By LINDA G. RASTELLI
The Sea Bright borough council hopes to make the town a magnet on the Jersey shore “second to none,” no longer the “Jersey Turnpike” of the shore, Councilman Thomas Scriven said last night.
Upgrading its municipal facilities, opening a beach club and finding ways to share services with other towns are among the priorities, two council members told a group of residents who turned out to hear a Smart Growth update.
Two $25,000 state Smart Growth grants have funded a report filled with recommendations for improving the town, most of which come with price tags.
Show us the revenue, said the two residents who commented on the hour-long PowerPoint presentation.
“Whatever we do should generate revenue,” said former Councilman Read Murphy. “We’re being inundated with absolutely ridiculous taxes.”
He suggested that prefab housing be considered to save money on construction and that the former Peninsula House site be renovated as a pool club.
“Let’s not call it a beach club, or the state will have its hand in our pockets,” Murphy said.
The town has some unique challenges, said Council President William Keeler. “We have a very small land area, extreme weather, and the proximity of tidal waters gives the state more leeway [in controlling the town] than in towns located inland. With only 1,800 people, the cost per person [for facilities] is a big factor.”
Whether to build new or renovate is the operative question, he said. The borough hall would cost more than $2 million to replace, versus $600,000 to renovate. One proposal not favored by the consultants who compiled the Smart Growth report is to expand the municipal court and offices by taking over the basketball court in Borough Hall, which is currently used as a meeting room.
Some priorities are to get the court out of the trailer they currently occupy; expand the current firehouse to fit modern firetrucks; and find a new home for the police, first aid and fire departments (the public safety complex), as well as for the beach facilities.
“One good wind and it’s gone,” Scriven said of the present beach facilities. “OSHA has given us 60 days to make a decision on that.”
Having a municipal beach club similar to that in Monmouth Beach would generate revenue, said Scriven, who heads the council’s beach committee. He described a new beach pavilion with a boardwalk, lifeguard station and office complex that would have a skate park and a new playground.
“We can build it east of where the playground is now,” he suggested, which would keep people from sneaking onto the beach from the old playground.
The boardwalk would run from the private Chapel Beach Club to Donovans Reef, and include new restrooms and a changing area. The town could generate “significant revenue” with the club, he said.
“We don’t have the overall idea yet,” Scriven said. “But it could be like a Cape Cod fishing village. Something we can be proud of.”
A cell tower is a possible funding source, he noted.
The proposed beach club is undergoing a feasibility study, and may be year round or summer-only. Another decision is whether the pool would be Olympic-sized.