Top 20 Stories: Controversy Ruled in 2019

But There Was Good News, Too

Southern Ocean County, NJ — There was plenty of controversy in America in 2019 as the gap between political parties split wider. Southern Ocean County fit right in, with some local issues seemingly cleaving folks into armed camps. OK, the armed camps reference is only a metaphor. Still, the area hosted some skirmishes in the culture war that is heating up to the level of the 1960s. Meanwhile, late in the year, the area made national political news reflecting the Trump/anti-Trump division that is rocking the country. Finally, one controversial debate may determine the future of Long Beach Island.

But more on all that heavy stuff later. As we take a look at the Top 20 news stories of 2019 as reported in the pages of The SandPaper, let’s begin with some good news.

No. 20: Dog Days. We’re not talking about summer weather here, but rather about a dog that was missing after escaping from a car involved in a one-vehicle accident on the eastbound causeway to LBI on Monday, June 24.

Gabrielle McMillan, 23, of Little Egg Harbor lost control of her Nissan Sentra, which crashed into a utility pole and then rolled over. She was airlifted to the AtlantiCare trauma center in Atlantic City. McMillan’s injuries proved to be not life-threatening, but she and her boyfriend, Steven Sheldon Jr., still had to deal with major anxiety for two weeks because Jax, a 4-year-old boxer mix, was in hiding in the wildlife refuge on Bonnet Island.

Stafford Township Animal Control knew Jax was in the refuge and knew he was eating food and drinking water the agency had left him, attempting to lure him into an enclosure trap. But to say Jax was wary would be an understatement. Hey, you would be a wee bit skittish yourself if you were in a car that rolled over. And Jax was skittish even before the accident, afraid of men, water, cars and rain.

Jax finally got hungry enough on July 8 to enter the trap-cage where his food had been moved. He turned out to be healthy, although absolutely loaded with ticks.

It seems his adventure turned Jax into a homebody.

“They told us to keep him away from open doors for a while, but it seems like he doesn’t want to run anymore,” said Sheldon after Jax’s rescue. “He wants to stay in the house.”

No. 19: Freak of Nature. We might as well stick with animal stories, but this one isn’t about a pet. Instead it is about a critter you likely wouldn’t want to cuddle with, a two-headed juvenile timber rattlesnake discovered in August in the Pine Barrens of Chatsworth.

“Holy cow,” Dave Burkett, who works for Herpetological Associates Inc., called to his co-worker Dave Schneider upon discovering the rarity. “This thing has two heads!”

Two-headed snakes are not unknown but rare, according to Robert Zappalorti, executive director of Herpetological Associates.

“To my knowledge,” Zappalorti said, “this is the first time a two-headed timber rattler has been found in the Northeast. Several years ago, an adult two-headed timber rattler was found in Alabama.”

Timber rattlers, which are actually rather timid creatures that help control rodent populations, are a species of venomous pit vipers with a range stretching from southern New England to Florida. They can be found in both North and South Jersey, although the more stable population is in the north.

No. 18: A Big Burn. A blaze that started at about 2 p.m. on March 30 in the Penn State Forest in Burlington County near the Barnegat Township border burned 11,638 acres before it was brought under control, making it the largest wildfire in the New Jersey Pinelands since a 17,000-acre conflagration in May 2007. Luckily it didn’t force mass evacuations of homes, as the 2007 fire did, but it did close sections of Route 72 and kept approximately 50 firefighters using 17 trucks busy while a helicopter crew monitored it from above.

New Jersey State Forest Fire Service Assistant Warden John Rieth said rumors the fire was caused by an out-of-control prescribed burn were erroneous. Indeed, state Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Catherine McCabe spoke highly of the forest fire service, saying, “This fire could have been much worse had it not been for the critical work the forest fire service does throughout the year using prescribed burns to eliminate fuels that can cause wildfires.”

No. 17: Can’t See the Forest for the Trees. Speaking of the New Jersey State Forest Fire Service, that service had applied to the Pinelands Commission to cut 16.4 acres of white pines and loblolly pines in Bass River State Forest. The reason – said trees were blocking the view from the Bass River Fire Tower. The problem – said trees, which were planted by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression, have grown to be majestic, becoming one of John Muir’s “Cathedrals of Nature.”

So the public was split, big time, over the application. “You do not cut down the forest to protect the forest,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. On the other hand, Howard Chew, owner of Mick’s Canoe and Kayak Rentals in Jenkins, warned that not cutting the trees to improve visibility from the tower was putting him and his family at risk as well as threatening the safety of thousands of vacationers who come to the Pinelands each summer.

Many high-tech alternatives had been suggested, such as cameras, smoke-sensing monitors, satellite imaging and drones. Building a new tower was also proposed, as was the idea of moving the present tower. But the DEP, the forest fire service’s parent, dismissed such suggestions as being impractical or too expensive.

In April the Pinelands Commission approved the clear-cutting, with only one dissenting vote.

As of now an estimated six to seven acres of the 16.4 acres has been cut.

“The Pinelands Chainsaw Massacre has begun,” said Tittel, who predicted, “They will come back to cut another 81 acres.”

No. 16: A New Municipal Building for Ship Bottom? A question mark is needed for this one! In May the Ship Bottom Borough Council agreed to go ahead with plans to build a new municipal building. The two-story building would be located to the east of the current town hall. Once the new building is completed, the old one will be torn down and additional parking will be added in that spot.

In July, the council adopted an ordinance appropriating $4 million for the project, with the borough covering a $200,000 down payment and the remainder being bonded.

In September Councilman Joy Vayo, who has been overseeing the project, said, “We’re past the conceptual stage. We know where the offices are going to be located, and the (U.S.) Post Office has signed off (on the design).”

Construction of the new building is expected to begin in the autumn of 2020. It is hoped employees can move into the new building in early 2021.

Ah, but then there is that question mark. In May, Mayor William Huelsenbeck said the borough was moving ahead because it appeared the LBI School would no longer be available. If it had been decided to consolidate all of the LBI School District’s students in the Ethel A. Jacobsen School in Surf City, then the borough might have moved its offices to the LBI School. Well, the fate of the LBI School is still up in the air (more on that later in this Top 20 countdown).

In other words, keep reading The SandPaper to see if and when this mess can be straightened out.

No. 15: Outdoor Dining in Surf City. Surf City isn’t likely to be confused with Paris anytime soon, but à la the City of Lights, it began featuring dining al fresco in 2019. In February the Surf City Borough Council passed an ordinance allowing outside dining, and on March 26 Dana DiSalvio, a co-owner of The Sandbox Café, picked up the first approved outdoor seating permit from borough hall.

“We will be creating our own slice of paradise right here in Surf City, just like we brought the magic to Ship Bottom,” DiSalvio told The SandPaper upon picking up her permit. DiSalvio also owns a restaurant that features outdoor dining in Ship Bottom.

“Thank you, Mr. Mayor and members of the land use board,” DiSalvio remarked, concluding, “We are super excited and can’t wait for this to finally happen.”

No. 14: The Winds of Change. President Trump – “Darling, is the wind blowing today? I’d like to watch television, darling.” – may ridicule wind power, but N.J. Gov. Phil Murphy certainly doesn’t. Murphy was practically ecstatic in June when the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities announced the award of the needed Offshore Wind Renewable Energy Certificates permit to a Danish company that plans on building its 1,100-megawatt Ocean Wind project 15 miles off Atlantic City’s coastline in federal waters on the outer continental shelf.

The BPU said the project is expected to generate $1.17 billion in economic benefits and create 15,000 jobs over the project’s life. The 1,100 MW of electricity produced by the project’s 85 to 100 wind turbines is expected to power roughly 500,000 homes.

“The decision sets the record for the single largest award for offshore wind in the country and marks further progress toward meeting the state’s goal of 3,500 MW of offshore wind by 2030 and Governor Phil Murphy’s vision of 100 percent clean energy for the state by 2050,” read a BPU press release.

“Today’s historic announcement will revolutionize the offshore wind industry here in New Jersey and along the entire East Coast,” said Murphy. “This award is a monumental step in making New Jersey a global leader in offshore wind development and deployment.”

But Barnegat Light Mayor Kirk Larson, who along with business partner James Gutowski collectively represents 12 commercial vessels at the Viking Village docks, is worried wind turbines could kill the scallop business. He’s especially worried about leases proposed off Long Island, Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard because, he says, that is where the best scalloping grounds are located.

“We’re scared to death that what they are doing will drive us out of business, the whole scallop industry. They should have allowed Fishermen’s Energy to do what they intended to do – a small pilot program to see what kind of damage to the ocean these turbines would do – instead of going ahead and building a giant wind farm.”

