By WILLIAM CLARK
The Neptune Township Committee declined to move forward with a parking permit plan for Ocean Grove. And because the meeting was cancelled this week due to fire code issues there will be no Green Acres application submitted for pickleball and volleyball courts in the Shark River Hills neighborhood.
Both issues caused the meeting room to be packed on Monday with more than 100 attending, which violated occupancy regulations cancelling the meeting. Due to the cancellation no vote was taken on the application for the Green Acres funding. The deadline for the application was March 1.
The meeting cancellation was welcomed by many who were in clear opposition to the proposed development of the Beverly Way field in Shark River Hills.
Ryan Lavender, a resident of the area who led an effort opposing the plan, said he was relieved the park would not be developed as proposed. He also said guidelines for the $450,000 Green Acres funding required the township to gather substantial community involvement in planning and approval prior to the grant submission.
“Neptune Township totally failed to engage the Shark River Hills community and the rest of Neptune Township in this proposed project which clearly had been planned for months,” Lavender said.”Had this matter been handled in accordance with the DEP guidelines and had there been a timely community involvement effort long prior to the Township engineer preparing a plan for redevelopment of the Beverly Way field, I’m confident that there would have been a different plan and positive result with the Township submitting and receiving a substantial grant from the Green Acres program.
At the workshop meeting, which is held prior to the regular meetings, it was determined that the parking subcommittee’s proposed pilot program did not have the support of a majority of committee members. Mayor Keith Cafferty said the township “ would not proceed any further on this matter.”
The workshop meeting, held at 6 p.m., was supposed to be followed by the regular meeting. After the regular meeting was cancelled Cafferty said he was disappointed with the events.
“I am deeply saddened that the actions of some members of the public have derailed much needed government work,” he said. “Thanks to the petty response to being told no on permit parking, the following things have happened: The town has lost out on over $450,000 dollars for parks and rec funding during a trying fiscal year, hardworking employees have missed out on deserved promotions, small businesses will not be paid for at least another two weeks, the Fletcher Lake bulkhead work is now in jeopardy due to missed deadlines, and the three hour parking in Ocean Grove ordinance cannot go forward. The lack of empathy for the residents of Neptune is appalling.”
During the workshop meeting, each committee member was given an opportunity to voice his or her opinion on the permit program proposed for Ocean Grove.
“I have met with the architects of the resident parking proposal this past week because I was having difficulty accepting the permit process since it excluded the rest of Neptune. My suggestion of opening the process up to any resident was not met with agreement,” Cafferty said in a prepared statement.
The proposed parking permit program would have created a seasonal parking permit zone that would have instituted permits from May 15 to Sept. 15. The governing body would have then evaluated the efficacy of the program before any permanent decision was made.
Committeeman Rob Lane voiced his opposition to the proposed program, highlighting the importance of tourism. “Ocean Grove is not a gated community,” he said. “It is open to all.”
Lane said that many constituents contacted him regarding the proposal. “I received countless emails which I read and each one inside and outside of the [proposed] zone. The majority of the residents that I had talked to or received emails from are not in favor of the permit program,” he said.
Committeeman Nicholas Williams also withheld support of the proposal, focusing on his disapproval with the proposed metrics that would be used to judge the program. “Currently the new proposal does not serve the entire community,” he said.
Committeeman Dr. Michael Brantley was absent but also did not support moving forward.
Deputy Mayor Tassie York was the only member of the committee to support the proposal.
Parking has been a contentious issue for residents, business owners and visitors to the historic section of the township for decades. Surveys have been done, companies hired and forums held in efforts to resolve parking issues there. There has never been a solution favorable to officials, residents and the township’s largest property owner, the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association.