WILDWOOD – Former JCOW fire inspector Al Beers, 82, will retire from his post effective Aug. 31, according to published reports. Beers was the fire subcode inspector for the Joint Construction Office of The Wildwoods (JCOW), during the period where a number of properties were allegedly “misclassified” by local builders, architects and building inspectors leading to fire code safety violations. The issues were uncovered during a state investigation into the construction of condominium properties in the Wildwoods.
The Department of Community Affairs found that Beers “performed fire protection plan review and inspections on over 70 buildings that were misclassified by the Joint Construction Office of the Wildwoods.” Further, it alleged that Beers failed to recognize the need for sprinkler systems in numerous buildings and that his failure to recognize the appropriate building classification led to violations of the code in regard to “means of egress and fire-resistant rated construction provisions.”
The DCA notified Beers that steps are being taken to revoke his state licenses. He was scheduled to appeal the DCA’s findings at a peer review board, but upon retirement he will no longer need those licenses.
WILDWOOD - Due to the overwhelming response NBC 10 received from the airing of the "Wildwoods By The Sea" special on July 12 & 19, NBC 10 has decided to re-run
the special on Sat. 8/19 at 1:30 p.m. It is also available on Comcast's Video On Demand.
”Wildwoods By The Sea”, a one hour special on NBC 10, hosted by Terry Ruggles
and Denise Nakano, takes a look at the
past, present and future of the Wildwoods, New Jersey. Special guests Jerry Blavatt, Chubby Checker, Bobby Rydel, Peter Noone, The Crystals and Mickey Dolan make appearances. The show features stories from people throughout
the Delaware Valley, who met, married, partied and brought their kids to the
Wildwoods. Writer, producer and performer, Bill Jolly wrote a song for the showthat will be highlighted in a music video.
CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE — Vincent E. Diggs, a 30-year-old unemployed laborer from Whitesboro, was indicted last week on four counts of kidnapping and four counts of endangering the welfare of a child in connection with a hostage situation.
According to police, Lillian Lopez, of Wildwood, came to police for help at about 6;19 a.m. on the morning of April 24. Diggs, her boyfriend, was babysitting her two children, and two of his own, when he called her at work and threatened to harm the children with a knife.
Police negotiated with Diggs from outside an apartment at the Commissioner's Court apartment complex, at 3700 New Jersey Ave., for more than three hours brfore securing the safe release of the children ages: 3,5,11,12.
His indictment includes charges of making terroristic threats to Lopez, possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose and being a certain person not permitted to have a weapon. The weapons charge was made because of a previous drug conviction. He remains in the Cape May County jail.
NORTH WILDWOOD – The Annual Law Enforcement Weekend will begin this Friday, when the Police Dragon Boat team arrives at the Fifth Avenue boat ramp from Philadelphia at about 5 p.m. The Philadelphia Highway Patrol Motorcycle Drill team will perform a stunt show at 7 p.m. on the corner of Second and Ocean Avenues. That will be followed by a candlelight vigil at The Lou Booth Theater for officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty. A Memorial Parade will take place on Saturday at 2 p.m. on Atlantic Avenue.
By MAUREEN L. CAWLEY
WILDWOOD - What is the secret to getting state approval for high rise development here? According to Mayor Ernie Troiano, you have to use the magic word. And contrary to what your mother told you, “please” doesn’t cut it.
“Required” seems to be the magic word,” Troiano said, when asked why the city’s land use law was changed to required that high rise hotels reach heights of 250 feet.
The change was made by commissioners on Wednesday in hopes that State Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will view high rise development in Wildwood more favorably than it has to date.
Proponents of high rise construction received disappointing news in June when the DEP declined Coastal Area Facilities Review Act (CAFRA) approval for the 25-story Nouveau Wave hotel proposed for Rio Grande Avenue at Ocean Avenue. The Nouveau Wave project was the first of its kind proposed in Wildwood.
The CAFRA denial of the project listed concerns held by state officials that the projects would have a detrimental effect on air circulation, shadows, traffic patterns and property values. The agency also raised concerns that the high rise structures would stress the city’s emergency services in the event of a fire or a coastal flood. The DEP report also said that the structure is proposed for a site that is located in “the second most important migratory bird flyway in North America.”
But in addition to these objections, the DEP also stated in its denial that “the city has passed a supporting ordinance to allow for high rise structures up to 250 feet in height, (but) …does not require an increase in height or density” and therefore does not meet a CAFRA requirement to be “in character with transitional heights.”
