BEACH HAVEN — A proposed bayfront hotel has stirred emotions in this small seaside community due to its size and impact.
Those opposed to it argue it would increase traffic and environmental problems, while proponents of the project say it will bring a much-needed boost to a marina struggling to rebound from a fire a decade ago and Hurricane Sandy.
The project, Beach Haven Marina, Hotel and Restaurant, is planned for the property of Morrison’s Marina at Second Street and the bay and would be a multistory hotel with a restaurant, pool, rooftop deck and public access to the marina, said Chris Vernon, the project’s developer, at October’s Borough Council meeting, which more than 150 people attended.
Vernon could not be reached for further comment.
But some residents don’t want it.
Dozens spoke at the council meeting at the Surflight Theatre, claiming overdeveloping the small town will bring increased traffic and environmental problems, such as flooding, due to the hotel plan’s lack of a stormwater management system.
“It’s a pretty contentious issue,” Mayor Nancy Taggart Davis said. “I think nobody wants change, and this is change, but I would say there are more people in favor of this than aren’t.”
The property along Second Street is under contract, according to Janine Kleber, owner of Morrison’s Marina. The family is selling the marina due to the cost and upkeep it needs after the fire that destroyed the restaurant 10 years ago and Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
She said her husband, Fran, agreed to maintain and operate the marina for a few years after the proposed hotel was built to ensure a smooth transition.
“Hurricane Sandy was just the icing on the cake,” Kleber said. “It’s just hard to come back from and without the additional amenities, like the hotel and restaurant, it’s just very difficult. The property is definitely screaming for someone to dump some money in there. This opportunity to stamp the Beach Haven bayfront is a class act.”
The mayor agrees.
“The marina is driving the hotel,” Davis said. “The whole reason for allowing the hotel is to keep the marina as a functional marina. I really feel that this is the best for the town. There’s no way we can stay the way we are. Change happens. I don’t particularly like change myself, but we can control the quality of change we have.”
The morning after she voted in favor of the project’s redevelopment agreement, the mayor awoke to two of her tires deflated. She believed right away it was because of her vote.
The valves on her passenger-side tires were damaged and had to be replaced after her car was towed to a service center. Another car on her street that looked similar to hers had the same tires damaged. Former Councilman Don Kakstis, who also was in favor of the hotel, received damage to his tires as well, she added.
“I was very surprised,” Davis said. “Beach Haven is a wonderful town, and most of our citizens are law-abiding. Just because you disagree with somebody doesn’t mean you hate them. This wasn’t something I’d expect to see in this town. It was a nasty thing to do.”
Davis filed a police report and has since bought a surveillance camera to monitor the area near her front door. As of Monday, no charges have been filed, according to Police Chief James Markoski. No leads have been made in the investigation.
“We have a wonderful town,” Davis said. “I think this was somebody who went out and had a few too many drinks and thought, ‘I’ll show these people.’ If they were really evil they would have done a lot more damage, but I don’t think people in this town are mean-spirited.”
The project will go in front of the borough’s Land Use Board for site plan approval Dec. 2. It will need Coastal Area Facilities Review Act approval after that.