Beach Haven Council OKs Three-Story Hotel Concept

By ERIC ENGLUND | Jun 12, 2019
Source: Supplied photo

Beach Haven — An ordinance adopted by the Beach Haven Borough Council endorses a plan by the developer of the proposed restaurant and 102-room hotel at the vacant site of Morrison’s Restaurant to build a three-story structure. According to the ordinance, the height limit would be 44 feet to the top of the hotel roof, with an elevator tower not to exceed a maximum height of 45 feet, 9 inches.

Mayor Nancy Taggart Davis and council members Thomas Lynch, Charles E. Maschal and Daniel Allen voted for it, while Councilwoman Jaime Baumiller cast the dissenting vote.

During a recent presentation, developer Christopher Vernon said the three-story design would enable the site to maintain the Ship’s Store building on site and add gardens and other amenities. He said the hotel would provide a guest shuttle for the beach and activities in the area, and would also have guest parking on the ground level of the hotel. On the north bulkhead, he is planning to add a wharf bar and public access for fishing, crabbing and sunset watching.

He also had floated the idea of a two-story concept that would stay within the 35-foot height requirements in the marine commercial zone. But Vernon said that plan would result in considerably less open space.

Vernon is also the developer and owner of the Bonnet Island Estate, the Mallard Island Yacht Club, the Mainland/Holiday Inn complex, all in Stafford Township, and Hotel LBI in Ship Bottom. He has made several presentations during the year, but has yet to bring the entire application to the land use board. Last week, the board recommended that the council adopt the ordinance.

For about an hour, the council heard comments pro and con during a public hearing on the ordinance. Keith Davis, an attorney who represents several Second Street homeowners who filed a lawsuit against the council late last year, said the council needed to hear numerous other issues before voting on the ordinance. He said the ordinance “lacks any specificity as to the nature of a development of a hotel on the property in question, which is necessary in order to protect the surrounding residential uses.”

“You need to discuss drainage, parking, traffic and other related impacts due to this hotel,” said Davis, who requested the council table the ordinance but was rebuffed. “We wanted to sit down with you and go over all these issues with experts. We are not opposing the idea of a hotel, but we are very much concerned about the size and the location.”

He said there would be fewer impacts and more room to build if it was erected one block away, on Pennsylvania Avenue.

REW Moor Whale LLC, which owns several establishments near the site of the proposed hotel, might also file a lawsuit and recently retained attorney Kim Guadagno, the former lieutenant governor of New Jersey. One of her points was that the hotel would not conform to the Coastal Area Facilities Review Act requirement that it be built at least 100 feet away from the bulkhead. Pennsylvania Avenue, she said, would offer a 180-foot distance.

“There’s a lot of guessing what this project is going to look like,” she said. “I’ve heard people say it’s not going to look like a train car, but what if it turns out to look like a cruise ship? More talks are needed before this ordinance gets passed.”

Steve Steiner, the producing artistic director of Surflight Theatre in Beach Haven, said that when the plaintiffs built their Second Street homes two years ago, they should have thought about the possibility of their views being obstructed down the road.

“Did you really think that lot (where the hotel would be built) would stay empty in perpetuity?” he said. “So your views are going to be obstructed, so you say let’s move it to Pennsylvania Avenue. This is NIMBY (not in my backyard).”

Referring to a projected figure of 250 people staying at the hotel on a summer weekend, Steiner doubted it would have any negative impact.

“Beach Haven once was home to great hotels like the Baldwin and the Engleside,” he said. “This will be continuing a tradition and will be great for the community.”

Resident John Harvey said while Vernon had appeared to answer how he would accommodate the parking for hotel guests, he had not yet addressed the parking for patrons of the three-story restaurant/venue/rooftop deck. He noted the old Morrison’s Restaurant was once advertised has having a capacity of 132 seats inside, and another 20 seats outside for a total of 152 seats.

“If you view the scale of the hotel on the illustration above, you will see it is considerably larger than the old Morrison’s Restaurant,” he said.

Harvey said with guests in 102 rooms, and a restaurant/venue/rooftop capacity of over 300 patrons, “how will the traffic be managed to ensure the safety of all?  Why not have Chris Vernon (or the borough at his cost) provide an independent parking and traffic survey, before approving the project?”

Resident Bob Stevens said, “I’ve seen his (Vernon’s) other developments around here, and he shows really good taste.”

“The hotel will be very good for business in Beach Haven,” said resident David Turner. “Chris (Vernon) has reached out to us, and I think we need to give him a chance.”

— Eric Englund

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