customers for Middle Township eateries. It will have a five-seat bar in the lobby, he said, describing it as a convenience to its guests.

There will be a meeting room, outdoor pavilion and an indoor pool, he said. He described the target of completion by the spring of 2021 as very aggressive.

There are more than 2,000 Hampton Inn locations around the world, with the closest to Cape May County being the Hampton Inn Atlantic City at 338 E. White Horse Pike in Absecon.

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June 5, 2019 at 01:04AM