No. 13: Community Supports Coasties. The beginning of 2019 wasn’t a good time for the men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard. The members of the country’s other armed forces – the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines – were being paid. But the Coast Guard isn’t part of the Department of Defense, it is under the Department of Homeland Security, and the partial government shutdown resulted in their not getting paychecks.

Luckily the Southern Ocean County community showed how much they appreciate the Coasties and their families and responded big time. Municipalities such as Beach Haven and organizations such as the St. Francis Community Center and the LBI Foundation of the Arts and Sciences, along with a host of private individuals and businesses such as the Greenhouse Café, collected non-perishable food items, personal hygiene supplies, dog and cat supplies and gift cards for the crew of Coast Guard Station Barnegat Light. The Greenhouse Café, for example, offered free or discounted meals to crew members, free if the meal was $20 or less, discounted if the check ran higher. There was a reason for the $20 limit – Coasties aren’t allowed to accept gifts of more than $20. Still, $20 gift cards could add up.

Even some corporations got into the act. Hackensack Meridian Health waived copays and deductibles for emergency visits to its urgent care centers and network hospitals, including Manahawkin’s Southern Ocean Medical Center, for members of the Coast Guard, their immediate families, and all other furloughed federal workers and their insured family members.

Luckily the shutdown ended after 35 days and the Coasties got their back pay. Still, that was the longest government shutdown in history and was surely a big pain in the butt. On the other hand, the Coasties learned the local community is there for them, just as they always are for us.

No. 12: Pinelands Regional Opens on Time. It was close, but the Pinelands Regional High School building, which had been closed for all of the 2018-19 school year and for big chunks of 2017-18 due to construction, opened on time last September.

To repeat, it was close! On July 24, Brian Moore of Epic Construction, the firm overseeing that district’s numerous construction projects, updated the Pinelands Board of Education on progress and used the words “aggressive schedule” several times.

“So, good to go inside the building, as well as good to go outside the building?” asked Karen Poklikuha, who represents Eagleswood Township on the Pinelands Board of Education. “I’ve heard ‘aggressive’ about six times.”

“It is an aggressive finishing schedule,” answered Moore.

“But the expectation is that we will meet it?”

“We will meet it if someone could hold nightly rains back,” said Moore.

God finally smiled on Pinelands after two rough years. The rains did hold off, and the schools opened on time.

Hurrah!

No. 11: Mission Almost Accomplished. How long has it been since you’ve heard of a government project being completed ahead of schedule? Maybe you don’t remember because it doesn’t happen often.

Yet that’s exactly what happened in May when the rehabilitation of the old Causeway Bridge was completed a year early. That’s right, a year ahead of schedule!

The $312 million federally funded Causeway Bridge expansion and rehabilitation, for which construction began in 2013, has only one phase left – but it’s a doozy. It calls for the reconfiguration of the Causeway circle into a square where Route 72, a.k.a. Eighth and Ninth streets, intersects with Long Beach Boulevard in Ship Bottom. That construction is expected to begin in the later summer/early autumn of this year.

No. 10: Unsocial Media. It has been reported numerous times that members of the White House staff wish President Trump would stop making insulting and inflammatory comments on Twitter. Well, the president isn’t the only politician who, perhaps, would be well advised to lock up his phone and other electronic devices.

Stafford Township Councilman George Williams was involved in a scandal in July when it was revealed that he was a member of a closed Facebook group, “The Real Parents of Stafford Twp NJ.” A man had posted a picture on that site of a group of young people holding baseball bats that was titled “FB Community Standards Committee” and asked “Wheres (sic) my sniper rifle,” suggesting he would shoot them. Williams replied, “You mean your semi fully automatic assault rifle?”

Williams had also posted pictures and comments on his personal Facebook page that disturbed some members of the community.

David Jeffries, responsible for the rifle post, offered a mea culpa: “It was a mistake. To anybody offended, I seriously apologize. To the council and mayor, I apologize. Don’t be mad at George, I’m the one that made the comment that stirred this whole pot. … Relax. It’s a meme on Facebook. It’s not the end of the world, there are a lot worse things out there to worry about.”

Williams, for his part, defended his online behavior, especially his view of the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“I got news for you. There’s no concentration camps on the southern border. It’s the only ‘concentration camp’ I know where people have to hop over a wall to get into. It’s got soccer fields, TV, video games. Nobody drinks out of a toilet. That’s all fake news.”

Clearly, Stafford Township is a mirror of America as a whole.

