Emotion vs. Fact

Oct 30, 2019

To the Editor:

LBI is dying, and little is being done to save it. There are economic and climatic forces at work that are forcing inevitable change, yet large numbers of residents and visitors are in denial. Emotion rather than fact seems to be the prevailing way to deal with change.

First a couple of essential facts. The full-time population is declining and will continue to do so. The number of school-age children residing on the Island is declining. The number of visitors in season has plummeted due to the removal of more than 4,000 rentable properties from the marketplace. Municipal operating costs continue to escalate despite many efforts to contain them. Businesses are closing because of increased costs, decreasing patronage and lack of staff.

Many people don’t want to accept these facts, but data readily exists to support all of them. Without substantial action by our government, LBI will be a home to the wealthy with noticeably fewer restaurants and amusements. The middle class, including many current residents, will be forced to relocate due to cost. Home prices will stagnate and the Island will be a very expensive, but boring, place.

So, what needs to be addressed? First, all the political entities on the Island need to be consolidated. With current technology, the entire governance of the Island could be handled by Long Beach Township alone. Sadly, about 50 percent of the governmental funded jobs would be eliminated, but the savings are in the millions of dollars, and property taxes would be decreased substantially. The schools need to be consolidated, too. All three buildings are obsolete and not worth investing in. Pending state legislation will likely force school consolidation in the near future.

Local governments should be focused on several major issues:

• Economic development including attracting visitors, adding ratables and removing barriers to business operations. Year-round businesses such as hotels, construction supply firms and professional offices need to be encouraged.

• Providing affordable housing. Affordable doesn’t mean low income or Section 8. Simple measures, such as building 50 to 60 small efficiency and one-bedroom apartments on top of a new Ship Bottom borough hall or converting one or all of the schools to housing, or once again permitting small rental units within single-family structures, would all help. This would help solve the Island’s shortage of workers as well as providing year-round population.

• Address flooding and drainage issues. It’s expensive and needs to be coordinated Island-wide, not done piecemeal. We are never going to stop flooding, but we can lessen its severity.

• Traffic and parking issues. While there is substantially less traffic than there used to be pre-Sandy, Island-wide coordination of traffic signals, police activity, event locations and visitor amenities need to occur. Creative solutions are needed such as tearing down the Beach Haven School and erecting a two-level parking deck with a bath house included. It could gross $5 million in revenue and solve Beach Haven’s parking issues. A similar structure by the Drifting Sands Hotel in Ship Bottom should also be considered. The shuttle buses have helped reduce traffic, but they are expensive and unreliable as currently operated.

I can hear the moaning and kvetching already, but everyone needs to give serious thought to what LBI could be in five to 10 years.

Howie Brecher

Howie Brecher owns Coconuts Tropics in Beach Haven.

Comments (1)
Posted by: Jean D Ragone | Oct 31, 2019 14:45

If what you state is true, LBI is NOT dying. It is reverting. At one time the Island was the playground to the wealthy. Then it became the bucolic summer adventure for people from Philly & south Jersey with a touch of New York. Now it has morphed into an overcrowded vacation resort.  We do NOT want more hotels or restaurants. There are too many restaurants which leads to restaurant failure.

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