Redevelopers last week pitched a $10 million Marina redevelopment project to Belmar’s governing body, but while officials seem enthusiastic, some would-be neighbors are not as keen to the idea.
Representatives from Hibernian, an international redevelopment group based in New York and London, presented their plans at last week’s Borough Council meeting to build a two-story structure for restaurants and shops, outdoor tiki bar and miniature golf course at the Belmar Marina. Mayor Matthew Doherty and council members seemed eager to ink a deal with the group, but some residents who live nearby expressed their concerns regarding traffic and parking at the proposed site along Route 35.
The two sides are currently negotiating a deal to bring the estimated $10 million project to Belmar in time to have the tiki bar and miniature golf course up and running by summer, with the two-story structure that would replace Fishermen’s Den being at least halfway occupied with restaurants and shops by spring 2013, officials said.
Doherty said he expects the project, if approved, to earn the borough more than $10.3 million in revenue over the next 30 years, but several residents are concerned that extra traffic created by the project would pose a danger to the public and fill their neighborhoods with parked cars that overflow from the marina lot, which the redevelopers themselves admitted was a likely possibility.
“Financially, this is a grand slam for the town,” Doherty said.
While the deal is still being negotiated, Doherty said that the borough would maintain ownership of the site and take in more than $200,000 per year in rent from the redevelopers for the first five years. That total would increase 3 percent every year for another 25 years, he said.
Several residents, while not necessarily opposed to the project, said they were concerned with the limited parking at the marina and the dangers posed to visitors who have to park across the street and cross a busy Route 35 during the summer.
"I’m all for this redevelopment, but right now there’s only one light by L Street,” said Judy Rocoszak, of Oakwood Drive.
But Doherty also acknowledged that parking at the marina during busy summer days would be an issue and said that police would be stationed to assist visitors parking across Route 35 to reach the harbor safely.
Doherty added that he would contact the state Department of Transportation, which owns Route 35, to see about having another traffic light installed.
In addition, Doherty said the borough this spring would be overhauling several of its parking lots in town to increase parking spaces, including at the Belmar Plaza, behind Borough Hall on Sixth Avenue and River Avenue, and at 10th Avenue across Route 35.
Other residents were concerned with trash from the tiki bar making its way into the Shark River.
“I can’t understand how someone is going to hang onto a cup or a napkin or anything else at that marina on that tiki bar that’s not going to go into the river," said Catherine Stiso, of Maplewood Drive.
Members of the governing body did not directly address Stiso's concern.
Doherty said that the borough would act as the landlord of the property, leasing the buildings to the redevelopers, who would be tasked with finding and charging tenants and maintaining the facilities.
The main building, which would be two, two-story buildings attached by a roof, would generate the borough $115,000 per year for the first five years and beginning the sixth year, the redevelopers would pay $150,000 per year, increasing 3 percent each year of the 30-year lease, Doherty said.
The twin building structure, 200-feet long and roughly 30-feet tall, would house restaurants on the top floor, and have both restaurants and retail shops on the ground floor, according to the project architect, Conrad Roncati, of Edgewater-based Architectura.
The tiki bar would generate $65,000 in revenue to the borough the first year and that total would increase by 3 percent each year, Doherty said.
The miniature golf course would generate $20,000 in revenue the first year, and that total would also increase 3 percent each following year, Doherty said.
By the end of year 30, Belmar would have netted more $10.3 million in revenues and still own the buildings, Doherty said.
And that’s not counting the potential revenue from boat transient fees, Doherty said.
If the project is as successful as the borough hopes, the marina would become a destination for boats that would pay to use Belmar’s boat parking lot that already exists and is currently empty, Doherty said.
“Right now there’s not much to do at the harbor if you come here on a nice boat,” Doherty said. “Hardly anyone has a marina like this this close to the ocean.”