Commentary

God and Gov’t Save the Queen: Beach Haven Is Under Attack

By KARL ANDERSON | Oct 31, 2018

There’s a creeping death coming to the coast of New Jersey and this time the victim is the Queen herself: Beach Haven, known as the Queen City of Long Beach Island. Reports coming out of the town from a recent land use board meeting shed a very dim and dark light on events unfolding that dramatically impact the future of the once close-knit, quiet beach community.

The ability of LUB members and town commissioners to maintain any thread of what made Beach Haven the Queen City are rapidly being bulldozed into the ebbing tide of history. Things are changing at such an advanced rate it is hard to keep up. Once codes, laws and procedures are changed, altered or ignored, those bells cannot be un-rung and things degrade rapidly. 

At an earlier meeting in August, the board voted on a very controversial project with a vote of 4 yes, 4 no and one abstention. Without a majority vote the plan was denied. The project owner and his lawyer didn’t like the outcome so they wanted a re-vote, and through some unknown manner, actually got it without having to revise their plan to be in compliance with current borough codes. It is unsure how this can even happen in the process.

During the most recent meeting in October, volunteer members of the LUB had to prove and substantiate their positions of opposition to a project they had voted to deny, a very gruesome ordeal to put those members through. Those members who voted for approval did not have to prove their position, and the one abstention vote through a flurry of meandering conversation with the town lawyer and LUB members then changed to a vote for the plan, to the complete dismay and frustration of the majority of the borough’s citizens in attendance. Again, is this even allowable in the proper process of governmental administration borough codes?

When your hometown comes under attack from within, it is very hard to watch. I grew up in this small town on its unique barrier island. The town is less than a mile square, with brilliant beaches and the great Atlantic to the east. A long stretch of sugar sand beach towns to the north. To the west she’s bordered by a historically rich and vibrant bay whose diverse ecosystem has provided for families’ well-being, fun and livelihoods year ’round for well over two centuries. On her southern end there are more beach and a pair of shifting inlets. These constantly changing channels from inshore to offshore offering access to the open Atlantic have fed a rich seafaring fishing history about which I have written at length and lived a part of, making the place special to all who know her. Over the years, the many local characters of the town have woven these natural resources that surround her into the fabric of their lives, leaving a lasting, colorful picture of life there.

The threats posed by developers of all kinds are not unique to our little community. The same invasive, over-build, over-use, zero-lot line with no additional parking mentality is eroding quaint, peaceful beach towns up and down the coast from Maine to Florida. It’s like a cruel disease that over time eventually eats away the muscle that binds bones together.

I’m not against development or a business owner’s ability to sell for a profit. I’m a capitalist through and through. I believe in everyone’s right to make a better life by working hard and reaping the profits of long hours building a business or serving a quality product – and in many cases in our little town, both. 

Clearly, responsible development is critical to every community’s sustainability. However, when the powers that be, local government commissioners and land use boards, cave to special interests and agenda-driven developers who bend, push, shove and sometimes break the responsible sense of neighborly development, problems arise. Communities divide. Consensus cannot be reached, and in the case of Beach Haven, she’s being pulled down by this incredibly inept, corrosive type of leadership. 

When there are questions about the integrity and ability of the community leadership, speculation about quid pro quo, citizens want to ask questions of their own and have their voices heard. But when those voices are silenced through the milquetoast position of hiding behind “no public comment” public meetings, what is happening to the self-governing practice? Can citizens of a town not express their views and opinions of how they would like to see their community shaped for the future? Should they solely rely on the views of the governing body and lie silent as the building blocks of the town are jackhammered into dust to be blown away with the coming winter nor’easters?

I just don’t see the hard-working, local townspeople accepting that. It’s not in their nature, thank goodness. I hope some sort of clarity and sensibility comes to the LUB and commissioners of Beach Haven and that they listen to the constituents and neighbors who put them in place. There are some very caring, concerned citizens working hard to maintain the character and family atmosphere that has made Beach Haven a friendly, happy place to be since it was founded.

The thought that some sort of impropriety or chicanery is pervasive in local government is not healthy to any community. It is being talked about in Beach Haven. It is felt and sensed, and it is a sickening feeling to be experiencing those feelings in this beautiful little town. That is a leadership issue, plain and simple. Any executive who allows his or her company to be eroded and chipped away for any reason, personal or otherwise, gets fired. When the team loses confidence in the coach, it’s nearly impossible to win. 

Let’s hope clear heads prevail, and changed votes are contested for their legality and compliance. Let’s hope a plan is put in place to help all interested parties play by the rules, unchanged, unaltered and with the best interests of Beach Haven’s citizens, homeowners and business stakeholders alike, held above any self-interest or agenda, with no hard feelings.

If you are concerned about the direction the borough of Beach Haven is heading, please go to gofundme.com/preserve-beach-haven and help fight for the quality of life this town has been known for and keep overdevelopment in check.

Karl Anderson of Pompano Beach, Fla., is a Beach Haven native who summers in the borough when he captains a private boat out of Atlantic City. His family has been in Beach Haven since 1916, when his grandfather immigrated from Norway and started the Crest Fishery in Beach Haven Terrace.

 

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