LOWER TOWNSHIP — Council has temporarily scrapped plans to construct an 800-foot promenade and fishing pier into the Delaware Bay even though it had conditional approval for $1.1 million in grant funding.
In spite of the grant, Township Manager Mike Voll said, project costs have escalated to about $3 million, and the township would be liable for the difference. Voll said he recently contacted U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-2nd, about getting federal funding but was told there was no money right now for such projects.
“It was very popular, and we’d be successful, but it’s more like a luxury at this time,” Voll said.
Voll recommended council instead concentrate on several public safety projects, including moving the police station from the Cape May Airport to the Villas section and constructing road improvements along the bayshore.
The project could be revived in the future, Voll said. The county’s open space fund, which issued conditional approvals for the grant pending final designs and getting the necessary permits, has withdrawn the application but said the township is welcome to reapply later.
“We have three funding cycles a year,” noted Cape May County Director of Planning Leslie Gimeno.
The township would have had to bond the $3 million cost, with reimbursement from the county for $1.1 million upon completion.
Now the township can concentrate on constructing a new police station and court complex in the Villas, a project estimated to cost $2.8 million. An 11-member committee in 2012 recommended the move.
Police and courts were based in the Villas, where most police calls come from, until 1995, when the county offered a building for $100,000 at the county airport. It seemed like a good deal at the time, but the township has spent $4 million on the building and now it needs a new roof, estimated to cost up to $1.8 million.
Voll also wants the township to concentrate on a $900,000 project to carve out 6-foot-wide pedestrian and bicycle paths on Beach Drive and Shore Drive, the two roads that run along the Delaware Bay. The project would also include handicapped access to the beach, curbs and sidewalks.
“It’s a public safety issue. You have people pushing babies, bicycles and joggers alongside motorists,” Voll said.
The township will apply for county open space money for the project, which would cover 1.5 miles of the bayshore from Lincoln Boulevard north.
Voll said the design is complete and all permits from the state are in place, including a Coastal Areas Facility Review Act, or CAFRA, permit. He termed the project “shovel-ready.”
The township’s Recreation Advisory Board is recommending five projects over the next five years and the bayshore project is the top pick. Others include the fishing pier, expanding Douglass Park, building an indoor pool and creating a new bike path running the length of the township.
RAB Chairman Debbie Johns wrote council a letter supporting the bayshore project. Johns said it would “greatly enhance” the experience of residents and visitors on the waterfront.
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