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Minutes of Special Commissioners Meeting   -   September 18, 2007

Note:  Complete Meeting Appears on Tape #22-07  on File in the Borough Clerk’s Office September 18, 2007
Wildwood Crest, NJ

Prior to the opening of the Special Meeting, Mr. Groon led those present in the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag.


The meeting of the Board of Commissioners, Borough of Wildwood Crest, Cape May County , New Jersey , was held in the Commissioners’ Meeting Room at 4:00 p.m.   On roll call the following answered to their names:

                   Gould - Groon – Yes                            Cabrera - Absent


Mr. Groon 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 meeting by posting notice on the bulletin board in the Borough Hall and by mailing same to the Gazette-Leader and The Press on September 13, 2007.


Mr. Groon next announced the one-way in and the one-way out method of ingress and egress in case of emergency.


Mr. Cabrera entered the meeting at this time, 9:33 am .


The Clerk indicated that the only matter on the agenda for consideration was consideration of development of the Rambler Road park project and any formal action which may be necessary in accordance therewith. He added that copies of a “draft” document were available for the public to view, which draft reflects individual commissioner suggestions.


Mr. Groon stated that the Borough had a plan, dating back approximately three years, as well as a new plan recently developed by the Borough Engineer after input from each commissioner individually.


Mr. Cabrera stated that the Borough owns the three lots from Rambler Road north along the beachfront. He indicated that there has been ongoing discussions with respect to creating some beachfront parking, renovations to the existing Nesbitt Center/Gazebo area, as well as the playground. He went on to add that the original plan discussed by the previous administration came about with discussions to extend the bicycle path in front of the beach patrol headquarters onto the beach. Mr. Cabrera indicated that the Borough is at the point where there is an opportunity to apply for a $400,000 DCA grant to improve handicap assessable amenities in the area. He added that the question would be, “what else can we add there while we are under construction if the grant is provided?”


Mr. Groon stated that the new fitness park has changed in nature, and those changes have altered his view of the park from a “fitness park” to a “passive park.” He went on to add that the original intent of the fitness park was to have a pavilion in the middle of the park near the bike path, and that did not occur. Therefore, it was his suggestion that the “fitness park” be utilized as a passive park for concerts, weddings, etc., and the gazebo at Rambler Road should not remain at that location and should be moved to the fitness park. The Rambler Road area could then accommodate additional parking which would generate more revenues, as well as increasing the size of the playground at Rambler Road . His thought was to create one passive park and another for “just about any other need we may have” in addition to raising revenues for the Borough.


Mr. Groon went on to state that another aspect of the plan would be to renovate/expand the bathrooms. In addition, but not included on the plan, was the Nesbitt Center , which houses seasonal tourism activities and, in his opinion, “needs to come down”.  He stated that that was an issue that needs to be discussed by the Commissioners, but it was his opinion that tourism/information should be relocated to the Crest Pier. He added that tourism is year around and needs to be supported in pre-season as well as post-season.


Finally, Mr. Groon stated that it is difficult to speculate how much revenue the parking lot would bring to the Borough and would estimate on the conservative side. With regard to the parking lot, he added that the Borough now provides a service whereby the beach patrol transports handicapped people from street ends to the wet sand area and that service has increased dramatically in recent years. He went on to state that the beach patrol is having difficulty covering every block, and the idea with the Rambler Road parking lot would be to centralize that service for handicapped people and provide the handicapped parking in one location. The beach patrol has advised Mr. Groon that it is a very popular service, but they are having difficulty providing the service to everyone who requests it. The idea would be to provide handicapped parking for that service, centralize the beach patrol’s use of that area, and make it handicapped accessible, which is a critical component of the plan, since that is the criteria for the DCA grant.


Mr. Groon added that the lots are the “last piece of undeveloped land in Wildwood Crest” and it was his opinion that the Borough must maximize its “multi-use” and not duplicate a service that is provided in another park.


Mrs. Gould stated that she strongly objects to having to try to decipher a plan previously provided to her that was too small to read, and then receiving a revised plan shortly before the commencement of this meeting.


She went on to state that the previous week Mr. Groon asked her if she wanted to keep the gazebo at Rambler Road . Her response at that time was, “the gazebo is Wildwood Crest.” She strongly objected to removing that gazebo. She added that she was in favor of retaining the park, but noted that the new plan removed the “surf shop” from the prior plan. The Clerk interjected that the new plans were provided to the Commissioners immediately prior to the commencement of the meeting because the Engineer had a limited time after the September 14th meeting to prepare the plan and that the draft was the culmination of suggestions received (individually) from each of the commissioners. Mrs. Gould added that the time was limited because there is grant money available that has to be applied for by the end of September. She added that “we are always running around under the gun because there is a grant.”


