Wall Speedway wants to close, develop housing but township hits brakes
WALL — The owners of the Wall Speedway announced plans to close the 69-year-old racetrack at the end of the 2020 season but it will not be an easy race to win.
The Speedway on Route 34 announced Wednesday that the property would make way for 348 townhouses and apartments to be built by Pulte Homes. Seventy of the new homes will be made available to low/moderate-income residents.
Wall Speedway said its representatives will present plans at Wednesday night's Township Committee meeting.
Wall Township Administrator Jeff Bertrand, however, told New Jersey 101.5 that the property is not zoned for residential use and the township has no plans to change that.
"There's also some nuances with that property because the front half of it cannot be used for residential as it is in the safety zone of the nearby Monmouth Jet Center," Bertrand said.
Speedway's owners said its location is one of the "least obtrusive sites" for the mandated 1,250 affordable housing homes be built in Wall. The stretch of Route 34 between the Wall Circle and Route 195 is mostly industrial with office buildings, the Jet Center and a sand pit.
Bertrand said that there have been longstanding rumors the Speedway was going to close permanently. The Asbury Park Press reported the raceway planned to "close for good" in 2008 but it reopened.
Bertrand also said he has seen three housing plans that are similar to the latest proposal for the 49-acre property. He said the township has been working to develop its own plan, which is scheduled to be presented at the Township Committee on Wednesday night.
"It is not surprising to the Township the aggressiveness of the some of the developers that would like to build high-density market rate housing under the guise of affordable housing in Wall Township," Bertrand said. "Since the Fair Share Housing Center first petitioned the New Jersey Supreme Court challenging the state’s Council on Affordable Housing to adopt new regulations in 2014, the Township has been inundated with developers and attorneys and real estate consultants that claim to represent such developers for proposed projects such as this one."
He said it appears that the Speedway and Pulte are attempting to "circumvent the settlement" with their announcement the day the township is scheduled to present. Bertrand sees it as "the beginning of a challenge to our proposed plan."
The township plan would allow it to "continue to control its own development destiny through its zoning ordinances and other development controls by remaining immune to builder’s remedy lawsuits."
In a statement, Speedway said that most of its 49-acre property with "giant parking lots that lie mostly dormant" except for a few events every year has been "grossly underutilized for decades."
EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this article should have said the Speedway has been open for 69 years.