SAT. UPDATE: Beach Condos Would Also Have to Give Approval
Mayor acts Fri. after Bret Gordon says he will change vote
Mayor Vincent Barrella said he told Martell's on Friday that the town is allowing them to use a south end parking lot to store building materials and equipment to rebuild the end of Martell's Tiki Bar pier.
The mayor's contact with Ed Brannagan, Martell's manager, followed Point Beach Councilman Bret Gordon saying in an email on Friday morning that he is changing his vote to allow Martell's to use the lot.
It appears, at this point, that there are now enough council votes for Martell's to set up shop in the parking lot behind Risden's beach and its southernmost building on the boardwalk, just off New Jersey Avenue, rented by Surf Taco this past summer.
However, there is a question now about whether Martell's needs permission from other property owners, including Risden's and the Beach Condos Association which apparently owns part of the beach in front of the condos.
Jim Kenvin, a resident who lives at Beach Condos, informed Patch on Saturday morning that the beach in front of the Beach Condos is owned by the owners/Beach Condos association.
"Risden's manages the beach for us in exchange for free beach passes. So Martells would need to get our permission to use our beach as a thruway," Kenvin wrote in an email.
On Friday, Ronald Gasiorowski, Martell's attorney, acknowledged that his client must secure permission from Risden's.
Gasiorowski said, "The owners of Risden's are lovely people, we're exploring that possibility. I have spoken to them and I'm confident we'll have something worked out."
Gordon emailed the mayor, most council members and the municipal clerk Friday morning, stating the following:
"Mayor, fellow Council members,
Although I feel the vote on not allowing Martell's to utilize town space for their building materials was justified (I genuinely struggle providing favors for a business that routinely sues our town for their personal gain at the expense of our taxpayers), I am now reconsidering my vote. In the spirit of rebuilding our town and in the truest spirit of this Christmas season, I am changing my vote to allow Martell's to use town property to facilitate in the reconstruction of their pier.
I hope to see you all at the Christmas tree lighting ceremony this evening. Respectfully, Bret"
In a telephone interview early Friday afternoon, Gordon said he was not swayed by anyone to change his vote.
"I saw some nasty comments on Patch, but that didn't sway me," he said. "Every decision I make, I take seriously and this one just weighed more heavily on my brain. I'm man enough to change my mind when the situation warrants it. We need to move forward, in spite of their legal representation."
When asked what he meant in the reference to Gasiorowski, Martell's attorney, Gordon said, "No comment."
Regarding his email, Gordon said, "I stand by what I wrote, it was heartfelt. It was a difficult choice. It was a difficult choice when I made the original choice. But I was trying to use the fact that it's difficult to provide a favor to someone who is harming your town, sort of speak.
"But truly, in the spirit of rebuilding, and in the spirit of the Christmas season, I rethought this," Gordon said. "And in interest of all parties I decided to change my vote. We need to move forward. Hopefully, we can gain a new footing in our relationship."
So what does it mean that Gordon is changing his vote?
Municipal Attorney Sean Gertner said in a telephone interview early Friday afternoon that either council can wait and vote on Martell's request again at its next meeting, which is on Dec. 18, which would mean Martell's cannot use the lot until after that meeting.
Or Barrella can authorize Martell's to use the lot and then the council can retroactively ratify that at the Dec. 18 meeting. That is apparently the option Barrella chose on Friday.
Regarding Gordon's change of heart, Gasiorowski said he had seen the email, but he had no comment.
Superstorm Sandy wiped out the new Trex boardwalk in front of New Jersey Avenue, so that now, one walks from the road directly onto sand.
It appears that made the spot attractive to Martell's contractor, which would not have to somehow lug pilings and equipment over a boardwalk to get it onto the beach.
Gasiorowski said at the meeting that the builder indicated the Risden's lot is the only spot that would make a good staging area for building materials and equipment, which could then be moved onto the beach and north to Martell's.
At the last council meeting, Gordon and Councilmembers Kristine Tooker and Michael Corbally voted against the request by David Bassinder asking for Martell's to use the lot. Bassinder had owned Martell's before selling it to his son, Scott, a few years ago.
Councilmembers William Mayer and Stephen Reid voted yes. Councilmember Tim Lurie, who Gordon did not send his email to on Friday morning, was absent. Barrella did not vote because in the Borough Council form of government, the mayor only votes when there is a tie.
Barrella had said at the meeting that he would have voted yes, but added that he thought David Bassinder had "chutzpah" for asking, even as Martell's is suing the town for its District 4 summer parking plan and its pending proposal to close bars at midnight.
Patch will update this story as more information becomes available.