WILDWOOD — The four mayors of the Wildwoods are members of an exclusive club of elected officials who must balance operating a small town — the year-round population of the island is 13,239 — with running a tourism resort that draws millions of visitors each year.
North Wildwood Mayor Patrick Rosenello, new to the office, approaches the task with a simple philosophy:
“A great town to live in makes a great town to visit,” Rosenello told the audience at Wednesday’s Greater Wildwood Chamber of Commerce meeting.
To that end, the four mayors — Rosenello, Ernie Troiano Jr. of Wildwood, Christopher Fox of West Wildwood and Carl Groon of Wildwood Crest — spoke about the issues facing their residents and the island’s No. 1 industry.
“How do you balance the needs of the tourism industry with the needs of the residents?” Rosenello asked.
The beach — specifically an Army Corps of Engineers plan that would see the addition of a berm and 16-foot dune from Hereford Inlet to Cape May Inlet to reduce potential ocean-related storm damage — was highlighted as a major concern to all.
Rosenello supports the project, which would help protect the beaches on the north end of Five Mile Beach, while Groon and Troiano have not been as receptive. West Wildwood would not be affected directly by the plan.
“To shut the door to the Army Corps would be a catastrophe to this island in the next 50 years,” Rosenello said as he warned of the changing nature of the island’s beaches over time.
Once-expansive beaches have been diminished by storms and erosion, while other beaches have grown.
Rosenello said the long-term project would provide federal funding to protect the island’s greatest natural resource.
Troiano, however, said he believes the project, which would take sand from his city’s wide beaches, would reduce the beach used by sunbathers and event organizers as well eliminate an access road that allows people to move between the piers.
“People will be sitting between the piers, not in front of them,” Troiano said.
Instead, he would like to see a berm with a 12-foot elevation and the elimination of the outfall pipes that require daily maintenance. He would like to have a new outfall system that collects water from city streets and feeds one large pipe.
Groon asked his residents to express their views on either side.
“It’s a problem for us,” Groon said of the dune proposal, which he said would eliminate ocean views for first-floor properties and those using the popular beachfront bike path.
Other issues facing the four towns include everything from annual budgets that must account for year-round and seasonal demands, infrastructure projects and marketing.
Wildwood Crest and North Wildwood have both passed their 2014 budgets, while West Wildwood’s was introduced and is scheduled to be discussed during a public hearing May 2.
Wildwood, however, has not yet introduced its 2014 budget, Troiano said.
Troiano said the community is coping with the results of a revaluation that reduced the resort’s ratable base.
Wildwood, he said, is unlike many communities. He recalled a visitor who once told him the city was an island community with an urban feel given its commercial base and role as host to so many activities.
“You’re almost like the kitchen of your house” where everything happens, Troiano said of Wildwood’s place in the area.
Road projects and other improvements are underway in all four towns. Open space programs are also being sought, such as plans to renovate North Wildwood’s Eighth Street field or to add a bayfront park in West Wildwood. Troiano said an open space application for a vacant lot was “probably dead,” but he said plans are being made to turn another lot at Schellenger and Pacific avenues into a farmers market this year.
The market, he said, would be a good addition to Pacific Avenue.
All of the towns offer events and/or concerts during the summer.
Wildwood is expecting to host at least two electronic dance movement events.
Groon said Wildwood Crest is continuing to upgrade its bike path, with improvements at Rambler Road and Centennial Park. Library construction is also starting soon.
Fox said his small community on the bay was experiencing strong property sales. He said he supports a central emergency dispatching system for the island, which could save money.
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