Mrs. Gould indicated that to change a park that was just completed from a “fitness park” to a “passive park” makes no sense to her. She added that she is strongly opposed to moving the information bureau from the Nesbitt Center to the Crest Pier since the Crest Pier is eight blocks from the north end of town, while the Nesbitt Center is basically in the center of town.


She acknowledged that the Borough does need parking.


Mrs. Gould concluded by stating, “I don’t love this.”


Mr. Groon responded to Mrs. Gould’s comments about the Nesbitt Center by indicating that tourism and answering questions from the public is a year around endeavor, and the Nesbitt Center is open only two full months and weekends in June. He disagreed with Mrs. Gould that Rambler Road is the center of town and is only utilized a couple of months during the year.


Mr. Groon inquired as to exactly when the grant application was due. Mark Blauer of Blauer Associates responded that the application must be submitted by October 5, 2007 . The Clerk inquired as to why Mr. Blauer’s correspondence indicated that there was a September 26, 2007 deadline. Mr. Blauer responded that September 26, 2007 was the last possible date the Board of Commissioners could approve submission of an application.


Mrs. Gould inquired of the Engineer as to the cost of the total project. The Engineer responded that depending upon what the Commissioners decide to do with landscaping, the multi-purpose field, it was his estimate that “bare basics” would be approximately $700,000.


Mr. Cabrera interjected that he would like to review “how we got here today.” He stated that the Borough had a previous plan, and all of the information from the prior plan was given to the Clerk for distribution. The Engineer was then requested to “come up with a plan” to start the discussion based upon all comments he had received. He added that nothing in the plan is final; that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss the plan.


Mr. Groon opened the meeting for public discussion and comments.


Tom Keenan inquired if the Borough could apply for the grant and not follow through with the project. Mr. Groon responded that it would not be something that should be done, but it has been done in the past.


Nancy Pietropaoli stated her opinion that the fitness park should remain a fitness park. Additionally, she indicated that the Borough needs additional “sand chairs” for handicapped people to traverse the sand. Presently, the Borough has only four of those chairs. She agreed that more handicapped parking was necessary in the area, and a central area for transport of handicapped people was a good idea. With regard to moving the information center, she stated that the Nesbitt Center is presently on “all the maps” distributed by various county tourism entities. She reported that approximately 5,000 people visited the information center at the Nesbitt Center in 2007. She agreed that tourism in Wildwood Crest is becoming a year around endeavor, but cautioned the Commissioners to “carefully think about moving the information center to an area that most people still perceive as a community area.” Mr. Groon responded that it was his suggestion to move the information center, and in his mind it was clear that there is merit to the work being done at the information center. Mr. Cabrera interjected with regard to the fitness park that there was some discussion about “fitness stations” being included at the park, and that has not been ruled out. Mrs. Pietropaoli stated that the Heart Association may help with the cost of those. Mr. Groon added that with regard to the “fitness park,” a building had been planned at that location but problems were encountered with DEP. Mrs. Pietropaoli added that the tourists would like picnic tables and pavilions. She stated that that and coin machines for the meters are the most frequently asked questions.


Laurie Stambaugh inquired if the vacant lots in question are “truly deemed Green Acres open space.” Additionally, she questioned if the Borough would be permitted to build anything on them in an income generating capacity. It was her understanding that the income generated on Green Acres lands must be put back into the program. She did not think a parking lot on the beach would be an asset to the Borough. Mr. Groon responded that there are no Green Acres funds at that location, and it would not be his intent to have Green Acres funding at that location. Ms. Stambaugh interjected that there are “Green Acres” signs on both lots. Mr. Groon went on to state that he was not aware of any signs and would not limit the Borough’s future options by accepting funding from Green Acres. Mr. Cabrera interjected that the signs refer to the beach and not the particular parcels, but that “the signs had to go somewhere.” Additionally, it was his desire to improve those lots to the extent that there would be “absolutely no interest for anybody to come in and make an offer to the Borough of Wildwood Crest to buy them.” Mr. Groon went on to state that the “architectural aspect” of the project would come later; that the plan under discussion was only a concept.


Raymond Pattitucci, Sand Dune Motel, stated that he was concerned about the parking lot and park attracting an element that the neighbors will not be happy with. His comments were based on the reference to renovation of the bathrooms. Mr. Groon responded that there are presently bathrooms in the area and they need to be upgraded, and the Borough will be obligated by the State to provide parking and bathrooms at intervals along the beachfront. Mr. Pattitucci reiterated his “fear” of the type of people the area will attract with public bathrooms and public parking, picnic tables and pavilions. Mr. Cabrera responded that daytrippers are coming to Wildwood Crest now and are parking on the side streets in residential areas.


