SEA BRIGHT: FOCUS ON STALLED BUSINESSES

A volunteer group wants to help owners of vacant stores spruce up their properties.  (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By SARAH KLEPNER

A group of Sea Bright residents is asking the borough to reach out to businesses that have stalled in the post-Sandy recovery process.

With a campaign for sand replenishment, a fundraiser to replace lost beach equipment, an open-house on recovery construction and more efforts already under its belt, Seabrighters Embracing Action – a community group that formed in February to help the town and each other recover from Hurricane Sandy – is now turning its attention to matters of appearance.

“We’re asking the town to enforce the codes when it comes to businesses that aren’t cleaning up,” SEA founder Heather Bedenko said Tuesday night after the bimonthly borough council meeting. Closed businesses “are like black eyes on the town. We have businesses opening up between two half-demolished places,” she said.

“We want to make this a town that attracts people, not scares them away,” added SEA member Linda Richter.

Bedenko sent a letter to Sea Bright code officer Tom Haege last month, calling attention to a dozen commercial properties that are languishing while nearby businesses have reopened. She asked that pressure be applied to have  owners replace windows and keep properties tidy.

“We can’t require glass,” said councilman Marc Leckstein, chair of the code enforcement committee, when members of the group raised the issue before the council. “Right now, that is not a permitted requirement. But we are looking into changing the ordinance.”

SEA wants the borough to find out what sort of assistance owners need to maintain their properties, and to make sure owners know how to access help that is available.

“If a business needs help, they need to ask for it,” Bedenko said. “There’s lots of help available.” She noted that the Sea Bright Resource Center has an overview of assistance programs.

“Businesses could’ve chosen not to come back, but they did,” Bedenko said. “They are stalwarts in the face of adversity and we’d like to see them succeed. We have to pull together as a community.”

Toward that end, Seabrighters Embracing Action is organizing volunteers for a second round of Sand Days, to tackle sand removal from private yards  – the group obtains right of entry  – and sidewalks in the part of town north of Route 520.

Volunteers, and hauling equipment with an operator, are needed.

Sand will be collected by Monmouth County to be screened and reused, instead of going into the landfill, Bedenko said. “It’s important to clear it away, because the sewers and storm drains are filling with sand.”

Interested volunteers as well as Sea Bright residents who want to join SEA may contact Bedenko by email.