WILDWOOD — A planned protest over the city’s decision to allow recreational vehicles to park on the beach has its own legal challenge.
Property owners at Wildwood Ocean Towers, a 10-story, 176-unit building that fronts the Boardwalk between Cresse and Bennett avenues, oppose the plan to allow 80 RVs to park on the beach near their homes. They received permission from the city to hold a protest Saturday.
“The overall message we want to get across is to not allow the city to do this,” condominium association President Bob Grandinetti said.
But instead of being allowed to hold the event on the Boardwalk, the city, citing safety concerns, has said the protest must be held on the beach in a one-block section between Cresse and Hildreth avenues. The city also wants the association to obtain a $1 million insurance certificate naming Wildwood as an additional insured for the protest.
“In granting the application, the city placed onerous restrictions on the association’s right of free expression,” reads the complaint filed in Cape May County Superior Court by the condominium association.
The association charges that the city’s decision means the protest would have to take place “effectively out of view of the public” in an area cluttered with construction equipment.
Roseland, Essex County-based association attorney Kaspar G. Karim, a longtime Wildwood visitor, said the association wants to hold the protest in a much more visible location on the Boardwalk at Rio Grande Avenue.
Mayor Ernie Troiano Jr. said Monday that having the protest on the beach rather than the Boardwalk was a matter of safety, given the heavy pedestrian and bike traffic on the boardwalk on summer weekends.
A judge is being asked to settle the matter so the protest can be held Saturday, but in the meantime the two sides continue to argue about what’s best for the city.
Troiano said the plan to allow RVs to park on the beach near Cresse Avenue is one component in a comprehensive programming and improvement plan for the city’s beach.
In a document created by Remington, Vernick & Walberg Engineers, the city details its plan to turn the vast beach into a hub of activity.
Possibilities include cabana rentals, fire pits, outdoor movies, surfing, beach bars, a fitness beach, rollerskating and rollerblading.
The goal of the plan is to “transform the beach (and Boardwalk) and reinforce the Wildwoods’ position as a leader in family oriented entertainment,” it says.
“We’re trying to create recurring revenue,” Troiano said, noting that many of the activities will charge user fees. “This is not a one-trick pony.”
The city, which has yet to introduce its 2012 budget, has been struggling to develop revenue streams. According to the state Department of Community Affairs' Division of Local Government Services, municipal budgets were supposed to be introduced by March 9 and adopted by April 4.
Grandinetti, a resident of Marlton, Burlington County, said he understood the need for the city to increase revenue, but he said the association opposes the RV aspect of the beach plan for several reasons.
“Our position is the city should look at other ways to generate revenue,” he said, suggesting more could be done to entice developers and to enforce parking-meter regulations in the city.
Grandinetti said the recreational vehicles would be an eyesore and would cause environmental problems and traffic jams.
He said oil drips and the waste the RVs produce, along with questions about how they would affect traffic at Cresse Avenue, where the Wildwood Crest bike path and the Boardwalk meet, are among the association’s concerns.
“It’s a bad idea for Wildwood in general, primarily because of the environmental issues,” he said.
Troiano, a lifelong city resident, said many of the complaints he had heard had nothing to do with the environment.
“They’re telling me, ‘I don’t want to see some white-trash trailer park in front of my property,’” Troiano said. “Shame on you for making those comments.”
Troiano said there will be rules in place for the RV owners to follow, and the park will be professionally run.
He said rather than reduce property values, the RV park and other beach amenities will ultimately increase the value of homes in Wildwood.
And, in the end, Troiano said, economics will decide the RV park’s future.
“If the RV park doesn’t work, we’ll look at eliminating it,” Troiano said.
Contact Trudi Gilfillian: