A public hearing Tuesday for a plan to build a park around Absecon Lighthouse in the South Inlet section of Atlantic City drew about 25 people, some of whom face the loss of property for the project.
The Casino Reinvestment Development Authority plan will tie into another CRDA project for mixed-use redevelopment in the South Inlet, which received funding last week. And like the mixed-use plan, the acquisition of properties needed for the project will mean that some residents will have to leave their homes, although not on the scale of the more than 60 residents who face displacement from the the larger project.
The lighthouse park project will extend from the Absecon Lighthouse to the inlet, and will affect 35 lots, said Bunny Rixey, CRDA director of real estate and development. The CRDA owns 10 of the lots, and the remaining 25 lots are privately owned.
According to Rixey, only four residents currently live in the area. Two of the four are owners of the property they occupy. The other two are renters. There are two empty buildings on privately owned lots within the territory. Many of the privately owned lots are empty.
Several owners of vacant lots told Rixey they were concerned the project would worsen already existing pollution runoffs onto their properties, lessening the value of their land.
One of the two homeowners, Liz Taylor, watched quietly while CRDA representatives explained relocation packages and procedures to tenants and owners.
Kim Butler, the CRDA’s spokeswoman, said the packages and procedures will be equivalent to those used in the South Inlet project.
The CRDA’s offers are more generous than state-regulated relocation expenses.
Under the CRDA’s current plan, renters are offered $9,600 over three years. That money can go toward a down payment on a new property or can help offset rent.
The CRDA will pay movers if the individuals obtain multiple estimates. They also offer a $750 flat moving expense reimbursement.
Properties will be appraised, and offers will be made to the owners. Owners may challenge the appraisal done by the CRDA if they hire their own appraisers.
After the meeting ended, Taylor said she was not pleased with the project. She has owned and lived in a row home near the Absecon Lighthouse since 1995. She said that her 75-year-old husband is not doing well, and she does not want to move.
“I wanted to die in the house, is what I wanted,” she said. “I love where I’m at. I’m a block from the ocean. I can look up and see Revel’s ball on top of the casino. There’s no better place. They’re not going to find a better place than that. It’s a row house. It’s over 100 years old. It’s withstood nor’easters for over 100 years, and it’s never been flooded. It’s a sturdy house and they want to call it a dilapidated neighborhood. I don’t like the way they describe it.”
The transformation of the area would occur in the next year or so and begin as soon as possible, CRDA officials said. Officials plan to spend more than $6 million on the project.
In April, the CRDA board voted to let agency personnel enter a $4.2 million grant agreement with Atlantic County officials. The Atlantic County Open Space project will supply the $4.2 million. This money will be used only for acquisition.
The CRDA will supply the additional $1.8 million.
Contact David Simpson: