Faced with the loss of a high-value ratable as well as recent land preservation purchases in the western portion of the township, Toms River Mayor Thomas Kelaher said it is unlikely that the township would purchase the Joey Harrison’s Surf Club property in Ortley Beach for use as a public beach.
The bar, restaurant and nightclub was destroyed during Superstorm Sandy and has since been partially torn down.
At a recent meeting of the Toms River Township Planning Board, residents of the neighborhood called on officials to consider the purchase, saying that as the neighborhood recovers with larger houses and more year-round residents, parking will be at an even higher premium than before the storm.
“Toms River should be acquiring open space wherever they can in Ortley Beach,” said Paul Jeffrey, president of the Ortley Beach Voters and Taxpayers Association, suggesting the township look into state Green Acres or Blue Acres grants to fund such purchases.
“We’re going to desperately need parking up here,” Jeffrey said, touting an idea to purchase the parking lot across the street from the Surf Club property to use for paid parking, which could fund debt service on the land buy. “That’s going to get absolutely critical once all the large homes go up.”
Though there has not been an offer made by the Barcelona family, owner of the property, to the township, the site was offered for sale in 2004 at a price of $7.5 million. Former Mayor Paul Brush pushed the township council to purchase the property, but the governing body declined, deciding the price was too high.
“It’s a good ratable,” said Kelaher, expressing concern that the township would forfeit tax revenue from the oceanfront site. Additionally, the mayor said, the township recently voted in favor of pursuing a $10 million open space preservation purchase off Route 9.
Kelaher confirmed no applications have been submitted to the township to redevelop the plot of land. The owners have only filed paperwork to request a determination on the exact footprint of the building for the purposes of designing a rebuilding plan. That paperwork has been filed with the state Department of Environmental Protection in compliance with the Coastal Area Facility Review Act, a state land use law that requires extra building reviews in Shore communities.
Township officials said a plan has been floated to build condominiums on the site, though there have been no applications for permits to do so.