ATLANTIC CITY — After decades of beach block housing being restricted to multi-family units, the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority is looking to change course in the city.
The CRDA board awarded a variance last week to allow a property owner to convert 138 S. Bellevue Ave. from a triplex to a single-family house and is in the midst of changing zoning regulations in the Tourism District to allow single-family homes on many blocks.
State law has regulated zoning in the Tourism District since 2012, and the CRDA oversees it.
“If you look at other beach towns, on the beach block single-family homes are not just not prohibited, but preferred,” said CRDA Executive Director Matt Doherty at the meeting. “It helps grow the community more with owner-occupied housing as opposed to rentals.”
CRDA Director of Planning and Development Lance Landgraf said Atlantic City changed the zoning to multi-family of three units or more back in 1978, to encourage beach block development by casinos and other high value developers.
When the CRDA took over the tourism district it kept Atlantic City’s zoning, he said.
Changing those regulations will help Atlantic City attract more vacation homeowners, Landgraf said.
Landgraf said the change in regulations will take some time. A municipality can change an ordinance in about a month, by holding two meetings and a public hearing, then voting on it. But state law changes take much longer.
He estimated the zoning will be changed sometime in the first quarter of 2020.
The tourism district encompasses all beach blocks in the city above Lincoln Avenue in Chelsea, Landgraf said. He said the area from Florida Avenue to Belmont will definitely see a zoning change, while other parts of the city are less likely to see one.
“We are looking at every option possible to encourage redevelopment with single family, multi-family or commercial,” Landgraf said.
But in the Southeast Inlet, where zoning changed last year to no longer permit casinos, it’s likely to remain multi-family, he said.
Vacant land in the Inlet from Atlantic Avenue to the beach and Ocean Resort to the Inlet would be best used for townhouses and other multi-family development, according to a report by the Urban Land Institute.
The beach block triplex on South Bellevue Avenue, between South Florida and South Texas, was originally built as a single-family home in about the 1920s and converted to multi-family later, Landgraf said.
But the street is not suited to multi-family housing, Landgraf said.
“Multi-family density is causing problems in the neighborhood. There’s no parking and many units in a small space,” Landgraf said.
The homeowner who got his variance, Sean Reardon, said he appreciated the comments, but it took a year and a half to two years for him to succeed in getting permission to convert his building.
“I understand state (rules) but this is something that’s been underway for a while,” Reardon said. “The initial discussions started 1.5 to 2 years ago. We could do better ... to move forward quicker.”
Reardon, who is running for City Council as a Republican in the 4th Ward, said he hopes to start the rehab process immediately on the home he will eventually live in.
The process he went through involved hiring architects, engineers and others, and would be cost prohibitive for most people. He estimated he spent almost $10,000 on experts and other required paperwork.
“It’s counterproductive to getting this all fixed,” Reardon said of improving the neighborhood.
U.S. residents will need a REAL ID to access federal facilities and fly commercial airlines within the U.S. after Oct. 1, 2020, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The REAL ID Act was passed by Congress in 2005 after the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation that “the Federal Government set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses,” the DHS website states.
New Jersey residents must schedule an appointment at a local New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission agency by next October to obtain their REAL ID — a driver’s license with a star marking on it.
The MVC is currently beta testing REAL ID at various locations and will notify the public when an agency has been validated and is fully operational, according to Jim Hooker, spokesman for the MVC.
Currently, Trenton Regional and Eatontown offices are the only locations that are fully operational and are issuing REAL IDs by appointment.
“We are phasing in REAL ID in New Jersey in order to avoid the kinds of problems experienced in other states, such as inordinately long lines or problems with issuance,” Hooker said in an email. “We want to retain flexibility to go as fast as we can without sacrificing customer service. We also want to ensure personnel in each agency are fully proficient so the process is smooth and quick.”
U.S. passports will also be accepted in lieu of a REAL ID when flying domestically, according to the DHS. REAL ID cards cannot be used to travel to Canada, Mexico or international sea cruises.
Children under 18 are not required to provide identification when traveling with a companion within the United States, but the companion will need acceptable identification, according to the Transportation Security Administration.
“No one is required to get a REAL ID,” Hooker said. “However, starting Oct. 1, 2020, you won’t be able to get on a commercial airliner with just a standard New Jersey license ID.”
A majority of the 50 states and U.S. Territories are in compliance of the Real ID Act. Oregon and Oklahoma have extensions into August and September, respectively. New Jersey and U.S. territory American Samoa are under review, according to the DHS website.
When asked to clarify the “under review” status, Hooker said that New Jersey has met all criteria for compliance and submitted all final documentation to the DHS on Sept. 17.
In New Jersey, a REAL ID costs $24, the same as an initial driver’s license or renewal. If a resident opts to change their standard license to a REAL ID before its renewal period the cost is $11.
Residents are required to provide documentation showing their full legal name, date of birth, Social Security number, two proofs of address and lawful status at their REAL ID appointment, according to the DHS.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has hired a consultant, LeighFisher, to evaluate the feasibility of assuming control of another airport in New Jersey, including Atlantic City International Airport.
“The feasibility study will include a comprehensive evaluation in areas such as financial, management, facilities and infrastructure needs,” said Port Authority spokesman Scott Ladd in a Monday email. “LeighFisher is a leading consulting firm in the aviation sector.”
Board members at the South Jersey Transportation Authority, which owns and operates the airport and the Atlantic City Expressway, have expressed frustration recently that there has been talk of a possible takeover but no one from Port Authority or its consultants have reached out to SJTA.
