SEA ISLE CITY — A request by council to draft a resolution allowing it to grant waivers could be the last call for Ludlam Island Brewery, a brewpub proposal that continues to be nursed along by certain members determined to drain every possibility from it before letting the idea fizzle out.
The brewpub proposal, fermenting before the public for the last two months, was again on Tuesday’s meeting agenda for discussion. Previously declared dead when council failed to act in order to move the concept forward, the brewpub was kept alive when Council President John Divney asked the city solicitor to draft a resolution that would allow the governing body to grant waivers to applicants on a case-by-case basis.
In the Ludlam Island Brewery case, the waiver to be sought would be to a city ordinance that prohibits liquor businesses from operating within 1,000 feet of a competing liquor establishment, a church or a school. Ludlam Island Brewery seeks to open a small facility in the 8300 block of Landis Avenue, a prohibited zone due to the proximity of Trinity Community Church at 85th and Landis and a new business being developed at 86th and Landis, formerly the site of Busch’s.
Sea Isle City is the only Cape May County coastal community that exceeds the state statute, which calls for a 200-foot buffer between liquor businesses and schools and churches.
“I think that 1,000-foot rule is archaic,” said Councilwoman Mary Tighe, an ardent supporter of the brewpub proposal and a self-confessed fan of craft beer. “What if we applied that rule to coffee shops and said there can be no more coffee shops? How many coffee shops in town would love to have that protection as the bars do?”
“The state law is 200 feet, our law is 1,000 feet,” Councilman Frank Edwardi said. “I don’t know if I feel confident changing that.”
“I thought more than a month ago this was not going to come to pass,” Councilman Jack Gibson said. “I said I didn’t support a change in the ordinance. There is no sense in calling for an ordinance that, as far as a month ago, doesn’t have a chance of passing.’
Gibson said it was unfair to hold out false hope to Ludlam Island Brewery principal owner Bill Topley, who has attended every council meeting since introducing the brewpub concept in mid-October.
It is possible, Topley and others said, that council could approve the ordinance allowing it to grant waivers and then not award one to the brewpub.
Among residents who spoke against the proposal were Lennea McGarr, of the 100 block of 92nd Street, who said she represented Trinity Church’s opposition; Phyllis Linn, of the 8400 block of Landis Avenue, who said, “The little church should have some respect,” and Ken Merson, of the 100 block of 84th Street.
“One of the nice things about Townsends Inlet is you are always able to get a parking spot,” he said of the southern end of the barrier island, which has a sparse commercial base. “I don’t think you should enhance the parking problems we have elsewhere in town.”
Although he offered no proof other than his personal observations gleaned from visits to brewpubs, Merson said the abbreviated process Topley will employ in making his beer would rob brewpub customers from viewing an essential part of the beer-making operation and that brewpubs have a reputation of over-serving their patrons.
“This is an opportunity to let that not happen,” Merson said.
A letter from Kevin McClory, of the 8400 block of East Landis Avenue, registering his opposition to the brewpub and asking council to preserve “a neighborhood of quiet bliss” was entered into the record.
Cost of rec center
In other business, council adopted the 2015-2019 Capital Plan, which included estimates for a new recreational facility and new indoor pool. Business Administrator George Savastano said the cost of both amenities would be roughly $5 million and would have the same tax impact. At a cost of $475,000 a year for 14 years, the tax rate would increase by 1 cent. Maintenance costs estimated at $500,000 a year would continue in perpetuity, he said.
About 60 residents packed the makeshift council chambers in October for a discussion on the disposal of the public school in the 4500 block of Park Road, which has been used as a temporary City Hall and Police Department since Hurricane Sandy destroyed those city facilities. All spoke in favor of converting the building into a recreation center or building a new facility for such purposes, with most advocating for an indoor pool.
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