Low Expectations

May 22, 2019

To the Editor:

I’ve been coming to Beach Haven since birth over a half century ago, and have been fortunate enough to spend summers here, first in my parents’ home, built by my father and grandfather on Second Street, followed by my own home next door during my adult life. I am within 200 feet of Morrison’s, and worked there for many summers. I have witnessed many changes and developments to the town and, in particular, the Dock Road area and adjoining streets: bars, restaurants, museum, etc.

When I heard about Chris Vernon’s plans for the Morrison’s property, I was skeptical for many of the typical reasons – traffic, noise, parking and ruination of the small-town family character of the borough.

Prior to rushing to judgment, I attended Mr. Vernon’s open house at his Stafford estate on the project in March 2019. While I came away impressed with his team’s enthusiasm and apparent candor (his architect was there), I nonetheless had an unsettled feeling about the project. Then, after reading about his Hotel LBI project’s building code violations and their rush to open by Memorial Day, I realized the source of my consternation.

While it may have been rooted in the project, it was not necessarily the project. It was his team and him. They talked a good story and seemed humble, yet disingenuous.

But here’s what I do not understand regarding the Hotel LBI’s most obvious and egregious code violations: How do you accidentally design and build on land that is not yours (encroachment on state land, without easement, on the west side of the hotel) and design and build balconies that violate the town’s total lot coverage stipulations (this is not even a rookie mistake)?

This is not Mr. Vernon’s first rodeo, and his architect is either incompetent or complicit. As a licensed professional engineer in numerous states, including New Jersey, I can tell you that incompetence in the practice of architecture and engineering is negligence, for which the firm offering the service is liable.

Have they been held accountable by Mr. Vernon? If so, I hope they do not have a bricks and mortar clause in their contract. If not, why? This situation is worse if the architect is on Mr. Vernon’s payroll, as this is likely not his architect’s first rodeo either and likely not the first project with Mr. Vernon – incompetence or complicity?


From the Hotel LBI “violations exposé,” it appears as though Mr. Vernon would rather ask for forgiveness than permission, and will do what he wants, regardless of his promises and the building codes and ordinances, and hope no one notices. Now that Mr. Vernon has been caught, he has numerous excuses why he cannot readily bring his numerous violations into compliance, yet he’s in a hurry to open, so he’s posted bond to paper over the infractions – pay to play? How much?

Here’s a thought, forget the bond. To address his state infraction, withhold his liquor license. To address his local infractions, withhold his certificate of occupancy. How many months or years do you think it will take him to comply then?

Why should we expect the Morrison’s property development to be any different than the Hotel LBI development? Mr. Vernon’s “ask” to seek a three-story structure over a two-story, which does not and does, respectively, meet current height restrictions, so as to provide more open, public area and preserve the Ship’s Store, is but another gambit.

Notwithstanding the monstrous and out-of-character-with-the-neighborhood nature of the buildings – plus the typical congestion concerns, blocked views – why should the borough alter its ordinances, as once done, there is no assurance that the fox, while possibly changing its fur, will change its habits? Will Mr. Vernon submit to, in perpetuity, posting sufficient construction and operation bonds in the event he violates codes or promises – regarding the latter, for example, maintaining the Ship’s Store? Even this is pay to play.

In the absence of trust, and a trusted track record, the person, not necessarily the project, calls for avoidance.

Anthony J. Cirillo

Beach Haven








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