No. 9: Justice for Justin? The wheels of justice, it is said, turn slowly. That’s certainly true in the case of Tuckerton police Cpl. Justin Cherry.

It was way back on Jan. 29, 2014, when Cherry unleashed K-9 officer “Gunner” on Wendy Tucker in a parking lot adjoining the Barnegat police station. The Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office alleged that Cherry had committed aggravated assault (later reduced to misconduct) when he released Gunner, maintaining Tucker had already been apprehended and was under the control of two Barnegat police officers.

Superior Court Judge Rochelle Gizinski exonerated Cherry in May 2019. But he then had to face 15 disciplinary charges brought by Tuckerton Police Chief Brian Olsen. The charges fall into three categories of violation of Tuckerton’s police procedures: pursuit, K-9, and rules and regulations concerning truthfulness. Basically, it can all be boiled down to a couple of simple questions – what was Cherry doing in Barnegat after following her all the way from Tuckerton, and why didn’t he simply allow Barnegat police to deal with the situation?

Cherry’s disciplinary hearing began in August 2019. It finally ended on Dec. 30. But he isn’t expected to hear the outcome until the end of January or later.

Cherry has been suspended without pay since April 2014, resulting in the loss of his home, his wife declaring bankruptcy, and moving his family to Beachwood to live with relatives. If, however, he is acquitted of his disciplinary charges, he would be entitled to some $400,000 in back pay.

No. 8: Nuke Plant Decommissioning. The Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station in Lacey Township, the nation’s oldest commercial nuke plant, closed in September 2018. So why were there over a dozen SandPaper articles about the plant in 2019? Without getting into the weeds, think about how the discovery of asbestos can slow down the demolition of a house or business. Asbestos is a dangerous material when disturbed, for sure. But it doesn’t come close to spent nuclear fuel. What to do with it?

Expect reporting on Oyster Creek to continue for years. Indeed, expect national reporting on the problems associated with decommissioning nuclear plants to increase in the future, as more aging plants close.

Once again, Southern Ocean County mirrors the nation as a whole.

No. 7: Intracoastal Waterway Channel Markers Replaced. One of the U.S. Coast Guard’s many responsibilities is for the nation’s aids to navigation – lighthouses, buoys, fog signals, day beacons and channel markers. That responsibility made news in Southern Ocean County last summer.

Broken and rusted channel marker stumps were alleged to be responsible for two accidents, one resulting in the sinking of a boat and the other sending an injured person to the hospital, in the ICW off Long Beach Island over Memorial Day weekend. They were underwater, and warning buoys had drifted off several yards so boaters crashed into them.

The Coast Guard knew there was a problem off LBI. In fact, the task of replacing the broken channel markers had already been scheduled for July. Why the wait? Because the Coast Guard is stretched thin. A dive team would be needed to effect the replacements. And the USCG has just two dive teams, one for the East Coast, one for the West Coast. Meanwhile the ICW stretches from Boston south along the Atlantic seaboard, around the southern tip of Florida and around the Gulf Coast to Brownsville, Texas, 3,000 miles in length. And remember, the dive team has responsibilities besides the ICW.

A local CG Aids to Navigation team, based in Cape May and headed by Senior Chief Boatswain’s Mate Elijah Reynolds, made temporary fixes in June. Talk about stretched thin – Reynolds’ crew, which consists of just 17 members and three boats, is responsible for more than 364 structures, including channel markers and buoys from the Shark River in Monmouth County through a portion of Virginia.

The Aids to Navigation team and the East Coast dive locker team then removed and replaced more than 10 broken channel markers off LBI in July, ahead of schedule.

No. 6: Pot Holders. 2019 looked like the year recreational marijuana would become legal in New Jersey. After all, Gov. Phil Murphy had made pot legalization a highlight of his agenda. And Murphy is a Democrat, and both houses of the New Jersey Legislature are controlled by Democrats.

But it wasn’t to be. An unusual coalition of Republicans and black legislators forced Murphy and his allies to withdraw bills that would have not only legalized weed, but also set up a system of regulated shops to sell it and thus add to the state bankroll via taxation. Republicans objected for a number of reasons, including a fear of more crime and traffic accidents; inner-city representatives worried their neighborhoods would be flooded by pot dispensaries.

So the lawmakers kicked the can down the road, deciding to go the referendum route. In this year’s November general election, New Jersey’s voters will decide on pot or not.

