Minutes of Special Commissioners Meeting - January 10, 2005
Prior to the opening of the Special meeting, Mr. Pantalone led those present in the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag.
The Special meeting of the Board of Commissioners, Borough of Wildwood Crest, Cape May County, New Jersey, was held in the Municipal Court Room at 2:00 p.m. On roll call the following answered to their names:
Cabrera – Tomlin – Pantalone - Yes
Mr. Pantalone read the following statement: In compliance with the Open Public Meeting Act, Chapter 231, P.L. 1975, the notice requirements have been satisfied as to the time, place and date of holding said Special meeting by posting notice on the bulletin board in the Borough Hall and by mailing and fax transmitting same to the Gazette-Leader and The Press on January 4, 2005 at 4:00 p.m.
Mr. Pantalone next announced the one-way in and the one-way out method of ingress and egress in case of emergency.
Mr. Pantalone reminded all present that no cell phones would be permitted during the course of the meeting. The Mayor further indicated that the purpose of this Special Meeting was to hear a presentation and remarks regarding a proposed “Doo Wop Preservation District” and that no formal action would be taken by the Board of Commissioners on this date.
Dan MacElrevey, President of the Doo Wop Preservation League and Jack Morey, Vice President of the Doo Wop Preservation League, appeared before the Board of Commissioners to make a presentation regarding a proposal to create a historic hotel-motel district in Wildwood Crest.
Jack Morey introduced Nancy Zerbe of Arch II Inc., the consultant regarding historic preservation; Dorothy Guzzo, the Deputy Historic Preservation Officer of the State of New Jersey; Sara Andre, Historic Preservation Specialist; George Chindley, State Historic Preservation Office; and Terry Karchner, Supervisor of the New Jersey National Historic Register Program.
Nancy Zerbe stated that she has been working with the Doo Wop Preservation League for four years. Her company had an intern working in the Wildwoods during the summer of 2004 “looking at every mid-20th Century motel” and documenting those properties. She explained the process by which a “historic district” is created. The first step is the comprehensive survey of the area. The next step is presentation of the “thematic” study to the State showing a “resource type” in Wildwood Crest of mid-20th Century motels that have historic significance. Additionally, it showed a geographic historic district with a significant concentration of mid-20th Century motels. She indicated that the “district” has been revised numerous times due to the large number of demolitions recently.
In November 2004, she and representatives from the State met with the Doo Wop Preservation League to further refine the boundaries of the historic district and resubmitted the application to the State in December 2004. The next step will be for the State to do their final review of the nomination for professional and technical needs, and then the matter is presented to the State Review Board. At that time, a body of professionals in architecture, architectural history, archeology, will review the nomination and provide their recommendations to the State Historic Preservation Officer as to whether this nomination meets state and federal criteria and should be placed on the State Register of Historic Places.
Mr. Morey indicated that the Doo Wop Preservation League will be asking for the resolution from the Board of Commissioners supporting the historic district, and adoption of guidelines for preservation and development of the district.
Mr. Pantalone interjected that the Board of Commissioners would not be making any formal resolutions at the end of the meeting.
Ms. Zerbe stated that the mid-20th Century motels have been recognized as significant both historically and architecturally and those are the two main criteria for creating a historic district. However, there is also an age factor, and that is usually 50 years and most of the structures do not meet that criterion. However, there has been strong support from State personnel for this area meeting the test for “exceptional significance.”
Ms. Zerbe went on to indicate that the proposed district boundaries include a western boundary of Atlantic Avenue, a southern boundary of Farragut Road, and a northern boundary of Morning Glory Road.
In terms of ramifications, Ms. Zerbe stated that on the positive side, there would be the honor of having a property listed on the state and national register. In her opinion, the most important ramification would be the positive impact on the tourism industry. Additionally, there are tax credits for those properties.
In terms of regulatory ramifications, the State Register of Historic Places would regulate those properties placed on the New Jersey Register, and they would have “a certain degree of protection” from actions of the state government, county, municipality and any agencies thereof. The National Register only protects properties at the federal level.
Ms. Zerbe stressed that the historic district designation would not bring “any additional regulatory review.” She added, however, that it would not “save the district.” It would provide the tools to those who desire to utilize them to promote and save their properties.
With regard to CAFRA regulations and its impact, Ms. Zerbe stressed that CAFRA protects from a variety of environmental issues, and only one of those is the historic aspect. She went on to state that if a CAFRA permit application is received by the DEP, that application would be sent to the Historic Register for review. That review would determine if there is anything in the property that would be affected by the project, such as is it listed on or eligible for inclusion in the New Jersey Register of Historic Places. By state law, CAFRA must make that determination prior to issuing a permit.
