Beach Haven’s Officials Must Rethink Morrison’s Positions

By JEANNETTE LLOYD | Oct 02, 2019

I love Beach Haven, as most of its residents do. It is because of this reason I can no longer keep silent on the proposed Morrison’s Marina project.

Let’s make this clear from the beginning, there is not one person in Beach Haven who doesn’t want the marina saved, or the restaurant rebuilt. It’s the size of the proposed restaurant and the placement of the hotel that have most residents baffled and questioning its overwhelming presence on our fragile bay.

When we first heard Chris Vernon and saw his artistic renderings, we were all excited. But the more we studied the project, the more we realized what an overkill it was.

Chris Vernon’s wedding venues on Bonnet and Mallard islands are both tastefully done. They have no neighbors to be disturbed and more than ample parking. His Hotel LBI in Ship Bottom is an attractive building whose true beauty cannot be appreciated because it is squeezed into a space way too small for its size. Trouble abounds with inadequate parking, complaining neighbors, beeping delivery trucks, illegal use of the access road and no underground stormwater management, which will cause future flooding.

Our Dock Road bayside of four blocks presently accommodates six restaurants, a maritime museum, a pirate ship, a party fishing boat, the Marlin & Tuna Club, 14 charter fishing boats, a 137-boat marina and two entertainment rooftop decks. Enough is enough. Many people and cars in this confined area cause summer traffic jams and congestion.

The original Morrison’s Restaurant had a capacity for 350 patrons. The proposed restaurant has 400 patrons on the first floor, another 400 on the second-floor banquet hall, and 400-plus on the entertainment roof deck. So we can compare the original 350 patrons to the proposed 1,200 patrons, but remember, we cannot forget the six established restaurants, which seat 980 patrons. Now take a deep breath: The total patrons add up to 2,180 and we haven’t included the 102-room hotel, ships store, 137-boat marina and staff. This will cause chaos with a capital “C”!

Tourists and Island residents will not tolerate this congestion, caused by inadequate parking. Having to drive many times around a four-block area looking for parking will get very frustrating. They will eventually go elsewhere to eat.

Mr. Vernon must downsize his proposed restaurant. Why? Because the area is completely saturated. This proposed restaurant would paralyze the Dock Road area.

Now let’s discuss the facts about Mr. Vernon’s proposed hotel. I beg all decision makers in our town to go down to Morrison’s Marina at Second Street and stand at the cyclone fence. Let your eyes go to the boat docks and back again to the fence. Now imagine a 102-room hotel (Ship Bottom) and perhaps you will understand our concerns. This is a tiny, tiny sliver of land measuring 78 feet wide. Take away 15 feet for setbacks and that leaves 63 feet as the width from the cyclone fence to the boat slips. This small strip of land can never support a 102-room hotel.

Another big concern about the Morrison’s project is our town isn’t prepared to handle it. Along with inadequate infrastructure, our water, sewer, natural gas and electrical capabilities will all need to be upgraded. Remember July 20 and 21, when many residents and businesses were forced to handle electrical brownouts?

There are no loading zones in the entire bay area. On Second Street the delivery trucks will be constantly unloading for such a massive complex.

Flood prevention and underground stormwater management and impervious coverage need to be carefully scrutinized. This area floods! Our town will probably need a fireboat to extinguish boat and kitchen flare-ups. Why? Because Mr. Vernon has crammed everything in such a small area with no room for garbage and fire trucks to maneuver or turn around.

Isn’t it ironic that all this hoopla about the restaurant and hotel started with wanting to save the marina? Mr. Vernon has eliminated boat slips at his two wedding venues at Mallard Yacht Club and Bonnet Island Estate. I wonder how long it will take him to downsize the boat slips at the Causeway Marina, north of the big bridge. History is an excellent barometer for seeing what might happen in the future.

Is that the future of our Morrison’s Marina? I wonder what he will do here. Presently the marina has 137 boat slips. I worry Mr. Vernon will slowly but surely get rid of most of them.

It might be a good idea for the borough lawyer to draft a legal document, or put in a resolution, stating that Mr. Vernon “must” keep a certain number of slips for a certain number of years. If the borough doesn’t have it in writing, Mr. Vernon will do what he wants to do after he owns it.

Developers have the right to develop and make a profit for themselves and their investors. They are notorious for pushing the envelope to see how much they can stretch their projects before they are told to stop. That’s what they do, and most are very clever. It is up to our elected officials and land use board members to carefully screen all aspects of this project. It is all right to say “no” if it doesn’t fit into our vision of what makes Beach Haven the community known for its cultural and historic heritage.

In 2003, a group of Beach Haven residents formed a committee to stop the demolition of the town’s historic houses. They were confronted with many objectors but stood tall because they had a gut feeling to do what was right for their town. They formed a historic preservation commission, which now oversees 400 houses in a 30-square-block area. Well, here it is 16 years later and that same gut feeling is back again. The proposed Morrison’s development is so, so, so wrong for our town. It’s too massive for the proposed site. You must have the guts to make Vernon downsize.

Please don’t allow Mr. Vernon to change our town in such an overdeveloped way. Is it worth destroying our bayside for some extra tax dollars? Stop and take a deep breath! Rethink and readjust what you are doing. Hopefully you haven’t promised any tax abatement deals. That would certainly be a double whammy for our town. Please realize you will be opening up Pandora’s box. Will present businesses and restaurants want to go four stories high? You will have set a precedent that might be very difficult to control.

There are many problems regarding this oversized project. If not addressed, they will forever change Beach Haven in a negative way. It’s time now to not only persuade, but also urge our elected officials to rethink their positions.

Jeannette Lloyd, Beach Haven historian, lives on Third Street.


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