Barnegat Light Hears Updates on Band Pavilion, Water Metering; Holds Off on Height Ordinance

May 17, 2017
Photo by: Jack Reynolds

May at the Barnegat Light Borough Council meeting brought updates on the band pavilion (it will take a while longer), water metering (the town will now pay for everything but lawn repairs if the meter pit site can’t be quickly found) and the proposed building height limit (hold that comment until the next meetings).

An ordinance introduced in April to raise the building height limit from 30 feet to 32 feet is not meeting with agreement from all residents, so no action was taken at the May 10 meeting.

Mayor Kirk Larson, who could not be present, wants to hear a broader cross-section of comments, so he proposed waiting until after the upcoming Barnegat Light Taxpayers Association meeting June 10. Council members said discussion will resume at the June 14 council meeting, and the vote may not be taken until July.

More on that below, but in the meantime, another issue affecting all residents, future water metering, is developing with possibly less cost to homeowners than first predicted.

“We’re waiting to find out whether another town is willing to take on our construction project of putting our meters into the ground,” said Councilman Michael Spark.

“We’re currently looking at a shared service with another town, to have them come in and do the service instead of contracting an outside service,” summarized Borough Chief Financial Officer Kathleen Flanagan. “It’s preliminary right now. It’s an option; it’s not finalized yet, but it would be significantly less.”

Spark said at the meeting that “the borough is prepared to pay for everything except repairing the landscaping” if the yard has to be dug up to find the pits. He added, “Hopefully you can help identify where it is.”

“We’re prepared to pay for it. We have allocated capital improvement money over the years and have saved it for big projects such as this,” said Flanagan after the meeting.

This was a change from what was discussed at a council meeting last winter, when there was a possibility that the meters could be installed in a home’s garage.

“Originally, Councilman Spark had brainstormed and thought it would be best if we had the meter put in the house as opposed to a pit, and after going to the DEP, they suggested that we not do that,” Flanagan explained.

The exception is that homeowners would have to cover any costs of re-beautifying their lawn if part of the lawn has to be dug up to find the pit.

That is, for instance, “if your pavers have to be moved, you would be responsible to have the pavers put back,” said Flanagan later. “But we’re going to do as little disruption to the yard as we possibly can.”

What homeowners can do in the meantime is to locate their water meter pit if they can, Spark said.

“This probably isn’t going to happen for a couple months,” he said, but “if you have an inkling where your water meter pit is, anything you can do to expose where you think your meter is buried in the ground, make a note of where it is before people with backhoes go looking for it.”

He added, “On some properties, mostly up toward the oceanfront, they have never been located.” But on most properties, a homeowner will probably be able to see a marker near the driveway.

Taxpayers association President John Tennyson asked if a schedule of the meter installation could be put on the borough website.

Spark said, “Until we have a signed agreement with the parties to do the work, we don’t have an update. But once that happens, we will have a time frame and everything will be exact.”

‘And the Band Played on,’

But at the Old Spot, for Now

On another front, everyone can keep enjoying the summer concert series at the bayfront gazebo at the boat ramp area because the proposed pavilion at the former Coast Guard housing property will take a while longer.

Council appropriated $300,000 from the borough’s capital improvement fund for the planned pavilion, at Sixth Street and Bayview.

“We’re moving forward, but slowly,” said Councilman Ed Wellington.

Wellington gave the past month’s update on the project. It was earlier determined that the pavilion would require engineering plans. Now borough officials are scheduling interviews with specialists in steel construction. Strong structure is needed to secure the roof because the building would not have walls.

“We finally received the drawings from the structural engineer, and we have spent the last two weeks trying to figure out what they mean. There is nobody local that we talked to that really has experience with steel construction.

“It’s a big project,” he continued. “The steel pieces are what’s going to hold the whole building together and keep the wind from taking the roof away.

“We had a contractor and fabricator in (on May 9), and he’s going to give us a price within the next week to purchase and fabricate the steel,” Wellington said, and the layout is not cut and dried after that.

“The pilings that are there do not line up perfectly straight from front to back, and we have to set the steel pieces on the piling, and in order to do that and keep everything straight and perpendicular, the connectors are going to be different at every corner to fasten the steel to the pilings.”

And there’s one more requirement.

“Then the structural engineer wants everything to be galvanized steel, so what that means is that they’re going to have to purchase the steel, fabricate it on site, and then send it out to be galvanized once it’s done, and then brought back to be assembled,” said Wellington. “We’re going to build it, dry-fit it, take it all down, and then send it out for galvanizing.

“So the process is going to be slow. Even once it gets fabricated, we’re going to be at the mercy of the vendor that does the galvanizing ... so that whole thing is going to slow us down.”

Added Spark, “Just so everybody understands, this is an open-air pavilion.” He explained that without walls, the wind could blow through and lift the roof. Therefore, the engineering is designed to “not only anchor it, but make it rigid so the wind can’t blow it off sideways.”

A member of the audience asked if extra cost would be involved.

Wellington said, “Not yet,” adding that “the steel will fit into the budget, I know that.” He continued that “as soon as a structural engineer got involved with things, the cost went up. He is insisting that we have a certified welder that’s been certified within the last 12 months, and in addition to using his drawings, he wants shop drawings from the fabricator, which raises cost, and we can’t not do what the steel engineer wants or he won’t certify the building.”

Tenth Street resident and planning board member Mary Ellen Foley asked, “Is there a point at which trying to use the existing platform doesn’t work and then you just start from scratch?”

Wellington answered that “in retrospect, we probably would have been better off starting over,” but at this point, after advancing this far, it would waste money to do so.

The pilings are deep into the ground and sturdy, he said. He added, “The bands are huge; they held up a 2½-story building.”

Back on the topic of public comments about the proposed height limit change, Keith Gross, a Barnegat Light homeowner, asked what is driving the proposal. “I think personally, having that done is going to take away from the quaintness ...  of Barnegat Light in the process.”

Besides more construction, “you’re going to have neighbor against neighbor because now they’re going to have a higher building than the other one, and I just see a potential of a hodgepodge in the town.”

Spark commented, “If you look down any street right now, it’s a hodgepodge,” and he said that about 15 years ago when the height went from 28 to 30 feet, the same conversation took place.

“We’re not saying what we’re going to do, but in (Superstorm) Sandy, those who live on the west side of town were underwater,” said Spark. He was referring mainly to houses whose lowest level is built below the crown of the street. “I’m looking at it as something to try and raise the property so it doesn’t take on water.”

Councilwoman Dottie Reynolds, who has said she is not for the change, noted that what Spark is talking about “really only applies to a limited number of people.”

Resident Barry Mescolotto said he would advise people in town to look at the ordinance in Harvey Cedars. “I think it addresses the problem very nicely by making zones,” he said, “places where you can go to 32 feet and places where you cannot go to 32 feet, you don’t need to.”

“I could envision people building houses at 32 feet along the ocean and casting huge shadows upon all those houses behind them.”

Among other reminders, Reynolds said the last day to buy beach badges at the pre-season price is June 9. Seasonal badges are $30 now and $40 beginning June 10. See the website for more information.

— Maria Scandale

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