The new District 4 Parking plan is unlawful because it reduces public access to the ocean and Manasquan River and discriminates between Point Beach residents and others, according to a lawsuit filed by several charter fishing boats, a marina and several Point Beach residents.
Because the plan allows only residents and local taxpayers to park in District 4's metered spots between midnight and 6 a.m., it violates the Public Trust Doctrine, an underpinning of beach access laws that says members of the public should all have equal access to the waterways and beaches, regardless of where they live, according to a lawsuit filed by John J. Jackson III, an attorney with the law firm of King, Kitrick and Jackson, LLC, 635 Duquesne Blvd., Brick (see attached PDF).
Those filing the lawsuit are: Southside Marina, 311 Channel Dr., Point Beach; Purple Jet Fishing Charters, 407 Channel Dr., Point Beach; Golden Touch Charters Inc., 818 South St., Point Pleasant and John Cole of Golden Touch; David Riback, Niblick St.; Richard Fischer, 637 Susan Lane; Brielle; Robert Santanello, Central Avenue, Point Beach; Marilyn Burke, 188 Central Avenue, Point Beach and Rosemarie Iantosca, 205 New Jersey Avenue, Point Beach and the Miss Michele III commercial fishing boat and its captain, Ron Braen, a Brick Township police officer and resident.
The parking plan, which goes into effect on June 22, restricts parking from midnight to 6 a.m. in District 4, except that District 4 residents and taxpayers get five parking placards that allow them to park there, and other residents get one placard.
The latest lawsuit seeks to have the parking plan invalidated, for the new parking plan signs to be removed and for attorney fees to be paid.
Point Beach Municipal Attorney Sean Gertner said in an email Friday morning: "We will be defending the claims raised in the same manner as the previously filed suit. A local government retains the right to manage and control its streets on behalf of its citizens and we believe the ordinance addresses those concerns in the same or in a similar manner as many other local governments have done throughout the state."
Mayor Vincent Barrella said on Thursday that the town is allowing free parking in the 500 parking spaces at Silver Lake lot on Arnold Avenue from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.
"There would be plenty of parking if Jenkinson's would only open up their parking lots, but they won't, because they don't want the liability," he said.
At a recent Point Beach Borough Council meeting, Councilmember Kristine Tooker looked directly at owners and attorneys for Jenkinson's sitting in the front row of the audience and asked them to open up their lot at the end of Broadway to overnight parking and use valets, but no one from the company has said they are considering that. (If more information on this becomes available, the story will be updated.)
The lawsuit also says the plan's penalty of a $2,000 fine or 10 days in jail "is a violation of due process and must be declared unconstitutional" as per the state and the federal Constitutions.
The lawsuit asserts that Point Beach "has extensive frontage and access upon the beaches and the ocean" and "must provide reasonable and equal access to beach and beachfront facilities to residents and non-residents alike."
The municipality does not own its beaches, except for the Maryland Avenue beach, the last vestige of the former Beacon Beach, on the south end next to Bay Head. The town does own most of the boardwalk.
The lawsuit also asserts that the parking plan violates the conditions of a Coastal Area Faciity Review Act (CAFRA) permit that requires the town to maintain public parking along the beaches in exchange for permission to maintain the beaches and dunes.
The lawsuit notes that Ocean County has not granted permission for the municipality to enforce the parking plan on county roads that have meters.
The county roads in Point Beach's District 4, near the boardwalk where the parking restrictions would go into effect are: Baltimore, Chicago, Ocean and Broadway.
Ocean County Administrator Carl Block has said that the county's general policy, although not in writing, is that because all county taxpayers pay taxes to maintain county roads, all county taxpayers should be able to park on those roads.
Block, in explaining why the Point Beach parking plan is not destined to be on a freeholder agenda, said, "If we allowed Point Pleasant Beach to do this, then we would have to allow other towns to do this."
However, there already is another town that has a parking plan on county roads, it's been in place for many years, and it's more restrictive than the parking plan about to launch in Point Beach.
Seaside Heights allows residents on many of the town's 12 county roads, as well as municipal roads, to lease spaces in front of their homes that no one else can park in at any hour.
At a recent council meeting, Barrella noted that Municipal Clerk Maryann Ellsworth learned through her own research that "on 80 percent of the county roads in Seaside Heights, residents are allowed to purchase or lease a parking space and no one else can park there." (For a list of the 12 county roads in Seaside Heights, please see the end of this story.)
The county has not explained why that is allowed, as per county policy.
Barrella has raised the question with Block and Freeholder Gerry Little, but Barrella also said he is not trying to undo Seaside's parking plan.
"I just think the county should let us enforce this parking plan on county roads here, just like Seaside is allowed to have a more restrictive parking plan on county roads in their town," he said.
John Camera, Seaside Heights Business Administrator, has not returned a call to Patch. Block had said a few weeks ago that he had written to Camera a couple of times and that he was also waiting to hear from him about the details of their parking plan and whether it warrants county review.
"We have to treat all the towns equally," Block said.
On Friday morning, a staff member in Block's office said he is off today and will call Patch on Monday.