Long Beach Township in Final Push for Beachfill Easements

Apr 10, 2013

Numerous Holgate residents turned out for last Friday’s Long Beach Township Board of Commissioners meeting to thank the municipality for its efforts in helping collect signed easements from oceanfront homeowners in that southernmost section of the township.

While Holgate is “delivered,” as Mayor Joseph Mancini noted, the council is now focused on convincing remaining holdouts to sign before time runs out to secure beach replenishment in other parts of Long Beach Island.

“Beach Haven is down to one (easement),” said Mancini, “so we’re going to have a nice contiguous job between Holgate and Beach Haven. We’re very confident that they’re going to get that delivered shortly. We have, between Beach Haven and Ship Bottom … 21 left. Out of the 21, we have five hardheads – it’s strictly about money. The other ones are now using a new mantra that we’re pressuring and bullying them, which we’re not; we just call these people all the time. We educate them. It’s all about the money (for them).”

Fifteen holdouts remain in North Beach. As for Loveladies, the mayor noted, “Forget about it. We have 32. Obviously, they really don’t care about beach replenishing up there. And obviously we’re going to concentrate on where people want to be helped. You can’t help those who don’t want to be helped.”

He added, “We’re going to put their names on the webpage,” at longbeachtownship.com. “That’s not pressuring. That’s not bullying. That’s for you people to see whether or not your homes are protected, and how your neighbors are dealing with the catastrophic events of Sandy.”

“This governing body has always been in favor of beach replenishment,” said Commissioner Joseph Lattanzi. “We continue to be in favor of it. It’s a very important issue for all of us. We’re running out of time. We have the appropriations that will be coming through hopefully sometime after May 1st, and we need to get these easements signed so we can get the project done.”

In order for a town to secure federal money for beach replenishment, oceanfront homeowners must sign easements to grant government access to their portions of dunes.

Within the last seven years, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has conducted beachfill projects in Surf City and Harvey Cedars, and in an approximately one-mile section of Brant Beach, in the township. The Corps seeks to eventually replenish most of LBI’s beaches, and maintain them for the next 50 years.

Money should be allotted soon to renourish the beaches in Surf City, Harvey Cedars and Brant Beach, which are in need of more sand due to storm erosion. A $2.5 billion chunk of appropriations will then be available to fund additional projects, to be announced around May 1. The Island seeks to secure a portion of that second round of funding for further beach replenishment.

“As far as we’re concerned – and I think I speak for all of us (on the council) – the time for debate on this issue is over,” said Lattanzi. “We’re going to move forward as forcefully as we can. That’s our position. We’re going to do everything we can to get that done.”

As the commissioner emphasized, during Superstorm Sandy “there was bay flooding, but there was significant ocean surge. … And clearly, where we had beach replenishment – it stopped around 56th, 57th Street in Brant Beach – there was a significant difference” in damage to residences.

During the public session portion of the meeting, Loveladies Property Owners Association President Charlie Farrell expressed support for Holgate in the rebuilding process, and said his group is working to see easements signed in Loveladies.

“The struggle that we have up there is that probably somewhere around 90 percent are second home owners … so it’s difficult to make the contact.

“We’re going to continue to work on this,” he added. “We’re not giving up.”

Art Levy of Holgate said many of the easement holdouts seem to have “a misunderstanding, or a non-understanding” of certain terms related to the beach replenishment.

Mancini did state earlier in the meeting that some misconceptions about the project remain – as the mayor also stated in an interview on NJToday with Mike Schneider titled “Long Beach Mayor Blames Misinformation for Blocking Dunes.” (Watch the interview online at watch.njtvonline.org/video/2363953626.)

However, Mancini pointed out Friday that each oceanfront homeowner has received detailed explanations of the beachfill project – including assurance that there will be no boardwalks or bathrooms built on the beach – from entities such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, and the township itself.

“It has nothing to do with the verbiage anymore. It’s all about the lottery. It’s all about getting three hundred grand,” Mancini said, referencing a court case in which a Harvey Cedars couple who said the beachfill project ruined their ocean view and lowered their property value was awarded $374,000. Harvey Cedars, which did appeal the ruling, had bypassed the couple’s signed easement via eminent domain to allow for beach replenishment in the borough.

As Levy stated, and Mancini concurred, “Your property is worth more protected than unprotected.”

The other Holgate residents in attendance also agreed with Levy’s statement.

Daniel Macone, president of the Holgate Taxpayers Association, thanked the mayor and commissioners, township employees and the Holgate community for coming together to gather the easements.

Macone also asked the council when the beach replenishment might begin in Holgate.

“We do not know,” said Mancini. “We’re in contact with the Army Corps of Engineers a couple times a week. The way it’s going to work, when they do receive the money, is that the existing jobs – Harvey Cedars, Surf City and Brant Beach – will be getting the first funding, and then Holgate will get it next.”

The commission also addressed concerns from Holgate residents about beach access, dunes, trash on the streets, gawkers, the parking lot at the south end and more.

“We’re going to try to fix it up as best we can for summer,” Commissioner Ralph Bayard said of the parking lot.

In addition, the mayor said he has asked the police “to be a little more cognizant of the gawkers,” but can’t exclude people from being in Holgate now that the area is no longer is in a state of emergency.

Also during the meeting, Mancini responded to a North Beach resident who said he’d talked to individuals at a craft fair in Florida who heard rumors that LBI was devastated. He noted, “We really should be getting out there that we’re back in shape.”

“Call the chamber of commerce,” said Mancini. “We asked them for funding and they refused us.”

“Long Beach Township did raise $25,000, and the business community raised another $25,000. We just made a commercial. A fellow on the Island has a production studio, and he made the commercial for us for free. It should be running next week in the New York markets,” and soon in Philadelphia markets. (See related story.)

The mayor also mentioned starting “a new chamber very shortly.”

Bill Hutson, owner of Lorry’s Island End Motel in Holgate, said the LBI Business Alliance paid for signs with the slogan “LBI is Open” that Trolley Tours Inc. has agreed to place on four buses that operate in the tri-state area.

In other news, Bayard said the county will host a Household Hazardous Waste Disposal Day at the Stafford Public Works Garage on Hay Road on June 1, and will hold a Residential Document Shredding Program at the township Public Works yard at 7910 Long Beach Blvd. in Beach Haven Crest on July 13.

Finally, Lattanzi gave an update on the LBI Health Department’s eventual move to the lot next to the Acme. “We’ve ordered the trailers, and we expect them to be in place within the next several months.” In the meantime, the department is still temporarily located at the township complex in Brant Beach.

The next meeting of the commissioners is 4 p.m. on Friday, April 19.

Juliet Kaszas-Hoch

julietkaszas-hoch@thesandpaper.net

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