Claustrophobic Complex


“Turn-of-the-Century Charm With Modern Amenities,” read one of the headlines in The SandPaper for a new condo complex. I was fascinated and read on. The photo or facsimile showed a four-story behemoth lit up like a Christmas tree on a very busy thoroughfare at the only entrance and exit to Long Beach Island. The builder’s plans called for 24 units on a one-acre plot ,which, in my not-so-humble opinion, sounds crowded and definitely not charming. 

A bed and breakfast or a small hotel might be attractive. A park with trees and flowers would definitely be an inviting entrance to our Island, but it would not generate income. We live in times where bigger and better is better. I hate to be redundant, but the words fit. 

This huge and, to my mind, oversized structure will generate lots of tax revenue to the town of Ship Bottom. It features three-bedroom units with lots of pizzazz, and a tiki bar, too. There will be hardly any maintenance for the owners. Hey, sign me up! Maybe $1million-something times 24 units? Sounds like a boon for the builders.

How did the planning board of Ship Bottom approve this? I think I just answered my own question. See paragraph one.

It’s a given that the Island is changing. There are no more small cottages, lots more flooding, and the aging baby boomers noted in the article want luxury with little upkeep. Even the younger millennials with money are quoted as probable buyers. The units will attract people who don’t care if traffic is whizzing around them in the summer. An average of three to four people per unit will generate at least 80 people dwelling on one acre of land. It will be very much like city living, but without public transportation. 

I do love cities, but I came to Long Beach Island for a change when I retired  here. I loved that it wasn’t like a city. The picture of that luxurious condo complex is unsettling. Picturing traffic on busy weekends is a nightmare. 

I noted this quote about the condo complex. “It is our belief that sales of the Arlington Beach Club will be driven to an older demographic of consumers who may be sitting on large capital gains in their homes and desire to ‘bank profits’ but still remain a Long Beach Island resident.” My translation: We are selling to older people who are tired of upkeep, have lots of bucks to bank and want less work to do. That sounds fine for the aged-out boomers, but I wonder if they will mind the noise of traffic. Perhaps, like me, they already have some hearing loss.

The tax revenues of 24 units will be a bonus to the town of Ship Bottom. The developers will make a fine profit packing the buyers in plush surroundings. With an average population of three to four residents per condo, 80 people might be vying for a dip in the swimming pool. Perhaps they will be content there and won’t have to cross traffic to get to the ocean. 

When I think of the old hotels that once graced Long Beach Island, I think of a time when the automobile was in its infancy. The old Engleside and Baldwin hotels in Beach Haven were large Victorian structures on the ocean. People came by boat until the Causeway was built in 1914. Families had one car and stayed for an extended vacation, often for several months.                           

The large hotels were not situated in the middle of a traffic jam, and there were fewer homes and much open space. The only resemblance I see to the quoted “turn-of-the-century Jersey Shore boardwalk hotels” is that the new structure will be as luxurious as the older hotels were for their generation.

My objection is not to luxurious living or to making a profit, but to the density that already exists on the Island. We build and build without thought of vacant space for drainage, breathing room or esthetics. 

I realize that this development is probably a done deal on what is private property. I wonder if it couldn’t be scaled down a bit. Am I alone in thinking that it seems a bit too much for the size of the lot? Obviously, I don’t know the zoning laws of Ship Bottom, but I chuckle when I think of the zoning laws in Long Beach Township. I was not permitted to put an extra inch on my deck without a variance.

Years ago I had to approach the town planning board for a permit to build an upstairs deck on my two-family home in Holgate. The upstairs unit had only one exit, and I considered the deck a matter of safety. Have the rules changed over the years? Are the specifications different for multiple-unit structures?

I realize Ship Bottom is its own entity, but 24 units on an acre of ground does seem excessive. Is there anyone left on the Island who values a bit of open space? Am I the only one here who is starting to feel claustrophobic?

Kathleen Donnelly lives in Beach Haven Terrace.    


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