MARGATE — Lucy the Elephant now has a secure footing to stand on as she looks out to sea from her beachfront lot.

The Save Lucy Committee, which runs the National Historic Landmark, and the city, which owns the land it sits on, each voted this week to approve a new 20-year lease that increases the number of city appointees on the board and strengthens the committee’s final say on what happens on Lucy’s property.

The City Commission’s vote happened Thursday, just in time for Saturday’s 138th birthday party for the historic structure, built in 1881 to attract attention to a landowner’s lots for sale on the island.

Subsequently it was used as a private home, a tavern and, for the past 50 years, a tourist attraction.

“It’s the perfect birthday gift for Lucy,” said Davida Ross, of Margate, president of the committee, after the commission’s vote.

Ross and her husband, Martin, on Thursday accepted a commendation thanking the Save Lucy Committee for its half-century of work to save, move and repeatedly repair and renovate the wooden and tin structure.

The Save Lucy Committee has raised all the money to first renovate then keep the structure in good repair for 50 years, and it is embarking on a $500,000 exterior surface restoration project, Executive Director Rich Helfant said.

Many layers of paint have to be stripped off before she can be repainted. The old paint has been bubbling and stripping off, he said, and no more layers can be added.

The new lease contains stronger language than previous leases, guaranteeing the city will not sell, rent or lease the land or develop it without the written permission of the Save Lucy Committee, said committee board member Bill Subin, of Margate, who helped negotiate the new lease.

“That was very important to reassure the Board of Trustees that the city stood by its pledge” to protect Lucy for future generations, Subin said.

About a year ago, the owners of Ventura’s Greenhouse restaurant next to Lucy were considering building a multistory hotel, and City Commission proposed creating a hotel zone overlay along Atlantic Avenue between Cedar Grove and Coolidge avenues, which included the Lucy property.

It caused an outcry in town, with residents saying Margate’s residential character was being threatened, and some Lucy supporters feeling her future on the oceanfront was in doubt. After much protest, commissioners announced the hotel overlay zone was dead.

Mayor Mike Becker said he has always been opposed to any large-scale development in Margate, but feels the city could use a small venue where people can stay overnight.

The city and the Save Lucy Committee issued a joint news release Friday celebrating the new deal.

“It is good for Lucy, and that is what’s most important,” said Becker in a statement. “We’re all old friends, and we always knew we were going to work it out. Lucy was never leaving Margate. Neither of us would let that happen.”

To help raise the half-million dollars needed to repaint Lucy, the committee is selling commemorative coins for $19.69 each (for 1969, the year of the group’s founding). They are available at lucytheelephant.org/online-store.

Contact: 609-272-7219 mpost@pressofac.com Twitter @MichelleBPost

Staff Writer

In my first job after college got paid to read the New York Times and summarize articles for an early online data base. First reporting job was with The Daily Record in Parsippany. I have also worked in nonprofits, and have been with The Press since 1990.

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