Even as Point Beach Council is about to revise its new parking plan, Boardwalk businesses cite Ocean County policy and federal law in their fight against it.
Council is expected to discuss possible revisions to a new parking plan that restricts overnight parking in the residential neighborhood near the boardwalk to property owners and residents from midnight to 6 a.m. starting on June 22.
Meanwhile, Boardwalk businesses filed a lawsuit on May 7 to block the new parking restrictions, claiming the restrictions violate the businesses' Constitutional rights.
The suit also specifically names Point Beach Councilman Michael Corbally, saying that because he is a co-owner of Barefoot Real Estate on Arnold Avenue and sells and rents property near the boardwalk, he has a conflict of interest and never should have voted for the parking plan that restricts overnight parking on residential streets in District 4.
The parking plan did not have enough yes votes without Corbally's.
Corbally said, "The lawsuit claiming my 'conflict of interest' is frivolous and designed to intimidate... It's a shame the influence lobbyists and money have on the political process when it comes to our 'quality of life.' "
Boardwalk Files Suit Against Town, Negotiates with Them on Same Day
The day the lawsuit was filed was the same day that Boardwalk business owners and attorneys met with Point Beach elected officials to try to work out an alternative to the town adopting two ordinances that are on Tuesday night's agenda: one is an ordinance mandating that bars close at midnight and another ordinance that they have the option to pay a fee to stay open.
Marilou Halvorsen, Jenkinson's Boardwalk director of marketing, has said the combination of the parking restrictions and bar ordinances are strongly opposed by Jenkinson's because they would be devastating to their business and cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars.
According to a letter sent to Mayor Vincent Barrella by Ron Gasiorowski, attorney for Jenkinson's Boardwalk and Martell's, a May 7 negotiation session between boardwalk and town representatives led the businesses to offer to pay Point Beach $800,000 over five years for police services for summer and special events, with the hope that would remove the need for the two bar closing ordinances. (See second attached PDF for Gasiorowski's letter.)
Barrella and Councilmembers Bret Gordon and William Mayer were in the negotiation session on May 7.
However, at least one or two "Borough members" who were there are not comfortable accepting the payment whlle Jenkinson's and Martell's are fighting the town's parking plan with a lawsuit, Gasiorwoski states in his letter, without naming those officials.
Apparently, Mayer was not one of the officials who voiced that position, since he said in an interview on Friday that he believes the town should accept the $800,000 and address the parking plan lawsuit separately. Mayer had voted against the parking plan and bar ordinances.
Gordon said on Tuesday, "My position has always been that parking and the bar ordinances are mutually exclusive of each other. They are two separate issues, and I am not going to tie them together."
Regarding the offer of $800,000, Gordon said, "We have a proposal, but a lot of details have not been ironed out yet, so I would hope we would have more negotiations."
He said he did not want to comment further at this time.
Barrella, who has been breaking tie votes lately in favor of the parking restrictions and bar ordinances, said he did not want to comment on Gasiorowski's letter because he strongly objects to the letter being released to The Ocean Star weekly newspaper before or at the same time he had received it on Thursday and before at least most of the councilmembers had received it (see related story).
Also, he said he and council should discuss it at the Tuesday night meeting before commenting to the media.
Corbally said he wanted to learn more about the police department's budget needs and other details before deciding how he feels about the offer.
Police Department's Budgetary Needs
Gasiorowski's letter said Police Chief Kevin O'Hara said $755,000 would be needed to help fund an adequate number of special police officers, including for special events, from May 15 through Oct. 1.
In an email on Tuesday, O'Hara said he did not immediately recognize the figure of "$755,000," but that it may have come from a number of times during the past several months when he and other police officials supplied budgetary figures to the governing body.
Negotiations started at that number and then went up to $800,000, according to Gasiorowski's letter.
Corbally said he had not heard the figure of "$755,000" until he read Gasiorowski's letter on Thursday night.
Councilmember Kris Tooker did not return a phone call or email left for her on Monday.
Councilmember Tim Lurie said on Monday that he wants to get more information on the offer before forming an opinion on it.
On Monday, Councilmember Stephen Reid, who had also voted against the parking plan, said he believes the town should accept the $800,000, saying it will help the town pay for police.
Ocean County Not Moving on Point Beach Parking Plan on County Roads, Prompting Town to Question Parking Plan in Seaside Heights
Regarding the county's view on the parking plan, Reid criticized Corbally for not showing the entire council a Feb. 15 letter (see last attached PDF) he had received from county Engineer Frank Scarantino saying he did not expect the county to approve of enforcing the plan on county roads and that the municipality should start the plan as a pilot program only on municipal roads.
The county freeholders have not said no to the plan, but other county officials say they do not expect the matter to be placed on a freeholder agenda because the proposal is not consistent with county policy.
Corbally has said the letter was not the final word on the matter and that he discussed it with Scarantino in March when it seemed the county may be willing to discuss the matter.
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 said in an interview 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.
"If we allowed Point Pleasant Beach to do this, then we would have to allow other towns to do this," Block said, explaining why there is likely to be no movement toward including the matter on a freeholder agenda.
Since then, County Counsel Laura Benson sent a letter (see third attached PDF) expressing a similar view to borough Attorney Gertner. Gertner replied (see fourth attached PDF) that it appears "other localities" may have similar parking restrictions on county roads and asked for a meeting to discuss that and Point Beach's situation.
In a phone interview, when asked about resident-only parking restrictions in Seaside Heights, Block said that he has asked for information from Seaside Heights Administrator John Camera.
Block said that he has searched county records and has not found any record of the county "concurring" with a plan that restricts parking only to residents.
"I told John Camera that if they are doing that on county roads, and if they cannot find any record of the county concurring, they will have to stop," Block said.
Patch left a message for Camera on Monday afternoon, but that call had not been returned by early Tuesday afternoon.
Block said Seaside may have more than one parking plan, and one may afford anyone the opportunity to buy a parking permit. However, he added he was not sure about that and was waiting for information from Camera.
The official tourism website for Seaside Heights does not mention any opportunity for anyone to buy parking permits.
The county roads in Seaside Heights are as follows, according to county records emailed to Patch:
- Kearney Avenue from Bay Blvd. to Ocean Terrace
- Sheridan Avenue from Bay Blvd. to Ocean Terrace
- Grant Avenue from Bay Blvd. to Ocean Terrace
- Hamilton Avenue from Bay Blvd. to Ocean Terrace
- Hiering Avenue from Bayview Terrace to Route 37 and Route 37 to Ocean Terrace
- Sumner Avenue from Bay Blvd. to Ocean Terrace
- Sherman Avenue from Ocean Terrace to Bay Blvd.
- Central Avenue from the north Seaside Heights border to Dupont Avenue
- Boulevard from the Toms River border to the Seaside Park border
- Ocean Terrace from Hiering Avenue to the Seaside Park line
- Porter Avenue from Bay Blvd. to Ocean Terrace
- Bay Blvd. from Porter to Route 37