Smoking on the beach in Barnegat Light would be regulated in an ordinance introduced June 10. (Click here to read it.)
Also introduced by title only was an ordinance for the managed care of feral cats. It concerns a spaying/neutering program – trapping, neutering, then returning cats – a protocol already in use to control the feral cat population.
Invasive bamboo was a third topic of talk, but this topic was raised by a resident who wants the borough to consider an ordinance regulating planting of the fast-spreading species, as Ocean City, NJ does.
The proposed rule against smoking on the beach stems from complaints from the public against smoke and odor, as well as litter of used cigarette butts, council members said. The exact wording is pending.
In 2013, Harvey Cedars and Ship Bottom banned beach smoking during hours when lifeguards are on duty, a move that was applauded by a Philadelphia magazine editorial. In Ship Bottom, the ordinance specifies no smoking between the surfside flags.
Two people in the Barnegat Light meeting audience stood up passionately for what they saw as the rights of smokers. They took issue with “singling out” smokers and of making new regulations for what not to do on the beach. Council members countered with their own reasoning.
“Why couldn’t you have some kind of soft landing that said when you’re going to smoke on the beach, you just take your cigarette butts with you when you leave or there is a fine,” said Connie Higgins of 11th Street. “Enforcement is going to be an issue whether you say ‘no smoking on the beach’ or ‘take your butts with you.’”
“Well, the issue is, if you leave your butts on the beach, it’s littering,” replied Mayor Kirk Larson. “I’m asking you why you are so against this.”
“I live with a smoker, so he will never go to the beach again … but I’m just thinking vacationers …” Higgins said.
Councilwoman Dottie Reynolds, who chairs the council’s beach committee, replied, “We were thinking, if people are outside the swimming areas…”
Higgins responded, “You’re treating these people like they’re pariahs. And the government is coming down against us with a hammer, saying, ‘you can’t do this; you can’t do that; ride with your helmets on.’ It’s all for our safety; I get it. But I just think, could we have a soft landing? If it doesn’t work, then we could have an ordinance.”
Councilman Scott Sharpless, chair of the public works committee, countered that an ordinance “gives a little more teeth” when a person on the beach asks another to stop smoking next to them.
“You can say, ‘Hey, listen, this is against the law. If you want to smoke, just walk away and do it away from the crowd,’” Sharpless said. “Because, it is a nuisance to a lot of people, and a lot of people complain about it.
“Last summer, I easily got 60 complaints from people – people walking up to me saying, ‘That guy with a cigar, it bothers me.’ Or, ‘This guy didn’t pick up his cigarette butts,’” Sharpless continued.
Larson added, to Higgins, that hypothetically, “If your husband walked away and had a cigarette, nobody is going to go chase him down and tackle him, and hold him down until the cops come.”
“No, but you’ve kind of singled these people out,” Higgins said.
“Well, I think you get rude people (smoking) that just stay in front of you,” the mayor said.
“Rude goes both ways,” put in resident Sarah Lambert. “Nonsmokers can be rude. Smokers do have rights; it’s not illegal.
“I agree with her,” Lambert continued. “I don’t think we should have any ordinance on smoking here, but that’s my personal feeling. You have a right to take your kids and put them someplace, but you can’t ban people from doing legal activities on the beach. Secondhand smoke, it’s not a problem; you’ve got the winds to push away the smoke.”
Sharpless remarked, “We’re not the only municipality entertaining this, either. Long Beach Township is entertaining this.”
Lambert answered, “Just because other municipalities are entertaining it doesn’t mean that you have to entertain it.”
At this point, the mayor asked Barnegat Light Taxpayers Association officer John Tennyson, who was sitting in the audience, whether the topic was mentioned in the recent survey of taxpayer concerns and suggestions.
“There was no mention of it at all. No one wrote a comment that was specific to smoking,” Tennyson said.
Higgins said that there might be more comments coming from the 25th Street beach than others “because it is such a crowded beach.”
The council’s next meeting is July 8, yet it was not decided whether the formal ordinance hearing would be that date.
Complaint about bamboo leads to consideration
The public comment portion of the meeting turned to another topic, bamboo, when West 12th Street resident Dolores Svelling said that since the council’s last meeting she dropped off a sample regulatory ordinance for consideration.
The ordinance from Ocean City, Cape May County prohibits planting of bamboo, and further, can require owners to contain their bamboo and pay for its removal if it encroaches on neighboring property, media reports summarized when Ocean City adopted the ordinance in October.
