Margate may need to go out to referendum before it can officially sign on to the state dune project, officials said — but the exact legalities are still unclear.
The Margate Board of Commis-sioners approved a resolution in April authorizing officials to “investigate and determine the feasibility” of getting federal funding for beach and dune protection, as neighboring Ventnor and Atlantic City have done for a decade. Longport, the other holdout on Absecon Island, signed on earlier this year.
But Margate adopted an ordinance in 2001, at the height of the previous debate over dunes, which requires a citywide referendum before approving a dune project or appropriating funds.
City Solicitor Scott Abbott said he was still investigating whether the governing body could simply rescind that ordinance by majority vote.
Complicating matters is that there was a petition in 2001, with more than 700 signatures, requesting that ordinance be placed on the ballot, Abbott said. The governing body then simply approved the ordinance first without a referendum, Abbott said.
“I still need to do some more research,” Abbott said. “It looks to me that if you’re referring to an ordinance by petition, if you want to avoid (a referendum), can you even do that?”
Longport, which passed a similar ordinance in 2001, rescinded it by unanimous vote of the governing body last month. But Longport Mayor Nick Russo was not sure if his borough also had a referendum by petition placed on the ballot before it passed its original ordinance.
Today, he said, there is a petition with more than 150 signatures in favor of dunes.
“Regardless of what Margate does, it’s in the best interest of Longport to go forward with this,” Russo said.
A municipality's share of any dune project is about 9 percent of the total cost, with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers paying for 65 percent and the state Department of Environmental Protection about 26 percent.
Glenn Klotz, a former member of the anti-dune group DUNE in the early 2000s — which proposed the very ordinance that Margate is trying to rescind and that Longport already did — said that he thinks Margate can just rescind it.
“I don’t see any reason why it would be illegal if the present commission, with two (out of three) votes, wants to rescind the ordinance,” Klotz said. “Of course, when they decide to do that, the two commissioners take responsibility (for) the project.”
For his part, Klotz said, “My perspective is to put it to referendum and let the people decide. But I really don’t care what they do. I’m over it. I wouldn’t fight them. I’m neither for nor against dunes.”
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