Asbury Park Press on Traders Cove Park

Asbury Park Press on Traders Cove Park

Marina Site Will Be Turned into a Park

$8 million acquisition announced

Published in the Asbury Park Press 08/23/05


BRICK — The dream of transforming the once-dilapidated Traders Cove Marina into a publicly owned park — and resolving one of the most contentious issues between local officials in recent years — is starting to come true.

Township, county and state officials, and environmental advocates Monday announced their plan to purchase the site for $8 million; the owner of the site, Paramount Homes, paid $2.9 million for it three years ago.

The impending purchase was announced during a news conference at the marina

Monday afternoon. Officials said they expect to close on the property in October.

The announcement ends years of political battles and litigation among township officials, environmental advocates and Paramount Homes over whether the condominiums proposed by Paramount were appropriate for the site at the eastern end of Mantoloking Road.

“Thank God,” said William H. Nathanson of Linden Avenue when he heard the news. “I’ve been living here for 20 years, and (Mantoloking Road) is horrible.”

The township, state and county are partnering with the group Save Barnegat Bay and an unnamed donor to buy the property from Paramount. The township and county will each contribute $1.5 million; Save Barnegat Bay will give $1 million, which is expected to be obtained from the state; and an anonymous donor will contribute $500,000. The remaining money will come from the state Department of Environmental Protection’s Green Acres program.

Although Ocean County denied repeated requests from township officials and Save Barnegat Bay for help purchasing the marina, saying it had invested enough for parks in northern Ocean County, county Freeholder John C. Bartlett said Monday that the Board of Freeholders changed its mind because “Brick Township came up with a deal you couldn’t resist.”

With a fishing pier being built adjacent to the new Mantoloking Bridge, Bartlett said, the county recognized that Traders Cove Marina would provide an ideal parking lot for fishermen looking to use that pier.

“The critical thing . . . is that it makes sense,” Bartlett said.

Gerry Donlon, who rents a slip at the marina, said the announcement leaves him wondering how public ownership of the marina will affect him.

A resident of the Herbertsville section, Donlon said he had hoped to rent a slip closer to his home. But now that he has discovered Traders Cove, Donlon said, he can’t imagine docking his boat elsewhere.

“There are not many places where you can leave port and be out in the middle of God’s country in minutes,” Donlon said. “This is the place to be. I would be heartbroken if they took my slip away.”

The effort to stop Paramount from building 52 condominiums on the site was led by the Republican Party, whose officeholders said that was too intensive a development.

“This is unlike any other piece of property Brick Township has ever purchased,” Councilman Stephen C. Acropolis said Monday as he stood on the 11.5-acre site overlooking Barnegat Bay. “Just imagine buildings 40 feet high with condominiums here.”

The project also was opposed by Save Barnegat Bay, whose founder and president, William deCamp Jr., noted that the organization was founded 34 years ago to conserve the land surrounding Traders Cove Marina.

Whether the township will operate the marina or lease the site out has not yet been decided; township Business Administrator Scott R. MacFadden said he expects the property to continue to operate as it has, at least for now. Hired by Paramount last year, Marinas International — which operates 24 marinas nationwide, including Crystal Point Yacht Club in Point Pleasant and Manasquan River Yacht Club in Brielle — will continue to operate the site at least
through next summer, MacFadden said.

MacFadden said he expects improvements to the site, which eventually may include a restaurant, will be gradual.

“This is a great day, but we still have a lot to be done,” said Mayor Joseph C. Scarpelli.

Even before the company had formally submitted its application to build luxury condominiums, it was opposed by the Township Council, which repealed an ordinance that would have allowed that kind of development at the site.

The repeal prompted Paramount to sue the township in what would be the first of many lawsuits involving the project. Proponents, who included Scarpelli, said the tax revenue the project would generate would help keep property taxes stable. However, polls conducted by both the Democrats and Republicans showed that Brick’s residents were overwhelmingly opposed.

Meanwhile, the Republican council candidates made Traders Cove their major campaign issue in 2003; all won seats on the council

Paramount President Jeffrey Fernbach said it became clear to him that Brick’s residents wanted something other than condos. Mediation sessions among Fernbach, Save Barnegat Bay and the township began in January.

On Monday, Fernbach said that his company has done well in Ocean County and that he viewed his decision to agree to sell the site as his opportunity to give back. Although he purchased the site for $2.9 million in September 2002,

Fernbach estimated that he spent an additional $2 million in litigation and ridding the site of old boats and junk. Fernbach has agreed to demolish any buildings and remove debris.

Officials have not yet decided exactly who will be responsible for what improvements at the site. Scarpelli said he believes following through on Save

Barnegat Bay’s vision for the site will take a significant financial commitment from the township. Save Barnegat Bay has proposed that the site

include a marina, public boat launches, a dock and boardwalk, a nautical museum, a picnic area and benches, and a playground.

“If my feet appear to be attached to the ground, it is an optical illusion,” said deCamp. “They are actually floating one inch off the ground. I couldn’t be happier.”

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