Plans for a bayside restaurant in Somers Point are likely dead after state appellate judges ruled earlier this month the plans didn’t include adequate parking.
Developer Gene Mitchell presented the proposal to the city’s Planning Board in 2016 for a 6,000-square-foot waterfront eatery and banquet hall called Ginger’s on the Bay at 924 Bay Avenue that would have 41 on-site spots and an 83-capacity off-site surface lot four blocks away.
The plans sparked backlash from residents, who argued the developer’s idea to offer parking blocks away would create congestion on side streets in the already crowded historic district. Meanwhile, city officials hoped to encourage growth in a scenic part of town in a way that didn’t harm residents.
The Planning Board ended up approving the controversial proposal, and a resident sued.
In July, the state Appellate Court reversed the board’s decision.
The judges disagreed with a complicated arrangement to have customers walk from a Shore Road valet lot across from Josie Kelly’s Public House, through residential neighborhoods and to the 281-seat restaurant about a quarter-mile away. The developer entered a lease with the lot owner, Mac’s Shore Development LLC, which could be terminated within four months.
That setup, the judges said, could only work if patrons desired using the off-site lot. The short time span of the lease was also a problem, the judges said.
“The efficacy of the valet parking requirement, as a means of mitigating the negative effect on-street parking would have for area residents, is entirely dependent on the willingness of the patrons to use this amenity,” the opinion reads.
The Planning Board and developer’s attorney did not respond to requests for comment. Mitchell could appeal the decision to New Jersey Superior Court.
Michael Valentine, a Somers Point resident living near the proposed restaurant, brought the suit against the Planning Board and the developer in 2016 after arguing publicly that parking would operate like a game of musical chairs on side streets.
His attorney, Carl Tripician, said Valentine is “delighted with the outcome.”
“People would have to traverse through residential areas,” Tripician said.
In the summer, traffic can back up near the bridge to Ocean City with cars turning into numerous other large, popular waterfront dining places on Bay Avenue and Shore Road that have limited parking.
Mayor Jack Glasser said there has long been tension between the city’s desire to develop the waterfront area and the needs of residents. In years past, he said, the city bought a few municipal parking lots to alleviate parking issues.
But as developers continue to eye the picturesque bayside, Glasser said the city needs to only stand behind reasonable construction. In 2016, he said he rejected variances for Ginger’s on the Bay.
“It’s tough,” Glasser said. “We really want development along Bay Avenue. ... But we also need to hear residents’ concerns. How do you level the field with that?”
The parking issue at Ginger’s on the Bay ultimately stemmed from the restaurant’s immense size, Tripician and the appellate court agreed. The planning board approved the developer’s request for 80% lot coverage, rather than the allowed 30%.
“These disruptive factors are inextricably linked to the scale of the applicant’s project,” the opinion reads. “Reducing the size of the restaurant to conform to the property’s capacity to provide on-site, off-street parking would eliminate this problem.”