Residents Hire Planner to Help Fight Proposed Beach Haven Hotel

Nov 28, 2018

A group of homeowners on Dock Road in Beach Haven are intensifying their objections to an amendment to the Maritime District Redevelopment Plan ordinance adopted by the borough council that would allow a hotel on the former site of Morrison’s Restaurant. The area has been vacant since a fire destroyed the Beach Haven eatery in 2005.

Last month, developer Christopher Vernon appeared at a borough council agenda meeting in which he presented basic concepts of a plan to erect a restaurant and 102-room hotel. Vernon is also the developer and owner of the Bonnet Island Estate, the Mallard Island Yacht Club, the Mainland/Holiday Inn complex and Hotel LBI, currently under construction in Ship Bottom at the former site of the Stateroom and, before that, the Quarter Deck Inn.

Vernon said the design of the hotel/restaurant has not been decided, although he said the complex would not exceed the zoning ordinance height limit of 35 feet. He offered no timetable for when he would bring the project to the land use board, or any plans on when he hoped to begin construction and open.

The residents had already hired the law firm of Nehmad, Perillo and Davis in Atlantic County. But during a public hearing on the ordinance last week, one of the residents, Ken Goldmann, said said they have also enlisted the help of John McDonough Associates, a licensed professional planner based in Passaic County.

Goldmann said one of the group's biggest concerns is that the amended ordinance will allow for a hotel up to 102 rooms, a provision which was not in the prior ordinance.

“As noted, hotels and motels are already permitted at this location and in fact are already permitted through the entire redevelopment area,” said Goldmann, reading from McDonough’s report. “However, this proposed amendment inexplicably writes off intensity of use controls that already are in place for this land use.” 

Goldmann said 102 units more than doubles the current allowable limit of 45.

“From a professional planning standpoint, in the interest of orderly community growth and development, further analysis of the intensification of use at this location is warranted,” read Goldmann from the report. “More detailed analysis of traffic impacts and other neighborhood impacts, particularly on the adjacent residential quiet zone are warranted. Without such analysis, the basis for greater zoning allowances at this location are unclear and raise the potential for questions of unequal treatment and special spot zoning giving preferential treatment to one area over another.”  

Another resident, Bill Moreno, said that under normal conditions, the area where the hotel would be located features various restaurants and other attractions and is congested with traffic and pedestrians during the summer.

“And now you’re going to add a 102-room hotel,” he said. “The effect that will have on the area is unimaginable. You’re talking about adding 200 to 300 people and 200 to 300 cars per week.”

“A lot of us are going to lose that beautiful view of the bay,” added homeowner Judy Goodlife.

Emily Givens, an attorney retained by Beach Haven who specializes in development issues, said the ordinance is part of a process. She said the council is working on a developers agreement with Vernon, in which issues raised by McDonough would be addressed. If an agreement is reached, Vernon’s next step would be to go before the land use board.

“We have a ways to go before anything is finalized,” she said.

— Eric Englund  


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