Victoria Rose Project Gets New Life After Beach Haven Mayor Changes Vote

Oct 31, 2018
File Photo by: Ryan Morrill

The proposed Victoria Rose project in Beach Haven is on again after a recent land use board meeting in which Mayor Nancy Taggart Davis changed her previous vote from an abstention to “yes.”

Earlier this year, partners Terry Moeller and Tom and Joan Bertussi announced plans to tear down the bank building on Bay Avenue and build a retail/residential complex. The complex would contain 20 residential units, each covering 1,200 square feet. Five apartments would be set aside for affordable housing.

The development would also include five yet-to-be-named retail businesses, covering less than 40,000 square feet. The current brick structure was built in 1963 as the headquarters for the old Beach Haven National Bank. Over the years, it became the home of several different financial institutions, with the most recent being Sovereign Bank.

Davis said she initially abstained because she felt the issue was becoming “extremely divisive in the community.”

“I thought Victoria Rose had the potential to have a positive impact on Beach Haven,” she said at the Aug. 29 meeting in a prepared statement. “I believed then, and still believe, that it had the potential to transform a blighted property in the heart of Beach Haven’s business district into a thriving commercial and residential space that would enhance Beach Haven by adding new store fronts, additional tax revenue while removing a building that has been left vacant (and) neglected for close to 15 years now.”

But she also said the project “has divided friends and neighbors here in Beach Haven, and there is no denying the anger and animosity it has engendered amongst a small but vocal group of residents.”

“Beach Haven is too small a town and too tight-knit a community for one development project to cause the animosity that the Victoria Rose has brought to Beach Haven,” she said then. “I love this town, I love my fellow residents, and I think we all are better off when we work together and not against one another. It is with that in mind, and with great reluctance, that I have decided to withdraw my support from this project and abstain from the vote.”

Davis’ abstention resulted in a 4-4-1 deadlock; thus the application fell short of the necessary five votes for approval.

But at the Oct. 22 meeting, Nicholas Talvacchia, an attorney for the developers, requested a re-vote. Davis said she changed her vote because her abstention had been “mostly based (on) emotion.”

“I realized that legally, there was no way I could vote against it,” she said. “The applicants made numerous concessions and changes, so it would not have been fair for me to not grant them apoproval.”

Christopher Norman, an attorney who represented a group of residents opposed to the project, said he would appeal the decision in Ocean County Superior Court.

Moeller said he initially was hoping for the development to open by next summer. He said the fall of 2019 now would be more realistic.

“We’d like to begin construction later this fall or early next year,” he said. 

— Eric Englund

ericenglund@thesandpaper.net

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