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Belmar Mayor: Hurricane Sandy Needs Still Great; Pavilions Give Belmar Character

Matt Doherty addresses public in a letter to the editor

In a letter to residents and the public, Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty outlined how a need for donations to help Hurricane Sandy affected families still exists. The mayor also outlined the rebuilding so far, and made a statement about the planned pavilions.

The complete letter is below:

Dear Friend,

 

I hope you and your family are having an enjoyable and safe summer.  After Sandy and the rough winter we had, our community certainly deserves to have a long summer filled with fun.  We have come so far, and should be proud of what we have accomplished together so I want to thank everyone for pulling together as strongly as we have since Sandy.

 

Unfortunately, we still have friends and neighbors that are displaced from their homes, so if you have not had an opportunity to donate, you can still help by making a contribution at our website, www.belmar.com.  Every dollar contributed goes directly to help a family in need.  I can assure you we will keep working until every family in Belmar is back in their own home.

 

From the day of the storm until now, the borough has been working every day to not only get people back in their homes and make sure businesses get up and running again, but also to make sure the look and feel of our beloved Belmar returns as much as possible to what it was before the storm.  Working together we have made significant strides, but we still have much work to do to fully restore our town and provide a long-lasting legacy for our children.

 

I would like to take a few minutes of your time to update you on what we have focused on since Sandy and the next steps we intend to take to continue moving Belmar forward.  Over the course of our daily lives I have the good fortune to run into many of you and discuss the borough’s future face to face, while others attend council meetings, call the borough or e-mail me directly.  I appreciate that direct feedback and want you to know the Borough Council and I all take it under strict consideration every step of the way.  These next weeks and months will be pivotal for the long-term future of Belmar and the potential for misinformation can only serve as a setback so I appreciate your taking the time to allow me to lay out the next steps we intend to take in Belmar’s post-Sandy recovery. 

 

The Belmar Boardwalk recovery project was the first post-storm project in the state.  We chose that project not only because it is part of the character of our town but also because of its importance to Belmar’s 140 small businesses that depend on tourism. 

 

Once we made the decision to move forward and prioritize the Boardwalk, we were able to capitalize on our partnership with FEMA and the overwhelming support of the public at large through the buy-a-board campaign, allowing us to rebuild using less than $400,000 in funding from the Beach Utility and $0 from Belmar property taxpayers. Over $9,600,000 from FEMA and $727,000 from the buy-a-board campaign. 

 

By restoring the Boardwalk in time for the summer we were able to speed up the borough’s recovery as a whole both symbolically and financially.  The aggressive nature of that project and the expedited timetable required to get it done were significant challenges, but we met, and even exceeded, those goals.  We took great pride in the fact that we were able to marshal local, state and federal resources and the result of all of us working together was a model effort praised by local, state and county officials, both Democrat and Republican. 

 

The financial stability provided as a result of efficient planning and near unanimous cooperation throughout the borough on the Boardwalk recovery project has put us into position to move on to the next step in our recovery . . . the beachfront pavilions.

 

Like the boardwalk, the pavilions are a part of the character of our town.  It is important that they are rebuilt, and improved where possible.  We have been very careful throughout this entire rebuilding process to make sure your voice has been our driving force and, because of the feedback we have heard from residents like you, we have scaled back the original plans and are now only moving forward with the Taylor Pavilion and the 10th Ave Pavilion. 

 

These two pavilions are vitally important to our community symbolically, financially and for public safety purposes, and their reconstruction will not present us with a financial burden.

The old Taylor Pavilion held many community events, and the new Taylor Pavilion will be able to accommodate even more.  Public forums, elementary school events, senior events, Boy & Girl Scouts functions and so many others will always have a home in Belmar and the reconstructed Taylor Pavilion will serve as that home.  The 10th Ave Pavilion will house our public safety entities that are necessary to providing a safe environment for families on the beachfront.  Both buildings will be paid for and financed through federal or state grants along with beach badge revenues.  Like the Boardwalk project, no property taxes will be used to build these two pavilions.  We take pride in not raising Belmar resident’s property taxes over the past three years and will work hard to ensure a fourth consecutive year with the same outcome.

 

There are a few very important items I want you to know about the proposed pavilions;

1)         Zero property tax dollars will be used to build them;

2)         The pavilions are designed for the residents of Belmar and future generations as well;

3)         There is a great deal of misinformation and rumor regarding these buildings.  While they will most certainly be built to present day standards and flood elevations, the top of the building heights are only approximately 10’ – 14’ higher than those that Sandy took from us.  The new designs are not the overwhelmingly tall structures that a certain element in town has claimed.

 

I want to thank all nine members of the Belmar Beachfront Advisory Committee including Councilman Brian Magovern, Ed Windas, Suzanne Anan, William Young, Merry Brennan, John Hutchinson, William Luddecke, Judy Rokoszak and Mark Fitzgerald.  They all worked tirelessly since January and held eight public meetings that included architects, engineers, and residents of Belmar.

 

I can say for sure that if you like the new boardwalk, you are going to love the new pavilions.  Check out the new designs at www.belmar.comand let me know what you think at mayor@belmar.com.