Ms. Zerbe stated that, in her professional opinion, placing this district on the Historic Register “is not going to bring private property owners any additional regulatory responsibilities.”
Dorothy Guzzo of the State Historic Register reported that her office has been working over the past several years on the Doo Wop District in the Wildwoods. She indicated that as a state agency, her office is charged with enforcing the regulatory aspect of historic districts, including listing of properties on the register, CAFRA permit review, and technical assistance to “sister agencies.” She went on to state that there may be some misconceptions about what a locally designated district may be as opposed to being on the state register. She indicated she would be happy to answer any such questions.
Mr. Pantalone interjected that, prior to opening the question and answer portion of the meeting, he would ask the Borough Clerk to read several letters into the record. The Clerk read those letters in their entirety as follows:
(Available upon request in the Borough Clerk’s Office)
Mr. Pantalone then opened the question and answer portion of the meeting.
The Solicitor stated that it was her understanding from Ms. Zerbe’s statements that as a result of the Doo Wop Preservation League filing of the nomination, that would be what would make certain areas National Registry eligible, and, therefore, that is why the CAFRA applications now go to Ms. Guzzo’s office for review. Ms. Guzzo responded that the filing of the application did not make the area eligible; that prior to the League filing the application the area had not been “studied.” She added that under New Jersey law, everything along the New Jersey coast goes to her office for review. The Solicitor stated that to her knowledge, the first time the Borough became aware of the review by the State Historic Register was the “Captain’s Table” application, and that she would presume that it had not been a regulation that property owners would have to deal with prior to the Doo Wop Preservation League filing the nomination.
Ms. Guzzo responded that “it may not have happened within the Department of Environmental Protection,” but that the regulation has been in place approximately three years and have not changed. The Solicitor inquired, to Ms. Guzzo’s knowledge, was the first property in Wildwood Crest in which Historic Register review of CAFRA applications was the Captain’s Table. Ms. Guzzo responded that she could not answer that question definitively, but it could have been the “first trigger” within the CAFRA permit process. Ms. Zerbe interjected that it was her opinion that it was not the filing of the nomination that “triggered it,” adding that one of the land use regulatory elements is a review by the Historic Register office, who make a determination as to whether the property is listed or is eligible for listing within the National Register. Ms. Zerbe went on to state that the State Historic Register had been aware of her involvement with the Doo Wop Preservation League in applying for National Register status, and that office contacted her to request information on the property. However, at that point a formal nomination had not been filed by the Doo Wop Preservation League.
The Solicitor reiterated that, to her knowledge, the Historic Register review of the Captain’s Table CAFRA application was the first time the Board of Commissioners became aware that any such “historic review” would impact properties in Wildwood Crest. Ms. Guzzo responded that her office has an arrangement with CAFRA to the effect that if an application involves a building fifty years or older, the application automatically goes to the Historic Register for review. The Solicitor stressed that the first time the Clerk, the Board of Commissioners or the Solicitor were made aware of the CAFRA regulation requiring historic review was with the Captain’s Table application. That prompted the Board of Commissioners to request the Clerk to send a letter to the DEP inquiring about the matter. The Solicitor went on to inquire, if there have been other CAFRA applications similar to the Captain’s Table, why that particular application was the first one to trigger notice to the Board of Commissioners. She added that the Planning Board Solicitor was also not aware of any such regulation.
Ms. Guzzo responded that it was her opinion that Asbury Park may have had some influence on CAFRA sending applications to the Historic Register for review, because the redevelopment of Asbury Park was the first indication that there were historic properties within the historic zone.
The Clerk questioned how, if historic designation is “less restrictive,” the letter from the DEP with regard to the Captain’s Table stated that because of the Captain’s Table’s inclusion on the historic list, it would be a cause for denial of the development application. He went on to state that there is apparently an “actual rule” with regard to such applications. Ms. Zerbe responded that the rule states that a property must be “on or eligible for” inclusion on the historic registry; that the pending nomination “could go nowhere” and the rule would still be applicable. The Clerk inquired if it would be applicable if a property is in the historic district that was created without any local authorizations required of the governing body. Ms. Zerbe responded that the regulations for CAFRA state that “anything that is historic” which is either a resource listed on the New Jersey Register of Historic Places, or eligible for and meets the criteria and has never been listed.
The Solicitor inquired if inclusion resulting from the nomination would automatically trigger the review. Ms. Zerbe responded that there does not have to be a nomination. The Solicitor clarified her inquiry, stating “the creation of the district as proposed” would trigger an automatic review of every application to CAFRA. Ms. Zerbe responded, “at this point, yes.”
