Seaside Heights will be allowed to swap a section of beachfront property with the owners of Casino Pier in exchange for a plot of land along the boardwalk and a valuable historic carousel.
More importantly, the decision by the State House Commission – a body charged with approving the sale of public lands – will allow Casino Pier to carry out a plan to expand the amusement pier northward along the beach, and presumably incorporate thrill rides and similar attractions into their space off the boardwalk. The pier extension would not be built into the ocean; rather, it will be built along the present beachfront.
The commission voted 5-0-1 to approve the exchange of 1.37 acres of oceanfront land in exchange for about an equal amount of land which is currently used as a parking lot between Carteret and Sampson avenues. The swap also includes the historic Dentzel-Loof Carousel, which would be housed in a boardwalk museum that would be built on the donated land.
Casino Pier has committed to build up to $40 million worth of attractions on the plot of land it will soon own.
The land swap plan has generated some controversy. Though the vast majority of the Seaside Heights business community came out in favor of it, some residents argued that the borough should not give up the beach, which they said is its most valuable resource.
“Instead of protecting the Seaside Heights beach that belongs to all of us, they have approved it for an amusement park,” Jeff Tittel, director of the Sierra Club’s New Jersey chapter, said in a statement issued in the wake of the commission’s decision.
Business owners, on the other hand, said the plan would revitalize the boardwalk and bring more families to the borough. The owners of rental properties in the area testified at numerous hearings on the plan that attractions such as the thrill rides proposed by Casino Pier would bring more customers to the town.
Seaside Heights Mayor Anthony Vaz was not immediately available for comment.