Even if voters go for legalized weed in November, don’t expect pot shops to spring up in December. Maine voters approved a referendum allowing individuals to legally possess 2.5 ounces of marijuana in 2016, and they could grow up to six flowering plants and a dozen nonflowering plants as well. But a Republican governor dragged his feet when it came to regulating recreational dispensaries. While it appears the Pine Tree State will finally have recreational pot shops this year now that it has a Democratic governor, the message is clear for New Jersey folks waiting for the chance to buy legal recreational grass – don’t hold your breath.

No. 5: LGBTQ. Gay marriage may be the law of the land, but that doesn’t mean the culture war battles regarding the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer or Questioning community are over. By the opening of the 2020-21 school year, every high school and middle school in the state will have to work the political, economic and social contributions of LGBTQ individuals into their curricula. That’s state law, pure and simple.

But in August, then-Barnegat Mayor Alfonso Cirulli denounced that requirement during a township committee meeting. He said his views were his own and not of the committee and added that state and federal governments “have no right to interfere with someone’s religious upbringing.”

“What I really dislike is that people can’t opt out of this program,” continued the mayor, a retired assistant principal at Pinelands Regional High School. “This is nothing but forced indoctrination from the LGBT community. Don’t confuse a sexual mindset with racial or ethnic discrimination. There is no comparison with racial or ethnic discrimination, there is no comparison.”

Cirulli also attacked the law on religious grounds.

“You should not use your public platform to espouse your beliefs,” Barnegat resident Peg Houle responded. “You’re not supposed to be up there preaching and taking time away from people who want to speak.”

“You think your speaking dais is a pulpit,” said resident Marianne Clemente. “You are not supposed to bring religion into this. At other times I have heard you mention Jesus in your speeches, and that is totally inappropriate. We have a separation of church and state. Damn it, adhere to it.”

Letters to The SandPaper editor followed, with some attacking Cirulli while others supported him. In November the mayor traveled to Bergen County to receive a “Guardian of the Family – Elected Official” award from The Family Policy Alliance of New Jersey, a pro-family, Christian advocacy group. He said the Family Policy Alliance honored him not only for his stand against LGBTQ educational curricula, but also for his stance opposing legalized recreational marijuana (see No. 6 above).

The LGBTQ issue sprang up again in November when the Pinelands Regional Board of Education voted to become one of only a dozen districts throughout the state to be a pilot district for the new curricula, which will be introduced to eighth graders this winter.

No. 4: Flooding and More Flooding. Island police can – and often will – ticket you if you drive in the left lane of Long Beach Boulevard. You’re supposed to use the left lane only if passing.

Well, I’ll take the damn ticket. It is bad enough that the right lanes of the country road are torn up seemingly every other day for underground projects, leaving them pitted with potholes. But the biggest reason I’m a committed left lane driver is flooding. If you hit pools of water caused by back bay flooding or rain storms, you’re likely to hydroplane. And even after the puddles have receded, you’re likely to run into barrels placed by public works that force you into the left lane.

I’ve lived and worked in Southern Ocean County since 1989, and I can tell you flooding has gotten progressively worse. I’m not talking about major events such as Superstorm Sandy or northeast storms, but dime-a-dozen flooding caused by even minimal rain or wind.

The SandPaper had plenty of stories about flooding and engineering efforts to reduce flooding in 2019, and the stories weren’t limited to the Island. Flooding is nothing new in Southern Ocean County; I remember reporting about a flood in the Ocean Acres neighborhood of Stafford Township some 15 to 20 years ago that forced the fire department to evacuate a child care center where toddlers and staff had been trapped. But it seems to be more and more common as the years roll on.

Is it climate change? Is it overbuilding? Or is it a combination of the two? One thing is certain – it isn’t a problem that is going to suddenly disappear.

No. 3: Two Schools or One? Will the Long Beach Island Consolidated School District, its board of education, municipal governments and the Island’s residents ever, ever decide whether to keep both the Ethel A. Jacobsen Elementary School in Surf City and the LBI Grade School in Ship Bottom or close one or the other or even start from scratch with a new building? Ever, ever, ever?

In terms of the number of SandPaper articles, letters to the editor and political advertisements, the school situation was, without a doubt, the largest and most controversial issue in Southern Ocean County in 2019. By all rights, it should be No. 1 in this roundup of the Top 20 News Stories of the Year. But part of news is “new,” and this situation seems to have a half life of a billion years.

