SEA BRIGHT: GROUP TO PAY ANCHORAGE TAB

The Anchorage Apartments, overlooking the Shrewsbury River, would be razed for a park under a DEP plan. (Click to enlarge)

By SARAH KLEPNER

Sea Bright’s borough council voted Thursday night to work with the state Department of Environmental Protection on turning the Anchorage Apartments into open space – after a group volunteered to make up for the town’s lost tax revenue.

The council made clear, though, that it would not support any parking on the property, which is located across Ocean Avenue from an ocean beach owned by the state and maintained by the borough. The governing body also insisted local control in its resolution of support, which is non-binding on the state.

About 40 residents and a handful of visitors turned out for a special meeting held before the regular council meeting, at which the DEP’s director of Local Government Assistance, Cindy Randazzo, spoke briefly and took questions.

The DEP is promoting the emergence of open space as part of Hurricane Sandy recovery, using funds from its Green Acres program, Randazzo explained, and ‘tidally-flowed’ communities such as Sea Bright are receiving special attention.
There were many voices heard on both sides of the issue.

Homeowners adjacent to the property and others raised a series of objections, including safety, loss of revenue, and quality of life.

But the standout moment came from John Grossarth of Ward Avenue in Rumson, who said he represented a group that was committed to making the borough whole on property taxes that would be lost in converting the site to a park.

Grossarth said the group, whose members he did not identify, would pay the borough portion of the tax, totaling about $14,000 a year, for five years. The group would also cover the cost of landscaping and support gardening efforts on the site, for a total outlay estimated at $105,000, he said.

Grossarth told redbankgreen afterward that group that is concerned about making the entrance to Sea Bright a “beautiful gateway that will benefit residents as well as tourists.”

Other proponents of the conversion plan spoke about the advantages of open space, and pointed out that the area was flood-prone. Sea Bright resident Serena Smith presented research on the wide range of social and psychological benefits of open space.
The council passed the resolution after removing references to parking on-site,and underscoring the borough’s role in planning the use of the site. The resolution is not binding, but necessary for the DEP to move forward in its effort to acquire the property, officials said.
A representative of the family that owns the property, Alice Russo, said the family had not received an offer from the state. She said members of the family were unsure if they were willing to sell.
According to Randazzo, there is no negotiating with the Green Acres funds. “We pay pre-Sandy market value,” she said.