November 16, 2005

NW beach replenishment scheduled for next summer

Staff Writer
NORTH WILDWOOD – Five years ago, lifeguards drove elderly and disabled beach-goers about 100 yards from their headquarters on 15th Avenue and JFK Boulevard to the water’s edge, Beach Chief Tony Cavalier said.
They don’t need to do that anymore.
Today the distance from the foot of beach patrol headquarters to the ocean at high tide is 20 twenty feet, and shrinking every year.
For the second consecutive year in a row the city has laid a knee-high concrete blockade across the sand in front of the beach house to protect it from the pounding surf. But it’s a temporary solution and not always effective.
“When we had the Nor’easter (last month), the water came all the way up to the deck,” Cavalier said.
That storm came ashore here on Oct. 26 and was fueled, in part, by Hurricane Wilma.
“We’ve lost 100 to 150 feet of beach since the end of the summer,” City Council President Patrick Rosenello said, “and that’s just the beginning.”
Though hurricane season ends in November, the season for beach-eroding Nor’easters extends into April. The solution, city officials believe, is a long-awaited beach replenishment project.
At a council meeting last week, Rosenello announced the wait may soon be over.
Rosenello, retiring Mayor Aldo Palombo and Mayor-elect Bill Henfey met with U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo and representatives from the Department of Environmental Protection and the Army Corps of Engineers last week to hammer out a solution to the seawall project, and they came away with more than they bargained for.
In regard to the seawall project, Rosenelo said, “We had a very good meeting. We are working toward a final agreement between everybody.”
The seawall agreement is expected to include solutions to issues of beach access and the aesthetics of the wall, particularly at the municipal parking lot near the now-demolished Moore’s Inlet. It could include railings at access points and a 10-foot walkway, Rosenello said.
“We’ll be able to talk more about it once the final decisions are made,” Henfey said. “I think everybody’s going to be pleased.”
In addition, city officials said that they were pleased that a beach replenishment project, which had been previously discussed as a possibility for the spring of 2007 will happen ahead of schedule.
“With regard to beach replenishment,” Rosenello said. “I believe we have a commitment from the DEP to fast track (the project).”
That’s the good news.
The bad news is that project is tentatively scheduled to take place during the summer of 2006, and the project will cause some beach closings throughout the summer.
“It’s either that or to wait until the spring of 2007,” Henfey said. “If we have to deal with a little inconvenience, it’s worth it.”
Rosenello agrees. He said a maximum of three to five blocks of beach will be closed for a couple days at a time, throughout the work period, which is yet unspecified.
Rosenello described the beach replenishment as a “major, major project.” It will include 400 feet of new dunes to replace the ones that have eroded in recent years. When completed, the project should look much like the new dune system on the southern end of Stone Harbor with dunes rising to an elevation of eight feet as a protection against the tide, he said.
The city will pay 25 percent of the cost of the project and the state will pay 75 percent. The figures are not firm yet, but Rosenello said the city has about $9 million earmarked for the project.
“We’ve had a majority of the money set aside for years,” he said. But, he added, that as the beach continues to diminish, the cost increases.
Beach Chief Cavalier believes the fast-tracked project is good news for the city.
“We really need it,” he said.
The bayberry bushes that have the lined the walkways to the beach for years are being overtaken by the tides. They are completely gone from in front of the Boardwalk, Cavalier said.
In addition, the water now rushes under Sportland Pier, at 23rd Avenue.
“You can’t get even get around there at high tide now,” he said.
If the problem is not addressed, city officials know that diminishing beaches will eventually have an impact on tourism.
At North Wildwood’s tourism meeting on Thursday, volunteers worked on the calendar for next year’s events with an eye toward how beach erosion could affect their plans.
The Elk’s Annual Easter Egg Hunt is tentatively planned for the beach at 15th Avenue, near the Boardwalk.
“It might have to be moved because of the ocean,” one volunteer said. “Some of the low level tides come right up to the Boardwalk.”
They agreed that plans for Captain Kidd’s treasure hunt on the beach in May might also need to be flexible.
It’s issues like these, Rosenello said, that are on the minds of city officials.
“Having beach replenishment going on in the summer is better than having no beach at all,” he said.
Tourism depends on it and ignoring the problem could have long-term effects.
The beaches need to be protected sooner rather than later, he said.
Otherwise, “We could always have an Easter egg fishing tournament,” Rosenello said.

Maureen L. Cawley can be e-mailed at or you can comment on this story by calling 624-8900, ext. 250.

