Barnegat Light Pavilion a Fall Project

Dog Park, Height Limit and Piping Plovers Also Discussed
By MARIA SCANDALE | Jul 19, 2017
Courtesy of: Smith and Davis Architects

The Barnegat Light Pavilion, which will bring a parklike use to the former Coast Guard housing property that the borough owns on West Sixth Street, took a step toward construction that will start about Sept. 1.

The public got its first look at the roofed, open-air building, seen in a rendering by Smith & Davis Architects.

At the July borough council meeting, it was the only new action among several other issues that are still under discussion. Topics covered building height limits, water meter installation and the dog park. Plus there came advice to stay away from dune cliffs and to try to avoid endangered piping plovers that are sharing space with human beachgoers this summer.

The 96-by-28-foot pavilion for gatherings and concerts was the upbeat news, since the concept has now hurdled the engineering requirements that it needed to hold up well at the windy shore.

Council awarded a $53,000 contract on July 12 for the fabrication and erection of the steel work. Carpentry and other work will be handled separately.

“We should be ready to start physically doing some work Sept. 1,” said Councilman Ed Wellington.

Shop drawings of the steel supports next have to be submitted to the structural engineer before the steel can be ordered and put in. Then a carpenter will start on the wood construction. The process should place the pavilion there for next summer.

On the topic of upcoming water meter installation, where folks were urged last month to try and locate their meter pits in their front yards, Mayor Kirk Larson updated, “a lot of people are actively looking for their meters. Whether they’re usable or not, that’s another story. We’re still getting into that phase. Probably next month or September we’ll have a better idea what’s going on with a lot of that.”

During his public works committee report, Councilman Scott Sharpless gave a public safety message: “If you see any kids digging in the dunes, primarily from, I’d say, Ninth Street down to 14th Street, please tell them to stop. There is a cave-in hazard,” he said.

“The dunes are a cliff again. There are many sections where it could just cave in on a child and bury them,” he explained. “So, if you’re walking up there at night, be cautious and don’t fall off the cliff, and keep the kids away from them.”

In another message, Councilwoman Dottie Reynolds, who heads the beaches and parks committee, said “guards have started staying later on the beaches now on nice weekend days.”

Later that week, lifeguards reported there were about 15 rescues in two days over the weekend of July 15-16, with heavy rip currents.

Barking Up the Wrong

Or Right Park?

Last month’s question on whether the dog park should be kept, or if a referendum should decide, seems to have dwindled to just thoughts about how to reconfigure the ballpark to better fit next to it.

Larson said that if council members want to keep both, his concern is that the dog park is in the middle of the property, not leaving enough room for an adjacent ball field.

Said Reynolds, “I do think we need a ballpark for kids ... I think we should also have a dog park.”

The majority of letters to the editor have supported the borough’s action last March to begin charging a $30 entry fee to non-borough property owners for use of the park, and to require all dog park owners to register for a gate key by showing proof of the dog’s license and rabies inoculation. Borough property owners get a gate card at no charge.

But at the beginning of the summer, some of those who were surprised to find the restrictions were showing anger at the borough hall staff to the point where Larson wondered whether the borough should consider doing away with the dog park altogether. Since last month, a number of letter writers supported the borough’s new requirements.

“I felt a lot better after the letters came in,” said Larson.

“It seems like things calmed down so much after those letters hit the paper,” agreed Borough Clerk Brenda Kuhn.

As of the July meeting, 97 Barnegat Light dog owners got their free passes, and 165 others paid for theirs.

“It is successful; the machine has been paid for, and over,” added Larson.

The lightest moment in the discussion came when the mayor reported what happens when some visiting relatives of current or past property owners come to borough hall when they find out they need a gate key for the dog park.

“A lot of them, their kids brought their dog here – they come in and they argue for about 10 minutes, they want a free one, said their grandmother used to live here,” Larson said, to laughter from the audience, “and it wasn’t their fault she moved ...”

Meanwhile, council is not much closer to a decision on its original proposal to raise the building height limit to 32 feet, up 2 feet from the present 30 feet as measured from the crown of the road. Some towns on LBI have raised the limit to 35 feet, but at the July meeting council members said more research is needed.

