2007-11-08 / Front Page

Activists rally in city to preserve beach club site

CAFRA permit pending before state agency for oceanfront project
BY CHRISTINE VARNO Staff Writer

I t was standing room only in the basement of a Long Branch church Saturday where a rally was staged in an effort to save the historic Takanassee Beach Club property from development.

ANDREW MILLER staff A rally was held in the basement of St. Michael's Church on Ocean Avenue in Long Branch Saturday to fight to save the Takanassee Beach Club property from being developed. ANDREW MILLER staff A rally was held in the basement of St. Michael's Church on Ocean Avenue in Long Branch Saturday to fight to save the Takanassee Beach Club property from being developed. Community leaders, local activists and residents joined together at St. Michael's Church on Ocean Avenue Nov. 3 to object to plans that call for a proposed luxury housing project at the beach club site.

A representative from the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) said the agency is still reviewing plans for upscale residential homes to be developed on the 5-acre Ocean Avenue site.

"No decision has been made," said DEP spokeswoman Karen Hershey Monday.

"There is no timeline," she said about when the agency is expected to rule on the proposed project.

"The Takanassee site is a priceless gem," Dr. Frank Esposito, dean of Kean University, said at the rally. "It is a rare treasure.

"There is so much history here. To allow this treasure to be destroyed would be such a travesty, I don't think we would ever recover," he said.

Takanassee Developers has applied to the state's coastal land use agency for a Coastal Area Facilities Review Act (CAFRA) permit for permission to build 21 luxury homes at the Takanassee Beach Club site.

"Hundreds of people have already sent messages to the DEP," Stephanie Rinaldi of the Surfrider Foundation said. "We need to keep the pressure up. We need [the DEP] to deny this permit."

State taxpayers were expected to vote Tuesday on a $200 million Garden State Preservation Trust bond, which if approved, would make funds available in New Jersey to preserve sites, such as the beach club property, according to Long Branch Mayor Adam Schneider.

"It is a money issue," Schneider said at the rally, urging the crowd to vote in favor of the preservation trust bond.

"The property tax burden on the city is intolerable," he added.

Executive Director of the Surfers' Environmental Alliance Andrew Mencinsky said at the event that every day there is more and more pressure to develop the oceanfront.

"We need more public beach parks like Seven Presidents, not more condos on the shore," Mencinsky said.

"The historic, cultural and recreational value of this property is just too great to turn it over to a developer," he said.

The Takanassee Beach Club property is currently owned by the Peters family, who plan to sell the land to private developer Takanassee Developers.

Scott Peters contends that he does not want to sell the property; however, his sister, Ginger Peters, took the family to court almost three years ago to force the sale of the property. Ginger has said that the sale is necessary in order to obtain the needed money to support the medical bills for her cerebral palsy and spinal stenosis.

Superior Court Judge Alexander D. Lehrer ruled in favor of Ginger Peters and ordered the sale of the property that has been owned by the Peters family since 1680.

Principal owner in Takanassee Developers is Isaac Chera of Elberon, who is being represented by Jerold Zaro, a partner in Long Branch City Attorney's James Aaron's law firm, Ansell Zaro Grimm & Aaron.

Other speakers at the event included Assemblyman Sean Kean, representatives from local and environmental groups and a statement was read on behalf of Congressman Frank Pallone Jr.

Kean said at the rally that there is funding in place at a state level to purchase the site, which is estimated to cost $10 million to $20 million.

"We have a $34 billion state budget," Kean said. "We have the money folks. It is about prioritization.

"We need the DEP to deny the permit," he said.

Leila Poch, of the Elberon Voters and Property Owners Association, said at the rally that the last thing the city needs is another development along the oceanfront.

"If the DEP did its job and followed its own rules, it wouldn't grant the permit," Poch said. "We believe history is entitled to be saved for all of us."

What is now the Takanassee Beach Club was a lifesaving station, which operated from 1876 to 1928 as one of the 42 lifesaving stations situated three-and-a-half miles apart along the New Jersey shoreline from Sandy Hook to Cape May.

The property still contains the three original buildings, which were constructed between 1878 and 1903.

Crews of the lifesaving station patrolled the Long Branch beach until 1928 when the Coast Guard deactivated the station and the site became the Takanassee Beach Club.

On Nov. 1, Pallone sent a letter to DEP Commissioner Lisa P. Jackson requesting that the agency deny the permit requested by Takanassee Developers.

"I share the feelings of many of my constituents who oppose the idea of developing residential units at Takanassee Beach Club," Pallone wrote. "I know how critical it is to preserve both the historic lifesaving station and the open space at the beach club."

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