At the meeting on Wednesday, Troiano said that the city was looking for ways to overcome the DEP’s objections. “It is no secret here that we are headed toward high rise development,” he said.
Wildwood officials looked south to Lower Township where the DEP gave developer Eustace Mita and Achristavest LLC the required CAFRA permit to build the 12-story Grand Hotel at Diamond Beach, Troiano said.
“(Lower Township) put “required” in (their ordinance), and all the sudden it’s approved,” Troiano said.
Earlier this year Wildwood’s land use law was changed, to allow 250 story hotels in the Hotel/Motel (HM) zone without a variance. On Wednesday, commissioner went a step further, and the law now states: “hotel and motel buildings shall be no less than 250 feet as measured from base elevation.” In other words 250 feet is “required.”
The new amendment also changes the required height in the Residential/Multi-family (RM) zone, which abuts the high rise hotel zone. The new law limits the construction of residential and multifamily buildings in that zone to 150 feet, but requires hotels (which are permitted in that zone) to “be no less than 150 feet.”
Barbara Kato, who owns a two-year-old condo on Spencer Avenue, is concerned about the changes made to the land use law. Her building is in the RM zone, but sits next to the HM zone. Most of the structures in the RM zone to date are two and three story condominiums and townhouses and some older homes and guest houses, but they are situated beside a zone that now requires 25-story buildings. Further, the ordinance now requires 15 story hotels in the zone where her property is.
Kato and some of her neighbors have been watching Wildwood’s changing zoning laws closely since last summer when developer Larry Howard proposed the construction of a 25-story building to be built on the west side of Atlantic Avenue beside the condo complex. They voiced fierce opposition to his Waypoint project, and it was denied by the city’s zoning board because it needed multiple variances (including one for height). Some residents said zoning board members said the projects was too big for the lot.
Now Howard has submitted plans for the site that include a 15-story, 175-foot tall structure. Under the new ordinance however, the building is not tall enough. The new ordinance requires that the building be 250 feet - the height of the hotel that was denied by the city’s zoning board last year.
“Now they don’t have to ask permission (to go to 25 stories),” Kato told commissioners.
Troiano told her not to worry. “The board is not going to accept something that high on that (west) side of Atlantic Avenue,” he said.
Kato pointed out that the city’s ordinance said otherwise.
“If the ordinance says you have to, how can you say ‘No, you can’t do that’?” Kato asked.
“I can’t tell you that,” Troiano said. “Does it sound crazy?”
“It does,” Kato replied.
Troiano told Kato that the DEP’s CAFRA regulations made it necessary.
A developer who wants to build a smaller structure in the cities HM zone can now request a variance, according to city solicitor Marc Karavan. But some who have watched the events unfold believe that is likely.
Resident AL Brannen asked the mayor if he guaranteed that the planning and zoning boards would not approve a 25-story building on the west side of Atlantic.
“The planning and zoning boards came to us and said 15 stories,” Troiano said. “We don’t tell them what to do.”
Troiano said that CAFRA had some objections to Wildwood’s plans for high rises, but they were not necessarily the ones that were listed in the denial of the Nouveau Wave’s CAFRA permit.
Troiano said the DEP’s concern about the migratory flight path was “a boiler plate objection.” He noted that high rises in Atlantic City and Ocean City, Maryland sit on the coast as well. There are still issues to be addressed, however, Troiano said.
Resident Helen Ernst asked the mayor if the changes will guarantee that the proposed high rise buildings will be built.
“No it doesn’t guarantee anything. There’s a lot of a things that CAFRA wants to see and understand about,” Troiano said.
With as many as a dozen high rise structures in various stages of planning, city officials may need to try out a number of magic words.
Have they tried “Pretty, please?”
By MAUREEN L. CAWLEY
WILDWOOD – Commissioners introduced the city’s long-awaited budget last Wednesday with a smaller tax increase than was originally expected. The city operated on emergency appropriations over the past several months. The city missed a February 10 deadline for introduction and a March 20 deadline for passage of its 2006 spending plan and was operating on emergency appropriations as the details of the budget were being hammered out. On June 30, the city passed a resolution to send out tax bills based on a estimated budget that showed a tax rate increase of 2.6 cents over last years spending plan, but the $24.8 million budget that was introduced last week brought with it a smaller than anticipated increase of 1.5 cents.
“We worked very, very hard on it,” Commissioner of Finance, Kathy Breuss said.
