The Monmouth County Board of Freeholders has indicated they will support the city’s effort to secure Green Acres funds for the preservation of an area on the city’s northern beachfront.
At the July 10 Freeholder meeting, Freeholder Director Lillian Burry stated she instructed both Ed Sampson, director of the County Planning Board, and James Truncer, director of the Monmouth County Park System, to send letters to the state in support of the city’s Green Acres application.
“I was particularly energized by the passion of the people to preserve this project which is commonly known as Bradley Cove,” said Burry. She was referring to those who spoke in favor of the site’s preservation at the freeholders’ June 26 meeting in Asbury Park. A standing-room only crowd came to rally on behalf of the site’s preservation.
Bradley Cove is the name of a 15-unit townhouse development that waterfront redeveloper iStar Residential has approval to build on just over a half-acre of land on the city’s northern beachfront. The parcel stretches from the city’s sewerage treatment plant north to the Loch Arbour border. [Photo of protesters lined up along the outline of the development’s footprint shown above].
Environmentalists have long opposed the development and claim it would hinder the public’s access to the north end beach, a favored spot among fisherman and the city’s only designated surfing beach.
The city is in the process of submitting an application for state Green Acres funding to buy the development rights back from iStar and is hopeful the county will partner with them to supply the 25 percent required matching funds. Green Acres would pay for two independent land appraisals.
Freeholders Tom Arnone and John Curley both told the Sun they support the city’s effort to preserve the land and that the letters of support, in their eyes, signify the county’s intent to provide the matching funds if the state application goes through.
“I can tell you I don’t have any problem with it whatsoever,” Arnone said of the county providing the match.
“Absolutely,” said Curley, in regard to the county supplying the matching funds, “and I’m very emphatic about it. I’ve wanted to make Bradley Cove a county park from the outset.”
The Monmouth County Board of Recreation Commissioners ordered an appraisal in the months before Hurricane Sandy in 2012, but it has yet to be certified because of valuation issues raised by the storm, county officials have said. The uncertified appraisal places the land’s value at $3.5 million, Burry has stated.
The Asbury Park City Council voted 5-0 to submit the Green Acres application seeking funds for up to $4.5 million for the purchase.
Burry remains “cautious” to commit to a specific dollar amount the county would provide, as the match depends on the amount necessary to purchase the development rights.
“We can’t promise something if they don’t know what it is going to be,” she said, in reference to how much the development rights will ultimately be worth.
The county’s cap on individual Green Acres project funds is $250,000, which Burry said is not out of the question if the state funds fall within the $1 million mark.
Curley questioned whether the land was suitable for development and whether people would actually invest in owning property in a high-risk flood area
“To build on the beach seems counterproductive, anything built on that roadway would have been washed out or destroyed during Hurricane Sandy,” he said, noting he hopes to meet with Loch Arbour Mayor Paul Fernicola and Asbury Park Councilwoman Amy Quinn to further discuss the many “different variables in this puzzle.”
Besides public funds, the required 25 percent match can also come from private funding, or anything else that isn’t Green Acres money, according to NJ Department of Environmental Protection [DEP] spokesman Larry Hajna. The DEP administers Green Acres grant funds.
In an email sent to city officials last week, Brian Cheripka, iStar’s vice president of land, said the developer would not draft a formal letter in support of the application as their lawyers advised doing so could compromise their legal interests.
Since February 2012 the iStar has maintained it will consider preservation provided the developer “receives fair treatment and just compensation, the same as Asbury Partners is required to provide to other property owners when Asbury Partners must acquire property in the waterfront redevelopment areas.”
“It will be very nice to see this come to a positive conclusion,” Burry said.