Long Beach Island, NJ — Even with the extra day this Leap Year brings to the beginning of a new decade, there might not be enough time in 2020 for the Joint Council of Taxpayers Associations of Long Beach Island to find solutions for every item on a goal list that includes nuisance flooding, public education, beach access and parking.
Ranked from one to nine, with one being the most important, the full list is currently: nuisance flooding, school funding, consolidating all three Island elementary schools, using the dredge materials from the Intracoastal Waterway deepening project to bolster and reclaim sedge islands off LBI, affordable housing for employees, the Causeway circle, beach replenishment, parking and beach badges.
Nuisance flooding. It should come as a surprise to no one living on, working on or visiting LBI that nuisance flooding is the new number one goal for the JCTA. Bill Hutson, association president, said earlier this week everywhere he goes people are talking about flooding.
“We’re talking to different towns” about ways to address flooding since each community has its own unique experience with it, Hutson said about how the JCTA hopes to find a solution to the issue, which impacts every community on the 18-mile barrier island in some way, noting, “There’s a new pump off Bayview Park that’s part of ongoing flood solutions for (Long Beach) township.”
School funding. In 2017, the JCTA hosted a meeting for Island taxpayers with Morris County-based attorney Vito Gagliardi, who has successfully represented five municipalities, including Seaside Park, Avalon and Stone Harbor, in their quest to amend school funding in their communities. Gagliardi’s presentation drew a nearly standing-room-only crowd when he discussed how to change the Southern Regional School District funding formula for Island taxpayers, but nothing much seemed to come from it.
In the fall, the issue was revisited by Long Beach Township Commissioner Joseph Lattanzi at a commission meeting. At the time, he noted the township has 87 students in Southern. For the other towns, the numbers are: Ship Bottom, 53; Beach Haven, 43; Surf City, 37; Barnegat Light, 12; and Harvey Cedars, 10. Despite enrolling only 10 percent of the school population, said Lattanzi, LBI taxpayers shoulder 80 percent of the cost for the district.
Long Beach Township taxpayers alone, he pointed, out, currently pay $21,087,366 in taxes for the regional school district, or $240,988 per township student.
“Harvey Cedars is the poster child for the situation,” Hutson said, noting school funding is one of the items on the goals list that is a repeat.
School consolidation. A majority of voters in five Island communities defeated a $7.68 million referendum to renovate and upgrade the LBI Grade School last month by a tally of almost 3-to-1. It marked the second time in two years that voters rejected a school referendum. In September 2017, a $18.4 million referendum to expand and renovate the Ethel A. Jacobsen Elementary School was defeated 2-to-1.
“We want to encourage the development of a long-term, fiscally responsible plan to consolidate all elementary schools into one school,” Hutson said. This would include the Beach Haven School, which is separate from the Long Beach Island Consolidated School District.
Intracoastal Waterway dredging. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced in November a yearlong plan to dredge the New Jersey ICW from Cape May north toward LBI. The plan would help the U.S. Coast Guard maintain aids to navigation in one of the most traveled areas of the entire ICW. The JCTA wants to see the project go a step farther and use the dredge materials to bolster sedge islands in the bay waters off LBI, according to Hutson.
Affordable Housing for employees. Hutson outlined how the lack of affordable housing for summer help was impacting the overall number of employees for local businesses in a July 2019 column in The SandPaper a few weeks after calling the employee crisis “the worst” the Island has ever seen at a Ship Bottom Borough Council meeting. He attributed the shortage of both affordable housing and summer help to the fact that the average home value on the Island is about $1 million, as well as seasonal family rentals so common on LBI being scarce.
Causeway Circle. The final phase of the $312 million federally funded Causeway project, which will address safety and drainage improvements in Ship Bottom, is expected to begin sometime later this year with the reconfiguration of the Causeway circle into a square. The Arlington Beach Club condo complex marks the area in question. The work zone is located along the western property line of the complex and Long Beach Boulevard, the main thoroughfare on the Island.
Squaring off the beach club property makes room for the traffic pattern changes on Eighth and Ninth streets, the entrance and exit roadways for LBI from Route 72. It also changes the traffic flow on Central Avenue and Long Beach Boulevard. The DOT’s proposed improvements in Ship Bottom have long included converting a section of the Boulevard into a two-way road at the site of the Arlington Beach Club, once the site of a gas station.
It’s anticipated the final phase will ease flooding and traffic flow issues coming onto and going off the Island.
Beach replenishment. Beach Haven, Harvey Cedars and the Holgate section of Long Beach Township still have areas of concern, according to Hutson.
Parking. For anyone traveling LBI in the summer, the parking issue is two-fold if not self-explanatory: There aren’t enough parking spaces for everyone, and business suffers as a result. Ever try to go to a restaurant and not stay because there isn’t enough parking? Ever wonder why there isn’t enough parking? Land on the Island is at a premium and its value higher than ever.
Several years ago, Ship Bottom officials changed the parking setback for stop signs from 25 feet to 15 feet in order to gain an additional parking spot at each intersection throughout town.
The LBI Shuttle service helps ease some of the parking issues across the Island, but the lack of affordable land for use as parking still presents a challenge.
Beach badges. This goal isn’t about removing beach badges, which provide the necessary funds for local municipalities to take care of the beaches, arguably the Island’s number tourism attraction. It is about finding a way for each town to honor badges brought in a different jurisdiction so visitors have more access to the beaches, according to Huston.
Next step. An agenda meeting for members of the JCTA will be scheduled, Hutson said. At that time, the members will determine how to proceed with the goal list for the year. The list was compiled based on what members heard at meetings in their community, he said. The JCTA is comprised of taxpayers associations from Barnegat Light, Beach Haven, Harvey Cedars and five homeowners associations from Long Beach Township.
“Anyone who knows me knows I am a solutions guy,” he said, noting the JCTA is looking to re-establish relationships with Ship Bottom and Surf City in 2020.