According to the proposed budget, spending is up $73,093.26 from last year. The total amount raised by taxes this year is $14.3 million, and taxpayers can expect to pay $1.51 per $100 of assessed property value. That means a property owner with a home valued at $300,000 will pay about $4,530 to support the total budget which includes city, county, school, library and open space taxes. Last year, the same taxpayer paid $4,260 based on a rate of $1.42 per $100 of value.
In addition to revenue raised by taxation, the budget is also supported by an early payment of $1.5 million from K. Hovnanian for the property it plans to develop on the former city dump in the back bay area. The cash is not in city coffers yet, according to Breuss. The city has a letter of credit, but expects to have it in hand before Dec. 15, 2006.
“The city doesn’t have that money yet, but (Hovnanian) has an agreement with a bank that backs them” in the event that they are not able to pay by that date, Breuss said.
The city will also receive revenue from the sale of an additional piece of land on Taylor and Andrews, Breuss said.
“It is basically an ‘unbuildable’ lot,” Bruess said, and it is being purchased by an adjacent property owner for $65,000. Settlement on the property is scheduled for Sept. 15.
The city is also receiving $171,000 from the Greater Wildwoods Tourism Improvement and Development Authority as payment toward the convention center’s omnibus agreement.
According to that agreement, the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority is required to make annual payments of $220,000 toward the construction of the convention center, which was bonded for by the city, Breuss said.
But “The way the omnibus agreement is written, we are the last in line to get money,” Breuss said, and for the past two years, the city has received no payment.
This year, GWTIDA is making a payment toward that bond amount.
A $397,340 in “indirect cost allocation” from the Wildwood Water Utility is listed as an additional revenue source on the budget. Last year that allocation was only $80,000. $250,000 from the sale of a liquor license is also included in the budget.
$1 million in UEZ money is budgeted for the Boardwalk reconstruction project, and the WBID is contributing $183,210 for the Pacific Avenue streetscape. Tax relief aid from the state is anticipated at $261,110, about $40,000 less than last year.
The budget is also supported by $1.9 million in surplus funds derived from added or omitted taxes collected in Oct. 2005.
The total cost of salaries and wages is anticipated to be about $10.9 million, an increase from the $10.089 million figure in 2005. The number of public employees is expected to increase to 202 from last year’s work force of 201. The city anticipates paying more in salaries and wages for employees in public works, including boardwalk construction, parks, street and vehicle maintenance, and sanitation. Other salary and wage increases are budgeted in the police department and purchasing.
The city anticipates spending $340,000 in fuel in 2006, an increase over the $235,406.59 paid last year.
Breuss said the budget process is challenging, but improves every year.
“When I came into office we were negative $3.5 million,” she said. “Now we are moving out of that slowly, but surely.”
But she added: “It was difficult, and I expect it to be difficult next year.”
And commissioners don’t get much of a break before the process starts over again for 2007.
Copies of the budget are available in the city clerk’s office at City Hall. A public hearing on the spending plan is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 6.
By MAUREEN L. CAWLEY
WILDWOOD – The 23-story Starlight Resort Hotel and Condominiums was the official item on the agenda for the Coastal Facilities Area Review Act (CAFRA) hearing. But for many, the meeting with CAFRA Bureau Manager Kevin Broderick was a chance to weigh in on the controversial changes planned for the city’s skyline.
As many as a dozen high rise projects are in the works, and to date, five (including the Starlight) have received the necessary approvals from the city’s zoning board. Before breaking ground, however, each developer must obtain a CAFRA permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection to build in the environmentally sensitive area along the coast.
In June the DEP delivered a blow to would-be developers and high-rise proponents by denying approval for the first proposed 25-story hotel, The Nouveau Wave on Rio Grande Avenue. The report released by the state cited the potential detrimental effect that the height and density of the building could have on wildlife and “public, health safety and welfare,” but Wildwood Mayor Ernie Troiano said he believes the issues will be worked out.
Advocates of the mega structures say they will bring much-needed “first-class” hotel rooms and a ratable boom to Wildwood. But opponents say the projects are excessive; overshadowing neighborhoods, depleting resources, and choking off breezes from the ocean. Broderick listened to nearly three hours of testimony from those on both sides, but the final decision is still months away, he said.
“The idea for this building (is) to provide new hotel rooms for our new convention center,” said Architect Dan Shousky, of Olivieri, Shousky and Kiss, who designed the Starlight for Bill Morey Family Investments. The 255 foot structure, proposed for a parking lot near the Boardwalk between Juniper and Poplar avenues, would include 264 hotel suites and 654 parking spaces - two things that the city needs more of, Shousky said.
