The Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association has no plans to acquire the Jersey Shore Arts Center, formerly the old Neptune High School, an association official said earlier this week.
J.P. Gradone, Chief Operating Officer for the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association (OGCMA), said that a May 29 letter set to the Arts Center “caught me completely by surprise.”
“The issue of ever acquiring the arts center was never discussed by the OGCMA. We have no desire to take over that building,” he said.
Gradone said that the OGCMA’s properties committee gave their attorney, Edward C. Eastman, the go ahead to send a letter to the Arts Center to resolve any outstanding lease issues.
“Our attorney put a paragraph in there that we were not aware of and we did not look at the letter before it went out. It was a miscommunication between us and our attorney,” he said.
Gradone said the OGCMA is in the process of resolving a number of real estate lease issues and has been doing so for a number of years.
“We are trying to clean up a lot of loose ends and doing a lot of real estate things. Right now we do not have a lease on (the Arts Center) land and that’s what we are trying to resolve. They are doing a great thing there at the arts center and we are not trying to take it over. That was never the intention of the Camp Meeting Association,” he said.
In a May 29 letter from Eastman to the Arts Center, it states that the OGCMA issued a lease to the Neptune Board of Education on Aug. 4, 1897 which states that the school board must always use the building for educational purposes or else the lease will become null and void.
In 1979, the OGCMA granted the right to use a portion of the old school building for the purpose of permitting community non-profit organizations to use the vacant rooms for non-public school purposes.
“This use has since ceased altogether,” Eastman said in his letter.
“The leased land and the improvements thereafter ceased being used for public school purposes altogether, and the OGCMA is considering its option to declare that the leased land and premises revert to and become property of the OGCMA,” the letter says.
The letter also states that the association owns the paved parking area on the lot, just north of the building.
“That is another lease issue we are trying to clear up and clarify,” Gradone said.
“I don’t see any of this as a big legal issue, it’s just get something we need documented and in writing, so there is no confusion,” he said.
The Ocean Grove Historic Preservation Society, spearheaded by resident Herb Herbst and a strong core of supporters, was created 17 years ago to take over the old school building, now commonly referred to as the Jersey Shore Arts Center, and renovate it.
Since then most of the building has been almost completely restored, including the 400–seat theatre, at great expense, both with volunteer labor and donated money.