The Clerk interjected that the rule cited by him earlier points to the “Doo Wop Historic District” and nothing with respect to buildings being of a certain age. Ms. Zerbe inquired as to where the Clerk was getting that information. The Clerk responded that it came directly from a letter from the DEP with regard to the denial of the Captain’s Table application. Ms. Zerbe reiterated her earlier comments regarding historic review of CAFRA applications whether a property is on the historic register or not.
Mr. Cabrera inquired if a property would be subject to review if it was not within CAFRA boundaries. Ms. Guzzo responded that there would be no historic review because there would be no CAFRA application.
The Solicitor inquired if the proposed “revised district” included any properties in North Wildwood or Wildwood to be on the Historic Register. Ms. Zerbe responded that neither of these communities possessed structures of “exceptional significance” such as Wildwood Crest. The Solicitor asked for confirmation that the district would be only in Wildwood Crest, from Farragut Road to Morning Glory Road. Ms. Zerbe responded, “basically, yes.”
Ms. Gasmondi, Stanton and Ocean Avenues, inquired if at the time of the creation of the district, whether Ms. Zerbe “picked certain motels to become historic” and what grounds were used to determine that. Ms. Zerbe responded that there must be concentration geographically and those properties fall within Wildwood Crest. They then looked at the time period of construction, which was the late 1940’s up to the mid-1970’s and looked at motels that fell within that time period.
An unidentified member of the audience stated that he did not think the majority of the motels being targeted for the district represent 1950’s architecture. It was his opinion that a “chrome plated diner” was a 1950’s structure. However, he stated that when he looks at some of the motels mentioned, “I see blight.” He went on to add that most of the buildings do not meet the present building codes and for owners of the properties to “fix them up” they would have to expend large sums of money.
Mary Fox, a commercial real estate appraiser, and a member of the Doo Wop Preservation League, spoke in favor of creating a historic district. She stated that the Doo Wop tours are evidence of the interest in the mid-20th Century architecture, and the fact that it brings back memories for those who take the tours. She added that “there is a market here.”
Chuck Schumann, 117 West Toledo Road, a member of the Doo Wop Preservation League, stated that “recent history is very difficult for many people to understand,” especially for those who grew up with it. He agreed with Ms. Fox that Doo Wop is extremely important to the Wildwoods as a marketing tool. He added that he did not think it would be a threat to developers who want to build condominiums.
Jack Morey of the Doo Wop Preservation League, inquired of Ms. Guzzo as to whether she could foresee circumstances where CAFRA could grant “exceptions” or “variances” to help a property owner maintain a historic structure. Ms. Guzzo responded in the affirmative, adding that it depends upon the overall mission of the project.
Dan MacElrevey of the Doo Wop Preservation League outlined some of the advantages to property owners of the historic designation. They are: tax credit (20% for any qualifying renovation); grants. He stated that any existing restrictions were not placed by the state, but, rather, by local zoning requirements. He stressed that the historic designation is not anti-development, but, rather, pro managed development with a respect for the area’s history.
Wally Lerro, Atlantic Avenue, a motel owner in Wildwood Crest, stated his opinion that the creation of a historic district as being “completely against developers.” He inquired if “every motel from Farragut to Morning Glory” on the easterly side of Atlantic Avenue would be within the preservation district. Ms. Zerbe responded in the affirmative. Mr. Lerro referred to the “50 years or older” criteria, stating that none of the motels in that area are fifty years old.
Lisa Ferrante, a motel owner in the proposed district, inquired if the Borough could assist motel owners in upgrading their properties by changing zoning laws and providing incentives without the creation of a historic district. Nancy Zerbe responded that the Borough can only address zoning issues, and reiterated that the creation of a historic district will not force property owners to “save” their buildings. Ms. Ferrante inquired if she would be limited in how she can change her property as are the property owners in Cape May who are in that historic district. Ms. Zerbe responded that Cape May has a locally designated “historic district” and that local designation is what limits the property owners, not the designation by the State Historic Register. Ms. Ferrante inquired if the State makes the historic designation, would the local designation follow. Ms. Zerbe responded that it would be totally up to the local governing body.
Ms. Zerbe took the opportunity to comment on the letters read earlier by the Clerk. She stated that each letter used the terminology “local preservation district,” adding that in her opinion that “goes to the heart of the misunderstanding.” She went on to add that a designation by the State of a historic district would not force property owners to “preserve” their structures.
