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Borough's Boardwalk Plans Stymied By Court Orders

Superior Court judge halts forwarding of boardwalk plans; mayor says those plans have changed anyway.

Borough's Boardwalk Plans Stymied By Court Orders

The Borough of Belmar is barred from letting any contracts, borrowing or spending any money to forward its boardwalk pavilion plans, a Superior Court Judge has ordered.

Judge Lawrence Lawson, who last week ruled on the trio of lawsuits brought by a citizens’ group, also issued orders preventing the borough from taking $375,000 down payment for the pavilion construction out of the town’s Beach Utility money or using any of its $485,000 flood insurance claim money to forward the pavilion construction plans.

Lawson also said the borough may not raise beach fees to pay for the construction and called for a Dec. 11 conference between the borough and the Let The Citizens Decide group, which brought the three lawsuits covered by Tuesday’s orders.

The orders are the enforcement action of the decision Lawson handed down last week, which put on hold two lawsuits brought by the group while another is being probed further.

Ken Pringle, former Belmar mayor and attorney representing the citizens’ group, said he was pleased but not surprised by the orders, dated Nov. 7, that his office received Tuesday.

Mayor Matt Doherty said the borough will comply with the judge’s orders but reiterated that it’s the borough’s intention to rescind the $7.1 million bond ordinance at the center of at least one lawsuit and replace it with another.

Doherty announced on Tuesday that the borough would scale back plans to for the proposed 5th Avenue pavilion and replace the former Taylor Pavilion with a single-story structure, not the proposed two-story building.

That would require a new bond ordinance, likely for less money, once the new construction plans are completed, Doherty has said.

Pringle said the citizens group would be watching what moves the borough takes in the coming months and possibly amend their complaints accordingly.

“We’ll have to see what the borough does when it introduces its new bond ordinance,’’ Pringle said. “And we’ll make a decision whether to amend our complaints to apply to the new situation, if necessary.’’

The tug-of-war between the Let the Citizens Decide group began when the borough revealed its redevelopment plans for the boardwalk, which originally included three, two-story pavilions, adding a rooftop mini-golf course and other amenities to a boardwalk that had not previously had them.

But public outcry nixed one of the pavilions slated to be built at 8th Avenue. And Tuesday Doherty said the 5th Avenue pavilion would also be scaled back from two stories to one.

But the citizens group had already filed a trio of lawsuits, challenging the borough’s decision to declare the boardwalk an area in need of redevelopment when it was largely rebuilt and the borough’s plan to pay for the new pavilions with the town’s beach utility fund and through higher beach fees.

Those are the matters before Lawson now, who last week put on hold two of the group’s lawsuits while calling for a sit-down between parties to hash out why the boardwalk area was declared an area in need of redevelopment in April. 

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