SEA BRIGHT:The landowner of the Peninsula and Ocean Avenue lot, where Sea Bright will pay to put its temporary firehouse, owes $40,000 in back taxes to the borough -- a point several residents raised in opposition to the plan.
But at its meeting Tuesday, Sea Bright Council decided to pursue the property as a spot to grade and possibly pave, and sign a lease agreement for, in order for its fire department to have a temporary home after its Ocean Avenue firehouse was condemned.
The property was chosen as the best public safety option among several choices, said Councilman James Lobiondo.
However, the property owners, who owe back taxes for the site and for property owned elsewhere in town, include former Mayor Jo-Ann Kalaka Adams.
Borough officials looked at several properties, including one of its own next to borough hall, but out of that, the Cove, the Quay and the Peninsula property, the one chosen as best from a public safety point of view was Peninsula, said Lobiondo.
After hearing several residents opposed to the plan, Councilman Marc Leckstein asked the council to reconsider its previous vote to move forward with the Peninsula property, but his motion received no second vote required to discuss the matter further. He said he originally voted under the notion it was the only viable option in town, and he no longer thought it was.
“I find it repugnant to rent a property from someone who owes back taxes,” Councilman Leckstein said. “I wouldn’t want a fire station right next door to my house, and that was the problem with Cove. With The Quay the only problem is distance, and I don’t buy that.”
Others took issue that the borough could be spending an estimated $30,000 to grade and pave the site, and then negotiate a monthly rent for the borough to pay the landowner. One resident at the meeting even offered up his property, a paved lot, rent free, as an alternative.
“We’re going to spend $30k to pave somebody else’s property, we’re going to rent it from them, in the meantime what happens to it afterward?” Borough resident Natalie Jean-Nicol said at the council meeting. “She all the sudden has a paid parking lot there right across from our public beach.”
Still Lobiondo said looking exclusively at public safety, fire and borough officials investigated which of the properties could accommodate a temporary structure, the fire trucks, and even space to allow for the turning radius needed to get the trucks in and out of the lot, and determined it was the Peninsula lot that was most suited for the firehouse operation.
In March, the Ocean Avenue firehouse was condemned after an inspection determined it was structurally unsound. The building was one of many that took on several feet of water in superstorm Sandy. Now a temporary tent outside the firehouse protects one of the department’s trucks.
Mayor Dina Long said that while she was “100 percent opposed” to the plan, she is now tasked with negotiating a lease agreement for it.
“Clearly the council was unwilling to consider the alternatives,” said Long after the meeting. But “regardless I will negotiate the best offer in the interest of the borough.”
The negotiation process, and the timeline for getting the firehouse its temporary home, will continue with urgency, said the mayor.
“It’s a public safety matter so we must move forward with out delay," Long said.