Cape May County Freeholder Dan Beyel agreed, elaborating on the loss of hotel rooms and the loss of tourism revenue. The housing stock needs to be replenished with upscale accommodations that modern tourists demand, Beyel said.
“We’re going to lose some of our market share to other destinations,” Beyel said.
In addition, Beyel said high rise projects like the Starlight can provide year-round jobs, which are in short supply in the county,
“I think this application is worthy of being approved,” Beyel said.
John Lynch, the Director of Sales for Wildwood’s Convention Center, represented the Greater Wildwoods Tourism Improvement (GWTIDA), at the meeting. He said that GWTIDA representatives would not be able to attend CAFRA hearing on high rise development, stating that a letter submitted to the DEP from GWTIDA’s executive director, John Siciliano, would make GWTIDA’s stance clear the Starlight and on similar projects.
“We truly believe the weakness to overcome is our room stock,” Lynch read reiterating the often-stated need for “new first class hotel properties in the Wildwoods.” These properties would attract the business traveler and midweek business to the convention center and to Wildwood, the letter stated, but it stopped short of directly supporting high rise construction. It said: GWTIDA did not advocate for hotels of “any particular size or height,” but supported the creation of quality rooms to extend the tourist season.
Middle Township Deputy Mayor and GWTIDA board member Charles Leusner spoke in favor of the project, saying, “If you don’t move forward, we are going to be left behind.” Vicki Clark of Cape May County Chamber of Commerce’s offered that organization’s support as well. Wildwood’s tax assessor Joseph Gallagher talked about how the high rises could add to the city’s ratable base.
“We are looking at potentially cutting the tax rate in half, he said.
Dan MacElrevey of the DooWop Preservation League said the design of the project and the first-class rooms would complement the offerings of the city’s historic motels.
And Gary Zeigler of Wildwood’s Water Utility said the water supply was adequate to serve the project.
Dr. Edward H. Salmon of the consulting and lobbying firm Salmon Ventures LTD, of Millville, spoke in favor of the project. “I represent a couple of the developers who want to bring these exciting projects to Wildwood,” he said. Salmon said the development of high rises like the Starlight would reap benefits for both Wildwood and Cape May County.
Atlantic City and Long Branch are designated as high density development areas by the state, Salmon said.
“We really believe Wildwood should be the third,” he said. “There is water. There is sewage (capacity) and all the facilities necessary.”
Others within Wildwood disagreed.
Resident Paul Russell said he had sent some information to the DEP about the cumulative effect high-rise development could have on the city’s water supply.
“If every one of (the high rises) is approved as submitted, we might be looking at drinking bottled water,” he said. “I really believe they are excessive. We need to consider the future of people who live here, not just the interests of those who would profit from them.”
Resident Al Brannen noted the affect the Starlight and similar projects could have on traffic and congestion in Wildwood. WalMart couldn’t open in Rio Grande in spite of the major road construction that was done to make room for customers at the new shopping center there, Brannen said, while Ocean Avenue in Wildwood has just one lane north and one lane south.
“What is a 25-story building going to be doing to a little two lane road?” he asked.
Brannen asked Broderick to drive around the neighborhood where the project is planned before CAFRA makes its determination.
William Ernst, a retired engineer, who lives across the street from the proposed project area, said that he felt the traffic studies were in adequate and did not take into account the delivery traffic on Juniper and Poplar avenues.
MaryAnn Getsinger said she has owned a guest house on Maple Avenue since 1922.
“There is an enormous amount of traffic in that area just from delivery trucks bringing things to the boardwalk,” she said. “There are a lot of residential homes in that area. Twenty-five stories is much too tall…much too high. Lower Township has 12 stories. If we need to go up, why not go with something more reasonable?”
Resident and motel owner Kathy Distro said she was considering building a motel in near the project site in the 80’s, and was told that the engineering studies done on her property revealed water pockets beneath the soil. Distro agreed that the town needs hotel rooms, but she believed the high rises should be built far from the beaches, on firmer soil in the center of town. That way more residents would benefit from sea breezes and ocean views and it would revitalize the downtown area, she said.
The building is beautiful, but more planning is necessary, Distro said.
“We have an inventory of condos that are white elephants,” she said, “but we can (also) have beautiful buildings that are monuments to stupidity.”
Broderick said the DEP would review its findings and make a report to the developer. After that they will have 90-days to respond before a final determination is made. If approved, the project will be the first to obtain all of the necessary approvals from the state.
