By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
The Sea Bright borough council, in a rush job to dot its i’s and cross its t’s on a major beachfront development plan, apparently forgot to look out for the x’s.
It was an “oversight,” an “honest mistake,” council members said, as they took a minor scolding from residents who thought the borough library was going to get bulldozed.
At a recent Smart Growth committee meeting, a resident reviewed the plans which call for a restaurant, pool, boardwalk and cell phone tower on the property formerly home to the Peninsula House and noticed an ‘x’ on the library, indicating that it was going to be razed. Scuttlebutt ensued, and it was brought to borough officials, who did a collective, “oops.”
“Nobody knows how the x got there, why it got there,” borough Administrator Maryann Smeltzer said.
The plans, which still must be sent to the state Department of Environmental Protection for approval, have since been revised, but residents were sure to ding the council for the gaffe, and more.
The library trust committee’s chairwoman, Liz Von Ziegesar, said she was devastated when she heard the “beloved library” was purportedly going to be razed, but understands now that it was a mistake and nobody on the council meant for it to happen.
Mayor Maria Fernandes made it clear that the council has to be more careful. When the plans were presented for a vote to go to DEP at a meeting last month, Fernandes said she didn’t have enough time to review the plans and recommended the vote be delayed, but that the rest of the council led by Councilman Read Murphy, who’s said Fernandes has repeatedly attempted to stall the project leaned on her to vote in favor of them because the project has been on hold long enough, she said.
At that point, the council meeting, as seems to occur with regularity, took a detour into the Maria Fernandes-Read Murphy show.
“Did the mayor pick up on it?” Murphy asked.
“I, frankly, didn’t have the chance to look at it,” Fernandes said.
“Don’t start a war,” he said. “This isn’t politics. We’re trying to get a project done.”
“I’m not trying to start a war or anything with you or anybody else,” she said. “I just want the council to pay attention.”
Councilwoman Dina Long threw water on the fire, offering a mea culpa to the public, with a “lesson learned” approach.
“I think we had a good lesson with this, about combing through every word of every plan,” she said.
The revised plans don’t yet have a date set to go in front of the DEP.
They do, however, have a clear marking over the library on the drawings, that reads, “library to remain.”
Betty Steffer, of Ocean Avenue, said the borough should focus on basic infrastructure and operational needs before planning out a whiz-bang oceanfront complex.
“We don’t really need bells and whistles. We need plows so we’re not trapped in our homes for three days,” she said. “Maybe we should put a moratorium on building in town before we drown ourselves.”