Ronald Stagliano, Esquire, attorney for several property owners in the proposed district and author of some of the letters read into the record, inquired as to why the proposed district has been “restricted out of Wildwood” and centered on Wildwood Crest. Ms. Zerbe responded that it was not from any local opposition or guidance, but, rather, in her professional opinion, the greatest concentration of historic buildings lies in Wildwood Crest. She went on to state that the criteria she utilized was “exceptional significance.” Mr. Stagliano inquired as to the meaning of “exceptional significance” adding that in his opinion it is a “very subjective” term. One of the representatives of the State Historic Register responded that the program of the National Historic Landmarks deals with properties that are of national historic value, and that program utilizes the term “exceptional importance,” adding that the creation of a historic district would elevate the area to national significance because of how unusual and extraordinary it is to have survived. He went on to state that he realized that some of the buildings date to the 1960’s, but “this collection” does not exist anywhere else in the country. He added that they are “really, really important” because their architecture is important to the “architectural history of the country.” Mr. Stagliano acknowledged that he understood what was being said, “but I don’t buy into it,” adding that he did not see how a building built twenty-five years ago of a specific style suddenly becomes of “national exceptional quality.” Mr. Stagliano stated that he has visited many national historic landmarks such as Paul Revere’s house in Boston, and there was no doubt that they are “exceptional national historical structures.” However, he argued that in the instant case, the properties are privately owned as opposed to public property. He also asked why the focus is on motels only when there were other structures built during the same era such as bowling alleys, movie theatres, and diners.
Mr. Stagliano then asked for clarification of the statement that the creation of the district would not impose any restrictions on property owners from the State Historic Register office. Ms. Zerbe stated that she had not made that statement, indicating that she had said there was no one at the local level “telling me where to draw the boundaries.” She went on to add that “because it is a resource of exceptional significance, I was being real conservative in terms of wanting to draw really tightly confined boundaries.”
Mr. Stagliano went on to state that the message coming across is that it will not affect the motel owners one way or another if the historic district is created. He asked, if that is the case, “what’s the point?” Ms. Zerbe responded that “the point” is to give it the recognition so people can realize there is something with some significance in the area. Additionally, she indicated that it provides an opportunity to attach people to the Wildwoods.
Mr. Stagliano inquired what would happen if the governing body does not endorse the plan by resolution. Ms. Guzzo responded that she could not say for sure what would happen, but she did know that in terms of the National Register nomination, if there is a majority of owner objections to the district, it would not be put on the National Register. In terms of the State Register, it could still be listed over those objections, or it could go before the Review Board.
Mr. Stagliano inquired if there was a strong objection, how would that affect it. Ms. Guzzo responded “everything would affect it.”
Mr. Stagliano then stated that it was his opinion that if a resolution endorsing the district was adopted by the Board of Commissioners, it would have to send a message to the local Planning Board. The Planning Board would then be influenced in their review of the existing zoning ordinance, even if it lacked an historical district within the ordinance.
Mr. Stagliano concluded by stating that the majority of the comments made in support of the historic district designation come from people who don’t own property within the proposed district.
Jack Morey inquired of Ms. Guzzo if she possessed any data on other communities that have endorsed historic districts as opposed to those that have not; specifically, measurement of profitability. Ms. Guzzo responded that “Cape May” is a prime example.
Marc Karavan, Esquire, attorney representing several motels in the zone, stated that the motels he represents are not the smaller motels, and they are not experiencing tremendous profits. He went on to state that at a time when other municipalities are liberalizing requirements in their commercial zones to encourage commercial development, new construction, and stimulating the economy, Wildwood Crest “seems to be moving in the other direction.” He posed the question, “if we are the only place in the country that has these motels left, why are they gone?” He suggested that perhaps a “hybrid” program could be implemented to stimulate growth in the area.
Joe Connors, of the Hialeah Motel, commented that, if a district is to be created, the entire island should be included in a district and not just a small area as is proposed. He went on to state, “I think I’m being raped of what I deserve.” He stated with regard to the regulations and the proposed historic district, “if that’s what they want to do, I think the government or the state should buy our properties for what we want and then do what you want with them.” (Loud applause.)
Jack Morey, a motel owner in Wildwood, spoke of what in his opinion he called increasing restrictions on development in Wildwood Crest, indicating that the recent restoration by him of a motel in Wildwood (the “Starlux”) would never have been approved in Wildwood Crest. He opined that “some of the things that are being encouraged in our sister community are bold,” and they represent progress.
There being no further comments, Mr. Cabrera motioned, seconded by Mr. Tomlin, that the meeting be adjourned.
Dated: February 23, 2005
Kevin M. Yecco, Borough Clerk