Ed Masterson stated that he liked the idea of all of the handicapped parking on one side of the parking lot since there is not enough handicapped parking in the Borough. He was in favor of the consolidated beach transport by the beach patrol as well. As far as daytrippers, Mr. Masterson stated that they come down and park “in front of our houses” and if there was a parking lot on the beach, they would go there.


Mrs. Gould asked about the proposed pavilion at the new fitness park. The Engineer responded that he would provide her with a detailed drawing. Mr. Groon added that the Borough will need a CAFRA permit for anything to be constructed at Rambler Road , and the Borough would probably apply at the same time in the same application to construct the pavilion at the new fitness park.


Mr. Groon stressed for those present that the Commissioners had not seen the plan under discussion prior to the commencement of the meeting due to time constraints with the Engineer. He added that it is only a starting point.


Mrs. Gould inquired of the Engineer if the bike stand will still remain at its present location. The Engineer responded that the size of all of the buildings would be up to the governing body to determine.


Mark Blauer of Blauer Associates, the Borough’s grant writer for DCA grants, stated that if the Borough chooses to leave the area as it is and simply make it handicapped accessible, that would be eligible for a DCA grant. Curb cuts and improvements to the restrooms, parking, walkways would also be eligible. He added that if the Borough chooses to go with the present plan, those things being done that are specifically driven by handicap issues are eligible. General improvements such as a swimming pool would not be eligible.


Seth Fussellaro inquired how committed the Borough was to the plan to do something with the subject parcels of land. He added that he understood that the plan was not finalized. Mr. Groon responded that there are a couple of concepts being considered. Mr. Fuscellaro inquired as to the timeframe. Mr. Groon responded that a “solid concept” would have to be finalized by the end of the month or the project would have to be delayed for another year. Mr. Fuscellaro stated that that would give the Commissioners approximately two weeks to come up with a plan, and he inquired if the Commissioners were committed to coming up with a plan in that timeframe, or if something “decent” isn’t agreed upon, it would not go forward. He agreed with Mrs. Gould that the gazebo should not be “just knocked down” and then think about replacing it later. He added that the gazebo has always been a part of the community. Mr. Groon indicated that application for the grant must be submitted by the end of September. The Engineer interjected that the plan does not have to be finalized to make application. Mr. Groon added that it need only be a general concept.


Beatrice Korzeniowski stated that she has worked at the information center for the past three summers, and she agreed with Mrs. Pietropaoli’s statements.


Mr. Masteron suggested moving the information center toward the bike path and “surrounding” the information center with the bike path in a “figure 8.” He indicated that unless you are on the beach the information center cannot be seen.


Pat DiAntonio suggested that the Commissioners consider enhancing the gazebo with more beautification, more greenery, more landscaping, pavers, etc. He stated that to create a parking lot out of a “beautiful beachfront lot” does not seem to be the right thing to do for the beautification and enhancement of Wildwood Crest. With regard to cars parking in front of residences, it was his opinion that even if a parking lot were built, people will still park in front of houses. He urged the Commissioners to “rethink” the plan and consider beautification of what is presently existing.


Dean Gentek stated that the Fern Road park is beautiful and with the proposed entertainment center there will be concerts and other entertainment, but there will be no parking for people to attend those events. He stated that the parking lot is needed, especially with the handicapped parking issues.


Mr. Groon agreed that beautification was necessary, and this plan is an alternative to discuss and consider.


Mr. Cabrera stated that given the time sensitivity of the grant application, and the necessity of having handicapped accessibility aspects in the plan, perhaps the ADA bathrooms and parking could be considered Phase 1 to move forward with the grant. As far as the information center and the recreational facilities, the Borough may be able to phase that in at a later time.


Bruce Smith agreed with Mr. DiAntonio’s statements. He also agreed with earlier statements about visitors needing information and not parking. He stated that “this piece of land is the last parcel of land” that Wildwood Crest has that could be something to leave a lasting memory with people if it is done correctly, and it was his opinion that coving it with asphalt isn’t the correct way to do it.


Mr. Cabrera stated that if the Borough does apply for the grant, and is successful in obtaining the grant, it will be announced in early 2008. In that event, the project will not be finally drawn or commenced until 2009.


Mr. Cabrera inquired if the motel owners found tourists parking in their motel parking lots who are not staying at the motels. There was a mixed response. Mr. Cabrera inquired if the overflow cars could be sent to the Rambler Road area to park. The response was that visitors would not do that.


Mr. Fuscellaro stated his opinion that daytrippers take the chance of their car being towed by parking in a motel parking lot. Mr. Cabrera responded that he was looking at it as an option for the motel owners to direct overflow vehicles to the municipal lot. At the same time, the Borough would be realizing revenues from the parking lot.