NW officials leery of Paradise Suites ‘motel’

Are developers fooling local planners?
Staff Writer
NORTH WILDWOOD – According to the plans submitted to the planning board here last month, the proposed Paradise Suites will be a motel.
The 12-unit project, approved to replace The Lau Ray Inn, at 221 East 26th Street, will be four-stories high, as is allowed for motel properties, but not for condominiums. The project will also take full advantage of more lenient parking requirements afforded to motels; 18 spots will be provided. If it was a condominium complex, the developer would need 24.
And, according to the plans, it’s a motel.
But some city officials aren’t so sure.
City Council, under advisement by the planning board, passed a land use amendment this summer aimed at controlling what City Council President Patrick Rosenello called the “rampant development” of condominiums in the city. The ordinance limited the length of buildings to 75 feet and allowable density was reduced for multi-family or condominium construction.
In an effort to encourage motel owners to stay in business and resist the condo-craze, the density, parking and height requirements for motels in the city remained less restrictive.
But city officials are concerned that since the land use law was passed, they have begun to receive site plans for motels that do not look like motels.
“They look like condos,” planning board chairman Charles Brackett said
The units in the Paradise Suites are unusually large; most are just short of 1,200 square feet, city engineer Ralph Petrella wrote in his report. And almost all of them have three-bedrooms. Just one unit on the second floor has only two bedrooms, so that the space could accommodate a small motel reception area and office.
The maid’s storage area, measuring 30 inches by five feet, is in the first-floor parking area, and there is no commercial laundry facility planned for the site.
Planning board member Joseph Gallagher asked about that on Sept. 26 when the plans were being considered. Louis DiGreggorio, the architect for the project which is being developed by Nakash Wildwood, LLC, of New York, said the motel’s linens would be handled by an offsite service, according to the meeting’s minutes.
Gallagher expressed concerns that because of the size of the units, the property might convert to condos instead of being operated as a motel.
Developer’s attorney Ron Stagliano said that he could not “commit to the future,” and that plans for the Paradise Suites met the requirements of North Wildwood’s ordinance for the definition of motels.
“It brings up some issues,” Green said.
Right now, as long as the plans appear to meet the requirements of the ordinance, the planning board has no choice but to approve the plans, Brackett said.
In spite of the board’s reservations, they passed the plans for the Paradise Suites unanimously. Although, they did stipulate that only one electrical service, one gas meter and three water meters could be installed in the building. And they prohibited the installation of individual meters.
Planning board member Ed Einhaus said if the motel changes its use by eliminating its lobby or office, they would have to appear before the zoning board and request variances for parking.
The problem, Green said, is in the enforcement.
“We don’t have any good formal way to keep track,” he said.
A similar project was approved to replace the Brigadoon Motel at 16th and Ocean avenues, Green said, and more are on the way. He said he is keeping his records of the meetings in case problems arise in the future.
“I intend to keep track,” Green said.
So does City Council President Rosenello.
“If the intent of anybody is to circumvent our zoning laws, they should know that that we are going to pursue them doggedly,” he said.
Rosenello said he would not comment on the Paradise Suites project specifically, adding, “I will take their solicitor’s (Stagliano) word that that is not their intent.”
But Rosenello said the city will issue summons against properties that received approvals under one use and are operating under another.
There may be a daily fine assessed with violating the use, he said.
“It is very, very important for a developer to understand that while they may have found what they believe to be a loophole in our land use ordinance, we will pursue every legal means to prevent that from happening,” Rosenello said.
Meanwhile, the planning board has formed a committee including Green, Einhouse and vice chairman Bob Davis to meet with city engineer Ralph Petrella figure out what else can be done.
“We are hoping to come up with a definition of motels that does not allow a property to operate as a condo,” Brackett said. But sorting through the complexities of motel zoning in a market, driven by condo development, is no easy task.
“There is a lot of gray area,” Green said.
After months of consideration and debate, Wildwood Crest adopted a plan for its motel zone, which requires two parking spots for any unit larger than 650 square feet and limits the size of hotel rooms to 800 square feet. Anything bigger is automatically classified as a multifamily unit, and must meet more stringent height and density requirements. It was a move that many motel owners were unhappy with. They said it limited their ability to improve their properties and compete in the modern tourism market. The Crest law allows for two-bedroom suites but not three bedrooms.
“We were very concerned about parking,” Crest Mayor Carl Groon said.
According to Rosenello, Wildwood has done a lot of work defining the “minutia” that classifies a project as a motel or hotel, including a good working definition of transient lodging.
“We are looking into additional safeguards in that respect,” he said.
The planning board committee will be meeting with the City Council administration committee to develop a strategy to address the issue.
“That’s the challenge of the planning board,” Green said, “trying to stay one step ahead of developers. We need to jump on this right away.”
The solutions to planning board issues always involve compromise, he said.
“I’m very supportive of motels. We’d like to maintain them,” Green said. “But at what cost?”
Brackett compared the task to clogging holes in a leaky dike.
“As soon as you fix one another one springs up,” he said. “Sometimes it feels like you have to use all of your fingers and toes.”
Two attempts were made to contact Stagliano, but he could not be reached for comment.

Maureen L. Cawley can be e-mailed at or you can comment on this story by calling 624-8900, ext. 250.