 

Thank you again for everything you have done as a community.  Belmar truly is a great place to live, and I am honored to be your mayor.  Thank you and enjoy the rest of your summer,

  

Matthew J. Doherty

Mayor

xxxx August 16, 2013 at 02:09 PM
so very sad
Teddy Ehmann August 16, 2013 at 03:24 PM
For the first time in 23 years, Belmar residents are so united against letting the mayor decide that petitions are our nly recourse. You ask anyone in Belmar and you will get a different opinion. I have been collecting voter signatures now for several weeks. The majority ALL WANT A VOTE. In conversation, the majority would accept single story replacements in time. There will be a vote on the Mayor's proposed bonds 7.1 million for 2 structures. For once NJ state law protects the taxpayers. This fall, the voters will decide.
xxxx August 16, 2013 at 03:49 PM
This is so truly sad to me. I am a lifetime long resident of Belmar and although Sandy has left a mark on me that will never fully heal I am proud of the people with whom I share this affliction. Growing up here, at the beach, the surf and sand become part of you and help mold not only who you are but you you'll eventually become. You see, for some of us, Belmar is not a political stepping stone but a place we have called home for many generations, Sandy was not a photo op but a storm that destroyed most of what we held dear. Please listen to us, we have earned it.
Karen August 16, 2013 at 04:51 PM
I also feel this is very sad. The Mayor is very media savvy, which was a benefit to Belmar in the aftermath of Sandy but is now using this skill to marginalize thoughtful caring taxpayers who may not agree with him. The recovery was amazing. But now we are in a different phase. The proposed pavilions will change the character of our boardwalk. The Mayor alway dances from the total height of the proposed Taylor pavilion. The additional 10-14 ft. in height is in addition to the mandatory 5ft. elevation from the boardwalk, making the new pavilion about 42 ft. high from the boardwalk( which is also elevated from the street). Possibly this bond in isolation will not cost the taxpayers any money. What if we have another storm. There is nothing but fingers crossed for FEMA to replenish our beach and construct the dunes. That should be priority one. Without protection, our homes and infrastructure will suffer much more flooding even if we never experience another Sandy. If we have to borrow money and hope for FEMA it should be for the dune project.
JR August 17, 2013 at 10:02 AM
"only approximately 10’ – 14’ higher than those that Sandy took from us." The Mayor states this like it's a mere trifle. An extra story and one half, IN ADDITION to the original structure. Why do Boy and Girl Scout, Senior, and other activities have to take place in a beachfront location? I agree with the mayor that pavilions are part of the character of Belmar. Single, one-story buildings for snacks, little stores with beach gear, and a place to administer badge sales, etc. Structures like that have been around for decades and represent the simplicity of what the shore is about. The ocean is the star, not the backdrop.
William F. Straus August 17, 2013 at 05:45 PM
Here he goes again! Politicians will say and do almost anything. This letter to the editor is so riddled with lies and exaggerations, it is shameful. My first reaction was it was written primarily for out-of-towners. If you live here and pay taxes here, you know better. The mayor, who is a mortgage broker by profession, has, using the Sandy disater mortgaged our small little hamlet to the hilt. The spending on the Mayor-Friendly Sandy Relief Companies was obscene. The mayor states" The financial stability provided as a result of efficient planning" is laughable. Ferriera Construction, client of his wife Maggie Moran and largest contributer to his campaign was called in the day after Sandy at top dollar. Next was AshBritt who worked with Maggie Moran's client Conti to cleanup at three times the going rate. Mayor since Sandy you have increased the bond liability of this peaceful shore community 6 X from 8 M to 48M and now you want the pavillions. Just put in on my tab. No mayor it;s our tab.
Dame Bridgid August 18, 2013 at 06:10 AM
The mayor DID listen to the people of Belmar by scaling back the building plans. These 2 pavilions are absolutely needed. No one can deny our need for the safety building. It's higher height will allow the patrols a better view. It will enhance First Aid's effectiveness in coming to the aid all of those in need of rescue. My church group was scheduled to hold an event at the Taylor pavilion in November 2012. My daughter's upcoming High School Class will be using the new building for their Senior year parties just as an older sibling's class did. This building is a focal point of Belmar's social activity that is sorely missed, leaving a significant hole in the fabric of our lives. The Taylor pavilion can be raised without problem since it is positioned across from Silver Lake. The block it is on has no residences whose ocean view would be altered. Silver Lake Park is already the focal point for large scale music & food festivals, plus athletic events like the Belmar Chase. It already was & will continue to be a very active place. In my opinion; the mayor is being quite reasonable.
Karen August 18, 2013 at 09:16 AM
Dame Bridgid, Did Mayor and Council listen to residents, or did they discover the cost of 3 pavilions was too high. The amount of the bond they are seeking is the same. Also, the old Taylor Pavillion was very inexpensive to rent. How much will the fee be for the new multimillion structure? How much will insurance be for a 2 story building in the V zone? In any case, shouldn't we protect our town and homes first? What good will the beautiful boardwalk be if our homes and infrastructure are destroyed by another storm. The bond should be used for dunes and beach replenishment. If FEMA comes through, then we should discuss the pavilions.
Belmartian August 19, 2013 at 11:23 AM
I've been to enough planning board meetings to know that when you go in with a plan you ask for more than what you want. That way, if there is opposition, you simply take away something claiming that you are "scaling back". The 8th avenue pavilion was overkill to begin with and they used it as a bargaining chip. Perhaps instead of building this hideous 2 story monstrosity that would stand out like a mini mall on the beach... you should go back to the drawing board and propose a timeless 1 1/2 story that would blend into its surroundings.

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