Argument to Amend the Waterfront Redevelopment Area Plan to Remove the Townhomes at Bradley Cove and Replace them with an Oceanfront Park

Context

At the August 3, 2011 City Council meeting Mayor Johnson stated the Council “needs to revisit the 2001 plan with 2011 eyes” and that they have thought all along that there “are certain things worth fight for in the WRA.” NOAA recently released their Smart Growth for Coastal and Waterfront Communities in which they state that many coastal and waterfront communities have found that conventional development patterns threaten the assets they treasure most. Smart Growth approaches, such as preserving open space and critical environmental areas and directing development toward existing communities, can help communities be more resilient to hazards created by weather and climate change such as sea level rise, and coastal and inland flooding. Smart Growth principles also provide a framework for making growth and development decisions yield better economic, environmental, community and public health results.

Townhomes at Bradley Cove

1. Regulatory Hurdles:
• Green Acres Encroachment – the City actually needs to apply for a Green Acres Diversion for this project to go forward. According to their own Redevelopers Agreement, they are not legally required to do this. Hence the City can ask the developer to resubmit plans that are outside Green Acres land.

• Tidelands Claim – the State has not yet signed off on the Tidelands Claim. The developer will need to eliminate one or more townhomes that are planned for State owned Tidelands.

• Coastal Zone Management Rule Violations – this project is in violation of the following CSM rules:
A. 7:7E- 3.18 Coastal High Hazard Areas – the plan as proposed today will encroach on the V- zone by approximately 10 feet.
B. 7:7E- 3.38 Endangered or Threatened Wildlife- according to the DEP’s Landscape Map Version 2.1 the area in question includes and abuts rank 4 beach and emergent wetland habitat for State Endangered Least Tern.
C. 7:7E – 8.11 & 8.13 Public Access to the Waterfront & Traffic – the planned development decreases public access and parking due to the decreased size of the current parking lot, relocation of public access points within a private development and proposes a smaller, less accessible meandering boardwalk.
D. 7:7E- 3.16. Dunes & 8.8 Vegetation – the plan calls for the destruction of primary dunes and would not preserve the existing vegetation.
E. 7:7E-8.12 Scenic Resources and Design – the current plans does not provide open view corridors perpendicular to the water’s edge in the amount of thirty percent of the frontage and is not setback from the beach, dunes and boardwalk by a distance of equal to two times the height of the structure; 91 feet in this case.

2. Coastal Development in the Age of Climate Change:
As global climate change becomes our new reality with rising sea level, stronger storms and extreme temperatures, we need to assess the very real and serious risks to our coastline here in NJ. Progressive cities, like Ventura California, are designing ways for their cities to retreat from the rising ocean, not rushing toward its ever-dangerous waters.

3. Current Use of the Area by the Monmouth County Region:
This area is currently open and accessible to all users. Surfers, fisherman, dog lovers and beach goers from all over Monmouth County use this area. If this area is developed away, many users will miss it.

An Oceanfront Park
Considering this is one of the last coastal open spaces in Monmouth County, an oceanfront park like Seven Presidents in Long Branch would bring the City of Asbury Park and the County many benefits.

1. Quality of Life:
An oceanfront park would be aesthetically, socially, ecologically and economically valuable and would reflect the strong belief that our City is integrating human and natural elements in a sustainable manner, as a result reflecting a better quality of life.

2. Ecological Services:
• Greenhouse Gas Absorption – Open spaces are the lungs of our planet, supplying necessary oxygen for our survival. The more green spaces, the more carbon sequestration and air purifying capacity.
• Flood/Storm Protection – Open spaces provide important buffers and absorb the impact during flooding episodes especially if they are well vegetated. It is both cost effective and safer to maintain natural storm protection elements, such as dunes, rather than destroying them.
• Water Retention – Open green spaces allow for the storage, infiltration and purification of water.
• Soil Protection and Erosion Control – Hardened surfaces and storm water flows lead to loss of soil either by replacing the natural ground cover or causing erosion and scouring of the available open spaces. Vegetation and open spaces as a whole serve to protect soil resources that are just as valuable as clean air and water.

3. Recreational/Educational:
Open spaces also fulfill an important recreational, cultural and social function where children and adults use parks areas to learn, exercise and relax.

4. Economics:
• The idea that this type of residential development will lift the City out of economic troubles isn’t borne out by research. Smart Growth America states, “There is a common myth that development is good for the local bottom line. But in fact, new residential development demands more in services than it contributes in taxes, and existing residents typically foot the bill. Over 70 ‘cost of community services’ studies conducted nationwide show that residential development costs a municipality more in maintenance costs than farmland and open space.”

• In this specific case the direct economic benefit of an oceanfront park – increased property value and tourism, direct use by City residents, health benefits associated with outdoor recreation, increased community cohesion, clean water and air, flood control, and storm buffering – will far outweigh any tax revenue generated.

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