In September 2017, voters in Long Beach Township, Ship Bottom and Surf City overwhelmingly defeated a referendum that would have renovated and expanded the Jacobsen School and closed the LBI School. Well, in December 2019, a $7.68 million referendum that would have instead renovated and upgraded the LBI School also went down to a resounding defeat.

“The only good thing out of this outcome is that it allows us to plan for the future,” one school board member and district parent said after the December debacle. “Really, truly, appropriately plan for the future of the school district.”

Please, isn’t that what the school board has been doing for years while racking up major bills for studies?

Flip a coin, because that seems the only way this issue is ever going to be solved!

No. 2: Van Drew Turns Republican. It isn’t often that a political figure representing Southern Ocean County makes national headlines. But Jeff Van Drew’s name was in headlines – big headlines – after the lifelong Democrat defected to the Republican Party in December. The congressman, who represents New Jersey’s 2nd Congressional District, which includes all of Southern Ocean County save Barnegat and half of Stafford, was one of only two House Dems to vote against the impeachment of President Donald Trump. He had always been a moderate Democrat but now felt out of place in the party, so he switched. Well, that’s what he said. Democrats said he switched parties because internal polls showed he couldn’t even win a Democratic primary after supporting Trump.

It will be interesting to see if Van Drew can win a Republican primary. Three candidates had been busy rounding up support for months, hoping to challenge Van Drew in the general election. They weren’t happy when he announced his switch. The biggest question is if Van Drew was too conservative for Democrats, is he conservative enough for South Jersey Republicans? You can be sure his primary opponents will say no.

No. 1: Grand Hotel. On Jan. 6, a Beach Haven Land Use Board meeting was shut down by the Ocean County Fire Marshal’s Office due to overcrowding.

Beach Haven Borough’s meeting room has a maximum capacity of 100, but an estimated 135 people showed up at a hearing that would consider developer Christopher Vernon’s plans for a hotel at the site of the former Morrison’s Restaurant. So William Hollingsworth, an investigator for the fire marshal, ordered the meeting closed. It will resume at 6 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 3, at Surflight Theatre.

Now, we’re talking Jan. 6 and Feb. 3, 2020. So why is this in an article about the Top 20 News Stories of 2019? Because it is a hangover from the biggest story of last year.

Vernon, who is also the developer and owner of the Bonnet Island Estate, the Mallard Island Yacht Club, the Boatyard and the Mainland Holiday Inn complex in Stafford Township and the Hotel LBI in Ship Bottom, has big plans for the Morrison’s site. Big as in 102 rooms. Big as in three stories with an elevator tower not to exceed 45 feet, 9 inches. Big as in having a wharf bar and public access for fishing, crabbing and sunset watching on the site’s north bulkhead.

“I plan to put up a public access pavilion that can be used for various functions,” Vernon had said at a previous meeting of the Beach Haven Borough Council. “To me, what’s extremely important is to have an active marina. It’s going to have 137 boat slips. Boating and sport fishing is so popular here, and the hotel can really enhance that use.”

Big! Which is what is making the project ultra-controversial.

“None of his (Vernon’s) other projects involves such a concentration of people that it will in Beach Haven,” said Queen City resident John Harvey at that previous meeting.

“It’s already so crowded during the summer with no place to park,” said Chris Anderson, who first came to Beach Haven in the 1930s, at that same meeting. “This overdevelopment will ruin my way of life and drive me and my family out of Beach Haven.”

The SandPaper received almost the same number of letters to the editor about the proposed hotel as it did the LBI School District. Some people are worried about parking, traffic, storm water runoff and environmental impacts. Others want the borough to benefit from the taxes the hotel will bring in and businesses to benefit from the tourists the hotel will attract.

In other words, the proposed hotel is a symbol of the battle being waged all over LBI. Do you continue allowing building to keep taxes low and to keep stores, bars, restaurants and real estate offices full? Or do you try to control density to keep traffic at least somewhat flowing, leave some spaces, no matter how small, for birds and wild animals, and, perhaps most important, protect the limited amount of pervious surface there is on the Island so that it doesn’t repeatedly flood and eventually fall into the sea?

In other words, what happens to the proposed Beach Haven Hotel and Marina is a forecast of LBI’s future.

And that, dear readers, is definitely worthy of No. 1 News Story of 2019 honors.

– Rick Mellerup

Reposted from The Sandpaper on Jan. 15, 2020