Mr. Masterson indicated that he did not understand why the motel owners would feel threatened by a parking lot since the people who live here year around have to walk around and past visitors’ cars on their way to the beach and they pose a potential hazard to pedestrians. Mr. Groon responded that he did not think the motel owners feel threatened but, rather, that they view the situation differently.


Mr. Groon added that the Borough will be looking at future obligations very soon and it was his opinion that it would be imperative that the Borough formulate a plan for the vacant lots. He added that he is not entirely in favor of phases. He acknowledged that he has heard many good suggestions at this meeting and stated that it was obvious to him that the Commissioners need to discuss the matter further before reaching any final conclusions.


Bruce Smith inquired as to when the public restrooms are open, asking if they are open all year or are seasonal only. The response was that they are seasonal, with the exception of the restrooms at the Crest Pier. Mr. Smith asked for the reason that the restrooms are closed. The response was that there was no one available to clean them. Mr. Cabrera indicated that he would look into the situation.


Lisa Fitzpatrick inquired if there was any reason why there could not be two information centers, one at Rambler Road and one at the Crest Pier since there is a lot of traffic at the Crest Pier area as well as at Rambler Road . Mr. Groon responded that it was his opinion that the Crest Pier is somewhat under used and perhaps a solution could be found for both locations.


Mr. Smith inquired as to where the information center would be located if it were to be moved to the Crest Pier. Mr. Groon said that he has not gotten that far. Mr. Cabrera added that they were looking at all possibilities.


Mrs. Stambaugh inquired as to why so many handicapped parking spaces were being designated since it was the law that any vehicle with a handicapped placard could park in any metered spot without paying. The Clerk responded that if the spaces are not designated as handicapped, the difficulty would be that non-handicapped vehicle operators could take up all available regular parking spaces and handicapped travelers, who need access to the lifeguards, would not  have sufficient spaces to park.  The Engineer interjected that the number of spaces designated on the plan exceeds the number required by law. Mrs. Stambaugh next questioned the number required by law. The Engineer responded that it is approximately 40 with a lot of the size proposed.


Mrs. Pietrapaoli commented that “modern tourists do not walk” and added that everywhere they go they want to take their car.


Tom Keenan commented that if the location were utilized as a parking lot it would be used three or four months of the year, but if it was a park it would be used twelve months of the year. Mr. Groon responded that he was not sure anyone would be using anything on the beachfront in January and February. He added that the actual size of the parking lot will have to be worked out and that there would still be a large grass area that would sit next to the bike path.


The question was asked if North Wildwood had their bike path on the beach. Mr. Groon said that they do, and it is asphalt. He was asked if the Borough could do that, or at least install a wooden bike path. Mr. Groon responded that the Borough could not adequately protect a wooden bike path from storms and asphalt would be cost prohibitive for the length needed.


Mr. Cabrera asked the audience if it was safe to assume that perhaps a scaled down parking lot with a gazebo and recreational park area, as well as the bike shop and restroom area, would be an opportunity for a tourism presence in that area. He asked if that would be a “middle ground.” One member of the audience responded that in his opinion Rambler Road is where the activity is and some parking in that area is needed. He added that more greenery and landscaping is also needed in the area.


Mr. Fuscellaro asked Mr. Groon to explain his comment about objecting to phases. Mr. Groon responded that that was just his opinion and that Mr. Cabrera and Mrs. Gould have their opinions. Mr. Fuscellaro suggested phasing the parking lot to see how many people actually utilize it before going forward with the entire project.


Mr. Groon addressed the safety aspect of the area. He indicated that with the bike shop there are many bikes on the streets along with vehicles for the information center and bike rental shop and the beach. It was his opinion that anything the Borough can do to relieve congestion in the area would be an improvement.


The suggestion was made to separate the activities at both ends of the parcel to relieve the congestion. Mr. Cabrera responded that part of the original plan called for a cul-de-sac at the end of Rambler Road to make it easier to turn around. Mr. Groon interjected that the cul-de-sac was discussed and initial information indicates that there is not enough room. He added that there are still many things to look at.


The Clerk reminded the Commissioners that any consideration of Mr. Blauer’s plans and the grant application would have to take place at the meeting of September 26, 2007 for submission   on or before October 5, 2007 .


It was decided that any thoughts or concerns of the Commissioners should be presented to the Clerk no later than Friday, September 21, 2007 .


There being no further comments or discussions, Mrs. Gould motioned, seconded by Mr. Cabrera, that the meeting be adjourned.

Vote:           Gould-Cabrera-Groon-Yes


Dated:         September 26, 2007

Kevin M. Yecco, Borough Clerk