SEA ISLE CITY — As it plans for its future, this seaside resort of 2,100 residents is “at a tipping point right now” attendees were told Saturday at a workshop on the city’s Master Plan.
Speaking to the largest crowd to respond to a survey and to attend a public meeting in the town, Planning Board Vice Chairman Ed Sgalio said the city was at a “crucial point” in its history. His remarks came after hundreds of concerned property owners had crowded into the Welcome Center on JFK Boulevard to share frustrations and suggestions as the city begins re-examining its Master Plan. The document, last updated in 2007, provides a blueprint for the city’s development.
Most in attendance said the island has permitted too much construction without a corresponding concern for parking and flooding. Many said the 2008 approval of mixed-use buildings had resulted in too much density as it added residential units to areas that had been zoned for commercial use.
“The whole thing,” Dennis Gallagher, 64, of 63rd Street, said of what aspects of the Master Plan had brought him and his wife, JoAnn, 62, to the three-hour workshop. “We want amusements brought back to Sea Isle, a place for dogs, an improved bicycle path. There’s just not enough room.”
“They keep building these bigger and better homes,” said Dolly Mount, 68, a 20-year property owner on 33rd Street. “They have five bedrooms. They have seven bedrooms. Where are they going to put all the cars?”
“They’re putting up big houses, but they’re not improving the flooding,” said Pat Visek, 71, of the 3200 block of Landis Avenue. “I’m concerned about the flooding.”
“No more buildings. No more of these big monsters,” said Monica Santarcangelo, 77, of 77th Street. “The parking is horrendous. I don’t go out of my house in the summer except to go to church.”
The workshop addressed five areas of planning:
Zoning, commercial density and size of residential structures;
Parking, bicycle traffic and traffic congestion;
Parks and recreation, former school site, old firehouse and marina site;
Economic development; and
Storm planning and infrastructure.
Changes residents said they would welcome include transforming the former public school in the 4500 block of Park Road into a recreation center with indoor pool, enacting limitations on mixed-use development and installing pump stations in flood-prone areas.
“We’ve had a good, passionate discussion,” Business Administrator George Savastano said at the conclusion of his presentation on Economic Development, the topic that drew the most attention from attendees. “People really care.”
“The turnout today is an example of how much the people of Sea Isle care about their town,” City Engineer Andy Previti said, adding that in his 42 years as a municipal engineer in New Jersey he never had witnessed such an interest from the citizenry. “You should be proud of yourself for the amount of involvement you’ve shown.”
Marcia Shiffman of Maser Consulting in Upper Township said the city received more than 3,000 responses to its three-month Master Plan online survey and more than 1,000 pages of comments from residents.
The city expects the Master Plan re-exam to be adopted at the end of next year.