The lawsuits were filed by group calling itself "Let The Citizens Decide.'' The group says the first suit seeks to put the redevelopment plan on the Nov. 5 general election ballot, letting Belmar’s voters decide whether to construct new boardwalk pavilions, at an estimated cost of about $7 million, according to a release from the group.
The second suit asks the court to rule whether the plan to pay for the pavilions out of the borough's Beach Utility money and an increase in beach fees complies with the Public Trust Doctrine and state law, former Belmar mayor, Ken Pringle, said in the release.
The Planning Board at a 7 p.m. meeting Tuesday is expected to take up the redevelopment plan, which includes a pair of two-story pavilions.
"The Mayor has stated publicly that he thinks this decision should be made by elected officials not by the residents and taxpayers," said Joy DeSanctis, spokeswoman for the group. "We strongly disagree – given the importance of this decision and how it will impact our town’s debt, the look of our beachfront and our quality of life for years to come.”
Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty said afternoon Tuesday that neither suit has merit, calling them frivolous and intended to stop the borough's recovery from superstorm Sandy.
"These are two more lawsuits in a line of frivolous lawsuits that will in no way slow down or stop our recovery from Sandy,'' Doherty said. "We have worked really well across party lines with the Governor, with other elected officials from other towns and the only time anyone has tried to slow down or stop our recovery, it has been from one small faction in town.''The plan calls for rebuilding the Taylor pavilion at 5th Avenue near Silver Lake and another pavilion at 10th Avenue. Both structures would be two stories tall, according to the plans. The previous structures were single stories.
Although the group wants the redevelopment plan put to voters in the November election, County Clerk M. Claire French said Tuesday afternoon that it would not be so easy.
Ballots for the November election were finalized on Sept. 13 and sent out for printing Sept. 18, French said.
A referendum question could be added, she said, but only by court order and by paying for all new ballots.
"They would have to pay for printing of all new ballots -- that's all the emergency, all the provisional, all the vote-by-mail. You'd have to change all the faces of all the voting machines.''
There is precedent for changing an already printed ballot before an election.
In 2002, state Democrats were able to replace U.S. Sen. Robert Torricelli's name on that year's ballot with former U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg after Torricelli dropped his re-election bid amid ethics questions 36 days before the election. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court.
"That's not something you get quickly,'' French said.
After public outcry, the borough scrapped its original plans to have another two-story pavilion at 8th Avenue, with a rooftop mini-golf facility.
The 10th Avenue pavilion would have lifeguard and other storage on its beach level, with roll-up doors. The boardwalk, or first floor, would house 815 square feet for concessions, and rooms for a police substation, EMS with exam room, and lifeguard office, the plans say.
The Taylor Pavilion is proposed with a second-floor room available for community events as a banquet room. The room will include a kitchen, bathroom and balcony, to accommodate 200 people within the 4,300-square-foot room. The first-floor will have a 1,400 square-foot concession space, badge sales, seniors’ club storage, a women’s club kitchen, a coat-room and lobby, according to the plans.
But the plan, according to the citizens group, gives Doherty power to convey or lease public property to a designated redeveloper without public bid.
"This redevelopment plan is a power grab,'' Fred Marziano, a member of Let The Citizens Decide, said in the release. "It is outrageous that the Council would approve a document that gives the Mayor the authority to sell our public property to private developers.”