State Senate President Steve Sweeney announced a push to have the authority buy the facility last March, as a way to increase the use of the large but underutilized airport.
The airport is at the center of Atlantic County’s plans to diversify its economy away from over-reliance on the casino industry and hopes to bring aviation maintenance operations to the airport as well as aviation research firms and more commercial passenger and charter flights.
The county funded the construction of the first building in a planned National Aviation Research and Technology Park this year, on land provided by the Federal Aviation Administration next to the airport.
The Port Authority runs the major New York City airports of LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy; Newark Liberty International Airport; and Stewart International Airport in Orange County, New York. Sweeney has advocated the Port Authority purchase the Atlantic City airport and potentially use it for some flights, maintenance and other support services.
In August, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Executive Director Kevin O’Toole said the agency is evaluating information on buying Atlantic City International Airport and other New Jersey aviation facilities after receiving two consultants’ proposals.
“This has been pending a long time and nothing has been going on,” said former board Chairman Jeffery April at last week’s SJTA meeting. “We had a contract in the past with the Port Authority hired to manage the airport and nothing happened.”
April said then that officials pushing to make the takeover happen should encourage the Port Authority to either act or end the suspense.
Board member James “Sonny” McCullough, the former mayor of Egg Harbor Township, where the airport is located, said he too is tired of the implication that the SJTA has not been doing all that is possible to expand services and ridership at the airport.
WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP — While October brings people to farms for hayrides, pumpkin patches and other fall fun, for cranberry farmers nestled in South Jersey’s ice box, the Pine Barrens, October means protecting against frost, which can damage crops.
Bill Haines Jr., owner and CEO of Pine Island Cranberry in Washington Township, Burlington County, says compared with other cranberry growing regions in the United States — Wisconsin, New York and Massachusetts — New Jersey is one of the best.
“We have an acidic soil, and we have a large clean water supply,” Haines said.
However, its sandy soil, rural land and low elevation of the cranberry bogs also make New Jersey highly sensitive to having frost halt the growing season, or give a sluggish start.
According to the University of California, Davis, more economic losses occur due to freeze damage in the United States than any other weather-related hazard. New Jersey ranks third in the nation for cranberry production, the state reports. In 2014, Jersey cranberries were a $21.9 million industry, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
However, when autumn arrives in South Jersey, the thought of frost sends a chill down the spine of growers before it even reaches crops.
“We worry about frost when almost no other farmer has to think about it because of how and where cranberries grow,” Haines said.
In business for 120 years, Pine Island Cranberry’s bogs have seen nearly every storm, snow, wind, sun and temperature that can come to South Jersey.
Cranberries are so sensitive due to how they grow. “Because they grow so low to the ground. On a frost night, cold air settles and goes to the lowest point,” Haines said.
Frost is the fuzzy layer of ice crystals that form on a cold object as water vapor in the air changes to solid ice. To get frost, you need cold air, which naturally sinks. The lower the air can sink, the more the temperatures drops. In the Pine Barrens, where sandy soil dominates the region, the process is only accelerated due to the sand producing wild temperature swings (think sand on a sunny, summer day).
“There will likely be several days this cold season where the state’s coldest temperature will be at a Pinelands station,” said Dave Robinson, the New Jersey state climatologist.
That means constantly monitoring the weather in the cranberry bogs, specifically at the surface, as typical weather stations stand about 6.5 feet high.
“I’ve seen 10 degrees difference between weather station and vine level,” Haines said.
To make sure the icy crystals don’t destroy the cranberries, farmers employ a sprinkler technique.
“On a frost night, it’s Matt Giberson, our manager of operations (monitoring the temperatures and protecting against frost). While his team is out starting pumps, etc., they’re all monitoring and communicating with each other throughout the night,” said Haines.
The sprinkler system coats cranberries with a layer of water. The reason is physics. Even though temperatures are below freezing at the surface, even when it’s above 32 at official weather stations, the ice that forms around the cranberry is a warming blanket. The physical process of turning water into ice releases ‘latent heat’, which then warms the cranberry inside of the ice.
Despite just being part of the Garden State, South Jersey has a wide variety of climates and the Pine Barrens are the coldest on autumn nights.
According to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, Indian Mills, part of Shamong Township in Burlington County, experiences its first 36-degree night Sept. 27, on average. That is significantly earlier than the rest of South Jersey. Atlantic City International Airport, on the edge of suburbia in Egg Harbor Township, has it’s first on Oct. 11. Cape May has its two weeks later than that, on Oct. 27.
However, Haines said that during the fall, when the fruit is riper, they are more hearty.
“In October, we wait until it hits 28 degrees,” Haines said.
That makes late October prime time for a killing freeze, when the temperature reaches 28 degrees. In Indian Mills, that first happens on average Oct. 21, about two weeks earlier than Atlantic City airport (Nov. 2) and more than a full month earlier than Cape May (Nov. 25).
Last year, the last fall freeze warning for Burlington County was Oct. 22. Atlantic and Cape May counties had a freeze warning issued later, on Nov. 11, said Dean Iovino, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Mount Holly.
Turning to this year, a frost advisory was issued for mainland Atlantic, mainland Ocean and all of Cumberland and Burlington counties Saturday. Multiple standard weather stations reached 32 or below in the Pine Barrens, meaning it was even colder at the surface.
Frost protection is “probably the most important thing we do,” Haines said. He added that the most attention is paid during the spring, when the crops are tender, but the fall matters, too.