By PETE WALTON
The Bradley Beach Planning Board will meet tonight (July 27) to consider updating the borough’s master plan.
At the Borough Council meeting earlier this week, Mayor Gary Engelstad said he would bring the council and Planning Board together soon to discuss future redevelopment in the town.
The mayor said developers have been “poking around” the community and he wanted to get out in front on the subject. The borough’s location between Asbury Park and Belmar, and its NJ Transit station attract builders to Bradley Beach, he said.
“Developers are coming whether we like it or not,” Engelstad said. “We want to dictate the process, not them.”
Borough Planner Jennifer Beahm gave the council an overview on possible options for redevelopment. She said the state Department of Community Affairs has revised its redevelopment guidelines in response to the public’s negative reaction to eminent domain, in which a governing body acquires private property by force. A court determines compensation if the two parties cannot agree on a price.
Beahm said the council should decide first whether or not it wants to use eminent domain. Engelstad said he would never pursue the practice, a sentiment endorsed by other council members.
The planner said the town could designate areas as being in need of redevelopment or rehabilitation. Each category has different criteria and limits on tax abatements, which are used by some municipalities to provide incentives for development.
There was no support expressed for tax abatements by the governing body at this week’s meeting. Beahm said that potential developers would likely push for abatements but the borough would be under no obligation to offer them.
Auditor David Kaplan reported on the borough’s 2016 audit. He said that Bradley Beach’s debt ratio was very low, 0.42 percent, and its tax collection rate was 99.38 percent.
Engelstad said that state Transportation Commissioner Richard T. Hammer would visit Bradley Beach to walk with borough officials along Main Street, which the state calls Route 71. The borough has been trying to get the state to upgrade crosswalks and wheelchair access along the roadway.
The borough received $15,000 from promoters of this year’s Lobsterfest on the beachfront, in addition to reimbursement of $9,000 in expenses.
Councilman Randy Bonnell said he has compared beach attendance figures and weather data in an effort to find out if Lobsterfest and other such events boost beach badge sales.
“On June 11, the beach took in $46,000,” Bonnell said. “On the Sunday of Lobsterfest, the beach took in $46,000. When it’s sunny, we make a lot of money.”
Councilman Harold Cotler asked that approval of the dates for the 2018 Memorial Day Festival be delayed until he could review the accounting of the 2017 event and the proposed contract with Sparks Marketing for next year’s festival.
The mayor said he and Borough Administrator Kelly Barrett met with Bishop John R. Schol of the United Methodist Church to discuss upkeep of the unused church property in Bradley Beach. The bishop assured the officials that the concerns raised by the borough would be resolved in a timely manner.
Beach Manager Dick Johnson presented a plaque to veteran lifeguard Walter “Jeff” Propert “in gratitude for 50 years of lifeguarding, thousands of lives protected, and hundreds of lives saved.”
The council observed a moment of silence for former councilman Robert J. Pearsall Sr., who died July 12 at the age of 85. The Asbury Park High School graduate and Air Force veteran also served on the Bradley Beach Board of Education for 24 years.
Councilman Norman Goldfarb called Pearsall “a mentor” and Cotler said that in the 30 years he knew Pearsall, “his only desire was for the betterment of the town.”