Reynolds said it would be interesting to know what the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which oversees the National Flood Insurance Program, will recommend when it comes out with new post-Sandy base flood elevation guidelines.

But there will be no input soon on that front, Wellington said he learned.

“FEMA is not going to have any changes until 2020 or later,” the councilman reported from news he learned. “There was a lawsuit in New York City, and New York City and FEMA came to a settlement and within the settlement is ... a remapping of the whole East Coast and it’s not going to be done until 2020,” he said. “So, we’re not going to have any firm guidance until then.”

Borough Attorney Terry Brady pointed out that the town of Lavallette decided not to measure from the crown of the road, but instead from the base flood elevation.

Lavallette “had the exact issue that Barnegat Light has. One of the issues is, when you get closer to the oceanside, you’re much higher. If you say 30 feet over the street, you’ll be way higher than three or four houses down. So it kind of doesn’t make sense to tell a guy five houses in, you’re only allowed to go 30 feet, when the guy at the ocean is 20 feet higher than them,” Brady said.

When it came to the public comment portion of the meeting, Bob Dole, a property owner at 13 E. 17th St., pressed council for a decision because, he said, “I’m trying to figure out what is my path forward” in designing his home.

“I’ve been asking about this height restriction because I’m in the process of redoing a home and you guys kind of threw me a curve ball,” Dole said.

Dole pointed out that this spring, council had introduced an ordinance to raise the height limit and voted 4-1 in favor of it.

Since then, council decided to table the ordinance, with the mayor noting that a show of hands at a taxpayer meeting was overwhelmingly against it.

“I think it’s pretty widely accepted that most towns along the New Jersey coast have increased their heights,” Dole said.

When questioned, Reynolds reiterated why she had voted to keep the skyline height the way it is now, at 30 feet. It had to do with not only aesthetics, but remaining flood issues, she said.

“Our ordinance just said you could go 2 feet higher, not that the ground level had to be raised; that was one of my concerns.

“I did not feel that raising the height by 2 feet was going to stop any kind of flooding issues because a lot of people are just going to raise the top of the house so they can have some kind of a deck up there to see the ocean or the bay and it wasn’t solving the problem of people who are too low,” she said.

“And also, a lot of people didn’t need to raise the height to solve the flooding issue because it doesn’t flood in most of the town. And again, some oceanfronts are going to be a lot higher than the ones on the bayfront, because they were already higher.” She added that she’s “not saying it should never happen,” but she believes the matter needs more consideration.

Birds on the Beach:

Watch Out Below

It used to be that the endangered piping plovers nested and hatched on more remote beaches in Barnegat Light, but now that phragmites has taken over a former ground, the birds have found new stomping grounds – the same ones as people in some cases.

As Sharpless said, “The beach Olympics was supposed to be on 24th, but because of our little friends the plovers, we had to move it to 22nd Street.”

Reynolds, in her beaches and parks committee report, put in a good word for the tiny birds, saying efforts in New Jersey are critical to help prevent it from going extinct.

“Everybody worries about endangered species like the rhinoceros in Africa and all of the other things, and we have endangered species right here on our own beaches that we can protect. They’re not doing really well because they’re up against people, and we need to do a little better in protecting them.

“From the time a little chick is born, it has to get its own food and water. It must get down to the water’s edge in order to eat. A lot of them are underweight, so they have a lot of trouble getting down to the water’s edge and surviving.”

People can help: Give them space, don’t chase them, don’t leave trash that will attract predators.

After some humor at the council meeting with suggestions of “can’t we just shoo them back to the safer spots, away from right in the middle of the crowds” and “maybe if we threw a trail of corn chips,” and “signs with little arrows,” it did get serious again.

There is talk at the state level about restoring a former nesting area in a more remote spot south of the lighthouse. The borough clerk said a contact from the endangered beach nesting birds program within the state Department of Environmental Protection “said she’ll be in touch with us, or somebody will, about replenishing that area so it would give them a safer environment to nest in.”




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