“It’s well written and I think it should be considered in Barnegat Light,” Svelling said, explaining that she faces a problem on her property from bamboo roots growing from a neighbor’s property. “They say in the ordinance that it can travel from one property to several.
“It can be invasive; it can go into your house from the neighbor’s yard,” she said. “I’m fighting it in my yard; I can’t plant my tomatoes this year. I feel that something should be done. I know it’s on other properties in Barnegat Light. Maybe they’re okay with it, but I don’t want it coming into my house or into my pool,” Svelling said.
After hearing what the Ocean City ordinance requires, Mayor Larson, who said he has a small patch of bamboo on his property, asked what happens if a neighbor claims that his bamboo came from the person’s property who is now complaining.
“They planted it; the original plant that’s there right now is about four to five feet tall. I have nothing other than roots that are coming from their property to mine,” Svelling said.
Borough Attorney Terry Brady said he hadn’t seen Ocean City’s ordinance, but he has seen others. “It’s very difficult to prove,” he said.
“Realistically what usually happens, the problem that develops, is that … it can be very difficult to tell where it originated. In one yard it may be cut down and mowed and in the next yard it might be big trees, but that doesn’t mean that the larger trees were the initial trees that were planted.”
Brady remarked, “From information that we’ve seen from other municipalities, it is very detrimental and extremely hard to contain.”
Svelling said that her neighbor had hired a landscaper about 20 years ago to come in with a backhoe and “they dug between the properties down six feet and they took it out,” but she said there still must have been some tubers there.
Svelling added that she got an estimate from a landscaper who quoted $4,400 to “have it dug out and put a barricade in.” She said, “The soil that’s taken out cannot be replaced.” She said she was not going to take that option now.
Brady said the council could “look at all of the ordinances and see how several different municipalities are handling the problem.”
Cat control: A success story
Second reading and public hearing is July 8 on the introduced ordinance providing for the managed care of feral cats. It establishes the “Barnegat Light Trap-Neuter-Return Program (TNRP) sponsored by the Friends of Southern Ocean County Animal Shelter” (FOSOCAS).
In the program, feral and stray cats are trapped and taken to the shelter, where they are sterilized and vaccinated against rabies. They are then returned to the area where they were captured, and they will be provided with long-term care by a “caretaker’ in accordance with the ordinance.
The purpose of TNRP is “to reduce the population of feral cats, benefiting public health, improving the quality of life for borough residents, and enduring the humane treatment of feral cats,” reads the ordinance.
A feral cat is defined as a cat that is not an owned cat and is not socialized to humans. A stray cat is socialized to humans but is not an owned cat.
“It actually isn’t changing anything from what we’re already doing, except that it is putting structure into it,” said Councilwoman Dottie Reynolds, who is active with FOSOCAS.
The TNR process has resulted in “a significant reduction in every town,” Reynolds said.
In Barnegat Light, there were 20 feral cats reported in 2011 and only five last year. Beach Haven got down to one feral cat treated and they had 39 before the program started in 2012. Long Beach Township went from 53 to 22 last year.
After some more discussion about kittens going out for adoption through a program with PetSmart, two borough council members had questions on the returned adult population.
“What I’ve got a problem with is the “R,” the returning part,” said Councilman George Warr. “We don’t want them back.”
Reynolds said, “If you don’t return them, there’s the vacuum theory – you take a cat away, another cat will take its place. And the cat was already there. You cannot take cats from one location and locate them in a colony someplace else because those cats won’t let the new cat in sharing their food.”
Councilman Ed Wellington questioned the part of the ordinance that calls for a “caretaker” to feed the returned cats and be responsible for other care. The ordinance says that caretakers are responsible for making reasonable efforts to trap all cats in a colony, for instance.
“It seems to me that the ordinance says if you capture an adult, you become the caretaker.”
“That’s what we request, to find a caretaker for them. Because one of the things that makes this work is if they’re fed, they’re not hunting, not going in people’s garbage cans,” said Reynolds.
“That has me concerned. I’m all for taking them in and having them neutered, but I can’t be responsible for getting a herd of cats on the caretaker side,” said Wellington, joking, “I already have a herd of dogs.”
In the end, all council members voted yes to introducing the ordinance.
In other business, council moved to create the position of “safety officer” in the borough. The borough’s joint insurance carrier recommends the post, and it pertains to taking steps to insure safety in work practices and related matters. Second reading will be held July 8.
– Reposted from the Sandpaper