By MAUREEN L. CAWLEY
THE WILDWOODS – During an emergency evacuation, you can’t force someone to leave, said North Wildwood’s Emergency Management Director, Gus Mason.
So he instructs emergency personnel to tell them this: “If you are not going to leave, would you please give me the name, address and phone number of your nearest kin, so that we can advise them of your demise.”
“That gets them thinking,” Mason said.
Mason has been working in emergency management for more than 40 years, and he has seen the damage a storm can do. Like the storm of ’62, when there was nearly 10 feet of water on New Jersey Avenue.
“I had eight inches of ocean water in my living room,” he said.
There was a time when storms were truly unpredictable, and people just rode it out and hoped for the best, Mason said. But those days are gone. Now each municipality has a coordinator in place to oversee the daily monitoring of the weather and to gauge the threat of storms long before they reach our section of the coast.
They watch nor’easters, like the Halloween storm in 1991 and the Storm of ’62, which are a constant and repetitive threat in this area. And from March to November, they Personnel in the 16 offices of emergency management collect information every day from a variety of sources including the National Weather Service, The Weather Channel and the Office of Emergency Management.
“It’s become a normal routine that you warn people way ahead of time,” Mason said.
Wildwood’s Deputy Emergency Management Coordinator, Michael Bailey said that there are even SLOSH (Sea, Lake, and Overland Surges from Hurricanes) models that the National weather service uses to predict the level of storm surges that could be produced by bad weather.
When emergency management coordinators realize there is a threat, they meet together at the county emergency management office and come up with a plan. Then they return to their municipalities to inform city officials, and to form and implement a plan.
“You have a dozen people predicting what it is going to do,” Bailey said. “When they come together you have a pretty good idea where it’s going.”
Hurricanes begin forming as tropical depressions off the coast of Africa in March, and tend to follow the warm jet streams along the equator and in the Gulf of Mexico. But it is not until the temperatures of the ocean rise in the Mid-Atlantic region that hurricanes become a serious threat.
“As the warm water moves north, so does the possibility for storms,” Mason said.
In our region, September, October and November are the most active months after the majority of summer residents and tourists have gone home, Mason said.
“The last time I can remember (a major storm) happening in the summer time is never,” Mason said.
That’s good news, since Mason said it would take about 16 hours to implement an plan to evacuate the some 5,000 year round residents. The population of North Wildwood alone can swell to 90 or 130 thousand, making an emergency evacuation much more of a challenge, since the evacuation would likely take place along North Wildwood Boulevard and on to the Garden State Parkway and Route 47. Wildwood residents would use Rio Grande Avenue. So too would those on the northern end of the Crest. Those in the South would go over the Cape May Bridge.
The toll would be waved, Mason said. And all traffic on the island’s access roads would be redirected off the island. Efforts would be made to get everyone off of the island, but in the event that a full evacuation is impossible shelters could be set up at schools, community centers and other high-lying areas.
“There are a lot of considerations depending on the time of year,” Wildwood’s Deputy Emergency Management Coordinator, Michael Bailey said. “(Cape May County) is the toughest county in the state to evacuate.”
Bailey said that the USDA has awarded grant money to Wildwood and to other municipalities to upgrade their emergency management equipment and facilities. Plans are in place to coordinate the rescue effort between city, county, state and federal officials, but because of the unpredictability of storms, emergency officials will meet to work out a plan based on the information that is available. Information would be made available through emergency announcements on local radio stations.
“Every storm is a storm in its own,” Mason said.
Bailey said the likelihood of a major storm hitting during the tourism season is unlikely.
“It hasn’t happened in any of our lifetimes,” he said, but he added, “I believe Mayor Nagin said the same thing. You have to be prepared.”
An evacuation can be as unpredictable as a storm, so it makes sense to be prepared for anything, North Wildwood Emergency Management Coordinator Gus Mason said.
Accidents can occur on the route slowing traffic and keeping you from your intended destination. And once the storm is cleared, and it is time to come home, you may need to prove to officials that you are a resident.
You should bring:
The deed to your property
Identification for everyone
Important documents (Insurance papers, Insurance cards, etc.)
Medication and prescriptions
Extra clothes and shoes
You may run into trouble and will need:
A cell phone
A lighter or matches
A first aid kit
Plastic Trash Bags and gallon sized zip-top bags
A map and a compass
A can of tire sealer
You may need to spend some time in a shelter, so also bring:
A pillow and a blanket for each family member
An air or foam mattress
Baby supplies - formula, diapers
Books games and playing cards