Victoria Rose Project Vote Delayed Until Next Week

May 16, 2018
File Photo by: Ryan Morrill Located at the corner of Bay Avenue and Sixth Street, the brick structure was built in 1963 as the headquarters for the old Beach Haven National Bank.

At the urging of numerous residents attending the Beach Haven Borough Council meeting on Monday night, borough officials tabled an ordinance approving the old Beach Haven bank building as a site for redevelopment. The ordinance will come up again for adoption at an agenda meeting scheduled for Thursday, May 24, at 4 p.m.

Earlier this year, partners Terry Moeller and Tom and Joan Bertussi announced plans to tear down the building and transform the site into a retail/residential complex. The complex would contain 22 residential units, each covering 1,200 square feet. Five apartments would be set aside for affordable housing.

Known as Victoria Rose, the development would also include five yet-to-be-named retail businesses, covering 54,000 square feet.

Located at the corner of Bay Avenue and Sixth Street, the brick structure was built in 1963 as the headquarters for the old Beach Haven National Bank. Over the years, it became the home of several different financial institutions, with the most recent being Sovereign Bank.

Mayor Nancy Taggart Davis said that adopting the ordinance does not approve the project, but rather designates the site for future development. Victoria Rose would need to come before the land use board for approval.

During a public hearing on the ordinance that lasted nearly an hour, resident John Harvey presented an online petition to the borough, urging the council either to stop the project or to at least pause the development process.

“The Borough Council is fast-tracking this significant development in our community, which has too many open questions left unanswered,” he wrote. “The developer does want to demolish the building soon, to be able to achieve their goals.”

He questioned if the 42-foot building height would require the local fire department to purchase a new fire truck with higher reach capacity.

“There is no language in ordinances and guidelines that define whether the rooftop with the planned utilization is a rooftop, or a fourth floor, which are regulated differently,” he said.

He also said any redevelopment plans should be put on hold since an updated master plan for zoning has not been approved.

“I have 238 signatures on the petition, and 185 have Beach Haven addresses,” he said. “They’re very concerned about the future of Beach Haven.”

Other speakers voiced similar concerns.

“You need to take some time and listen to what the people are saying,” said resident Margie Stewart.

“There’s no need to rush this,” said resident Nicole Baxter. 

Former Mayor Deborah C. Whitcraft said she had hosted two informational meetings on the development last month at the New Jersey Maritime Museum, of which she is founder and president. Whitcraft said the development provides a valuable asset by providing five apartments for affordable housing.

“Beach Haven’s year-round population over the years has dropped by 40 percent,” she said. “Affordable housing will help us attract younger people to the town, people who might be interested in volunteering with the (Beach Haven) First Aid Squad and fire company. Our first aid squad sorely needs volunteers.”

“That’s why some businesess are having trouble finding employees because too many people can’t afford to live here,” said resident Sean Kilroy. “We are in need of having more affordable housing units available.”

One resident, Caroline Lechaux, said that 42-foot buildings are not unprecedented in town, pointing to the old hotels that once existed in Beach Haven as well as numerous Victorian homes located in the historic district. She said the current bank building is “blighted and unsightly.”

“More retail space will attract people, as well as businesses interested in opening here,” said Lechaux. “We have to be open to change.”

Pat Kelly, owner of the Coral Seas Motel, said the project could create parking problems.

“You might need to have metered parking,” he said. “It could get ugly.”

Davis said Victoria Rose could mean an additional $100,000 in annual tax revenue, which she said could finance some improvements the borough is considering. But sensing the public needed more information, she voted to table the ordinance and was backed by the other three council members in attendance.

— Eric Englund

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