Work to rebuild the first portion of Funtown Pier in Seaside Park began recently – then stopped in late February due to a dispute of the project’s scope that had been previously approved by the borough. Now, the property’s owner is headed to another meeting of the borough’s planning board, seeking approval for an expanded phase of the rebuilt.
The visible evidence of the rebuilding of Funtown Pier – which was decimated in Superstorm Sandy before being finished off in the Sept. 2013 boardwalk fire – came in the form of rows of pilings driven into the sand behind what has become known as “Funtown Beach,” a BYOB beach with amenities and food sales operated by William Major, the owner of the former pier. While Major previously said he would not rebuild the pier unless large thrill rides would be allowed – a prospect that was rejected outright by Seaside Park, which was unwilling to allow any rides over 150-feet tall – the plan resurfaced last year and quietly progressed through various local and state regulatory hearings.
The stop-work order was issued Feb. 18. Ten days later, attorney Stephan Leone, who has long represented Major, sent a letter to the borough announcing his client’s intent to seek updated approvals inclusive of another phase of the pier’s rebuild. The matter has been set for the March 22 planning board meeting.
The borough’s stop-work order was issued because, it is alleged, another of Major’s attorneys withdrew his client’s request for approval of the first phase of the project, which was to be a 50-by-150 foot initial boardwalk space and a beach club office structure. An inspector from the borough also found that a sand dune had been removed and regraded to a lower elevation, and that the pilings had been installed on the dune despite a lack of approval.
According to planning documents obtained by Shorebeat, Major is proposing to rebuild the pier within the footprint of the original Funtown Pier, though the work will be completed in phases. The pier is now proposed to be built over the sand, along the entire 501-foot stretch of the property from north-to-south. Currently, Major is seeking approval to remove the existing dune, build the boardwalk along the entirety of the western border of the property, and to eliminate temporary beach amenities.
Federal and state permits have been issued that allow the pier to be built in phases, and a package of documents submitted to the township by Leone include letters indicating as much from representatives of the state Department of Environmental Protection and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Philadelphia District. These permits also allow the engineered dune to be reduced to 13-feet from 18-feet, with the pier being constructed at a height and footprint equivalent to the previous pier. No additional pilings or structures were authorized. The sand that was removed in order to lower the elevation was ordered to moved seaward under the reconstructed pier upon completion.
Seaside Park officials, however, say that the federal and state permits were all conditioned on local approval, and thus far the town had only approved a plan for an initial phase, plus beach amenities.
The plan “is silent on the proposed use of the lot,” Borough Attorney Steven A. Zabarsky wrote in a Feb. 18 letter, notifying the pier owner of the stop-work order.
Funtown Pier’s permit allows for the construction of a pier that encompasses 31,848 square feet of space beyond the mean high water line. At the hearing next week, Funtown Pier’s owners are seeking permission to maintain the beach as it is current set up while also requesting approval to build “phase one,” defined as a 55-foot to 80-foot portion of the former pier running west-to-east. If approved, the new pier would run the length of the property – 501 feet from north to south, as it existed before Sandy and the boardwalk fire – plus the extent to which it will jut out onto the beachfront.
The pier would be constructed on wood piles, connected by concrete reinforced beams, supporting a concrete reinforced deck at elevation of 16-feet, the application states.
The hearing is scheduled for March 22, 2022 at 7 p.m. in the council chambers above the Seaside Park police headquarters building.