Egg Harbor Township has a bit of a split personality.
One of the more unusual towns in the region, it is split up among three completely different areas and separated by whole expanses of other cities.
Besides the main section, which contains the vast majority of residents and businesses, there is the West Atlantic City section — snugly squeezed between the embracing arms of Pleasantville — and also the large swath of marshes and islands between the mainland towns and Absecon Island.
All of this leads to an occasionally byzantine system of multiple towns responding to incidents in the in-between zones — where Egg Harbor Township police have to drive completely through another town to get there — while at the same time creating confusion about just where certain homes and businesses are located.
For example, New Jersey Magazine’s 2010 Summer Guide listed the top attraction or business in each shore town. The listing for best of Longport? Caffe Luciano restaurant, which is not in Longport — it’s across the bridge in Egg Harbor Township.
How did the township get like this? It wasn’t as if EHT greedily acquired plots of land and expanded outward — actually, it was the other way around.
“This came to be when those municipalities separated from Egg Harbor Township,” Township Historian June Sheridan said.
The brand-new communities — many of them created during the manic period of “borough-itis” in the late 1890s, when dozens of practically postage stamp-sized towns across the state broke away to take advantage of a school tax loophole — took the easy route when deciding which land to include.
“Somers Point, Linwood, Northfield, Pleasantville — basically, they felt there was little use for the marshland,” Sheridan said. “It was washed by tides, they couldn’t build on it, so they didn’t want it on the tax rolls. They took the uplands and left the section with the meadows in the township.”
Those weren’t even the first areas to break away — the earliest incorporation took place years before, when a certain oceanfront section of Absecon Island broke away to form its own city.
“Atlantic City, too,” EHT Mayor James “Sonny” McCullough said. “Atlantic City was part of Egg Harbor Township.”
McCullough is a longtime resident of Seaview Harbor, a marina-side community that was built just across from Longport beginning in the late 1980s.
“It’s wonderful,” McCullough said. “It’s the best of both worlds. ... A lot of people don’t understand. They think Egg Harbor Township is an inland community, but we have more waterfront than any other municipality in South Jersey.”
That waterfront includes a large chunk of the mainland east of Northfield, where the Margate Causeway begins, as well as a number of little-known islands ranging from “Pork Island” to “Jonas Island” to “Winkle Island”, many of which are either undeveloped or used for stretches of that same Margate Causeway.
Then there’s the large island, unnamed on most maps for some reason, that includes the popular free beach officially known as Malibu Beach — but called “Dog Beach” by practically everyone — as well as Seaview Harbor.
Law enforcement in the in-between zone is almost as confusing, as the area’s distance from the main segment of EHT leads to some creative responses.
“If there’s a serious incident in, say, Seaview Harbor — and that’s very rare, of course — Longport would be called first,” McCullough said. “If there’s a 911 call, they would be closer than we would. As far as West Atlantic City goes, we have a car out there all the time, and the Margate Bridge has very few incidents.”
For a recent incident in which a bicyclist fell from the Margate Bridge, it was the Margate Fire Department that responded first.
“We have mutual aid agreements to respond to any call on the bridge road,” Margate Fire Chief Anthony Tabasso said. “But there’s a little bit of a problem (of) how the call gets called in. ... If somebody coming over the bridge calls Margate Dispatch and says there’s an accident a quarter mile up the road, Margate Dispatch will dispatch us right away and then call EHT.”
“Because it’s called the Margate Bridge Road, most everything that happens over there, we get the call for,” Margate Police Officer Michael Edge said. “People don’t really know where the dividing lines are.”
Those people include drivers heading into Northfield, said Northfield Police Chief Robert James.
“In the summer, we usually get increased complaints about speed,” James said. “Coming off the (bridge road), the speed limit is 40 to 45, but it drops off once you enter Northfield. We get complaints from neighbors about that.”
While there have been some notable incidents in the West Atlantic City region, mostly due to its location along the Black Horse Pike, there are relatively few incidents in the Margate Bridge/Longport Boulevard areas, including Seaview Harbor — and McCullough and other residents like it that way
“It’s great living in Seaview Harbor,” McCullough said. “and I think people living in Anchorage Poynte feel that way as well. West Atlantic City is the same way. People out there powersail, fish, and have beautiful sunsets. Egg Harbor Township is very lucky.”
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