Court Rules Suit Against Beach Haven Hotel Plan Can Proceed

By ERIC ENGLUND | Jun 05, 2019
Source: Supplied photo

Beach Haven — Superior Court Judge Marlene Lynch Ford last Friday denied Beach Haven’s request to dismiss a lawsuit filed against an amendment to the Maritime District Redevelopment Plan ordinance.

Adopted late last year, the amendment would allow a hotel on the former site of Morrison’s Restaurant. The area has been vacant since a fire destroyed the Beach Haven eatery in 2005.

Last fall, developer Christopher Vernon appeared at a borough council agenda meeting in which he presented basic concepts of a plan to erect a restaurant and 102-room hotel. Vernon is also the developer and owner of Bonnet Island Estate, Mallard Island Yacht Club, the Mainland/Holiday Inn complex and Hotel LBI in Ship Bottom.

In a letter to Mayor Nancy Taggart Davis and the four individual council members, an attorney from the firm representing the lawsuit plaintiffs, homeowners in the proposed hotel site area, said the amended ordinance “lacks any specificity as to the nature of a development of a hotel on the property in question which we submit is necessary in order to protect the surrounding residential uses.”

Attorney Keith A. Davis wrote, “Additionally, there are no standards as to how the hotel building will be constructed. While certain representations have been made about sight lines, open airways and a break-up in the façade so the building would not appear to be a ‘wall,’ there is nothing in a redevelopment plan ordinance amendment before you that requires the hotel developer to build the project according to such standards.

“As of right now, all the representations concerning the hotel development are quite simply just talk,” the attorney wrote. “In order to protect the borough and ensure that any hotel development occurring onsite be responsible to the community and not adversely impact our clients, we respectfully suggest that we should meet with your staff and the proposed redeveloper (Vernon) to draft a series of conditions that allows the redeveloper to construct a hotel in a manner that is corporately responsible.”

“The area doesn’t seem big enough to accommodate a hotel and restaurant,” said Ken Goldmann, one of the homeowners represented by the Nehmad Perillo and Davis law firm in Egg Harbor Township. “We fear it is going to take away our views of the bay and have an adverse effect on the character of the community. I haven’t seen any traffic studies done yet and the cars generated by a 102-room hotel could really create problems.”

Last month, the council introduced an ordinance that endorses a plan by Vernon to make the hotel a three-story structure, as opposed to a two-story building also put forward. 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. Vernon had said the three-story plan would enable the site to maintain the Ship’s Store building and add gardens and other amenities.
A public hearing on the ordinance is scheduled for the next council meeting on Monday, June 10.

Goldmann said he was unsure if this ordinance would have any effect on the lawsuit.

“It looks like it might make the area a little less congested, but that’s hard to tell just by looking at artists’ renderings,” he said.

Davis said she is not concerned about Lynch’s decision.

“It’s part of the process,” the mayor said. “It’s a small step and there probably will be many steps to take before this all gets resolved one way or the other.”

— Eric Englund

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