LONG BEACH TOWNSHIP — The most affordable pieces of property inside the Long Beach Island Trailer Park are no longer up for grabs.
Hurricane Sandy's destruction proved to be too severe for rebuilding, and owner Bob Muroff has made the decision to close the park, stating that rebuilding costs exceed $1 million.
Muroff sent an email to about 140 trailer owners on Sunday, citing "the devastating impact of the flooding and wind damage" that came with Hurricane Sandy as the reason for the park's closure.
In a 2010 interview with The Press of Atlantic City and again in November, Muroff was steadfast in his promise to never sell the park that his family has owned since 1953. The park was rebuilt after the 1962 storm.
And just under one month after Hurricane Sandy ripped through the New Jersey coastline, vacationers who own trailers in the park were confident they would rebuild, and so was Muroff.
The land the trailers sit on is valued at $12.5 million, and Muroff charges $7,300 each year for small, gravel lots the owners rent.
On Nov. 18, Arthur and Carol Ahr traveled from Trenton to see for the first time their trailer that had been tossed around during the storm.
Trailer owners worked feverishly that chilly weekend cleaning out their tiny oceanside getaways. That weekend the Ahrs told their neighbors and friends that they would see them in a few months once the summer season started.
The couple, like so many others packed up their vehicles that weekend and were ready to move forward in the coming months. The optimism was infectious and it spread through park even though owners were covered with mud and tirelessly stacked debris at curbs for removal.
"Are we sad? Yes. Was that my solace? Yes, it was our little piece of heaven," said Carol Ahr, who owned two different trailers over the course of 23 years at the park.
Muroff wrote in the email that the decision to close the park was also related to the total destruction of infrastructure, including the electrical, water and sewerage systems.
Muroff also pointed to the impact of financial and regulatory obstacles. Trailer owners rent lots in the park and those fees would have had to more than double to make up for rebuilding costs. New regulations from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for raising homes in flood zones would also impede rebuilding the park, Muroff wrote.
So now, instead of looking forward to the upcoming season over the next few months, the Ahrs will have to remove their trailer and any remaining debris or items from the park no later than Feb. 15, according to the email from Muroff.
The Ahrs had insurance on their trailer several years ago, but stopped buying coverage because Carol Ahr said she was confident something like Hurricane Sandy could never happen.
"That was a bad idea on my part. We are going to have make arrangements to have our trailer crushed now. We were told you can't save the trailer. I remember that weekend and everyone was down there ripping out walls and carpet. They really felt they could save it all," she said.
"We couldn't wait to all go back. You make friends and now some people we'll never see them again," she said.
A meeting will be held in a few weeks to discuss the future of the LBI Trailer Park property and what will be built in the place of the rows of small trailers, township Mayor Joseph Mancini said Tuesday.
"They looked at the cost to bring it up to compliance, and they would have to almost triple the price of the rentals. They're really good people and they really wanted to keep it open. Looking at all the current rules and regs from FEMA, there was no recovery in the cost," Mancini said.
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