The state says turn on the noise, but Point Beach says not so fast.
A new state law that lifts noise restrictions on amusement parks and "beach bars" during the summer is prompting Point Beach to take another look at its own local noise ordinance. (Click on hyperlink above and view new law in PDF format.)
The Point Beach Borough Council voted unanimously at its meeting at Borough Hall on Tuesday night to authorize the municipal attorney, prosecutor and police chief to re-evaluate the local noise ordinance in light of the new state law and see if any amendments are needed to help the town keep noise in check.
Mayor Vincent Barrella criticized state legislators representing Point Beach for voting for the new law.
"The idea that local legislators voted on something like that without asking our opinion is really a problem," he said. "They need to explain why they did that. I haven't heard an adequate explanation yet."
The new law, signed by Gov. Christie on Jan. 17, states that it "shall not be a violation of the Noise Control Act of 1971" for a business to operate a beach bar, amusement park or carnival ride "existing and operating as of Aug. 31, 2011" during normal business hours from May 15 through Oct. 15.
The law was sponsored by a number of Democratic and Republican state lawmakers, mostly from Atlantic and Cape May counties, along with Assemblyman David Wolfe (R-10) and co-sponsored by Senator Andrew Ciesla (R-10), who just left office after opting not to run for reelection. District 10 includes Point Beach.
Senator Jeff Van Drew, D-Cape May County, has said he sponsored the bill for the benefit of older amusement parks that have become surrounded by newer residential communities where many residents have complained about noise. Another key sponsor was Senator Jim Whelan (D-Atlantic County), a former Atlantic City mayor.
Municipal Attorney Sean Gertner said after the meeting that although state law typically supercedes local ordinances, there may be certain circumstances where the town can enforce noise levels at oceanfront businesses during the summer.
For example, he said, if a condition of approval for a development or improvement specifies that it cannot exceed a certain level of decibels, the town can likely enforce that.
He said he would be researching the matter during the next two weeks and, if he feels any ordinance amendments are needed, he will report that to council at the Feb. 7 meeting.
Regarding enforcement, the Point Beach police department has not had a decibel reader for at least eight to ten years, said Police Chief Kevin O'Hara when asked after the meeting. He said the department had come to view it as a tool that was not particularly useful since there was often ambient, or background, noise, in addition to the noise they actually wanted to measure.
Marilou Halvorsen, Jenkinson's Director of Marketing, said in a telephone interview last week that the new state law will not have any impact on the company's operations of its amusement park or night clubs. Jenkinson's will not seek to keep any of its businesses open later, she added.
Halvorsen said Jenkinson's supported the law because it is a member of the New Jersey Amusement Association, which supported it. She emphasized that Jenkinson's was not trying to address any local issue by supporting the law, but was simply showing solidarity with the association.
Scott Bassinder, owner of Martell's, could not be reached for comment.
At the request of Councilman Tim Lurie, Gertner will also research whether Point Beach can establish "zero noise tolerance zones" in its beachfront areas, similar to those in Beach Haven on Long Beach Island.