2013-03-28 / Front Page

Sea Bright aims to be open for business by summer

Boro grapples with setting priorities for recovery
Staff Writer

Ama Restaurant at the Driftwood Beach Club in Sea Bright has reopened for business. The beach club sustained heavy damage during superstorm Sandy. Below, Angelica’s restaurant on Ocean Avenue is expected to be open by Memorial Day, along with several other businesses. Ama Restaurant at the Driftwood Beach Club in Sea Bright has reopened for business. The beach club sustained heavy damage during superstorm Sandy. Below, Angelica’s restaurant on Ocean Avenue is expected to be open by Memorial Day, along with several other businesses. June is the target date to have the Sea Bright beachfront cleaned up, publicaccess stairwells replaced and the boardwalk rebuilt — just in time for the warm weather and throngs of beachgoers and tourists who travel to this three-mile stretch of coastal land.

Mayor Dina Long told more than 100 residents who attended a March 20 meeting at Borough Hall that repairing revenue-producing facilities would be vital to having a successful summer, which the borough hopes will help stabilize the financial situation in Sea Bright.

“We are broke,” Long said. “Because we look to make money on our beachfront, the repairs at the beach have been prioritized first. We are hoping to have most of the public access staircases and the boardwalk completed by the time the weather gets warm, meaning June.”

With the downtown area still showing signs of destruction from superstorm Sandy, many are skeptical that the borough will be ready by summer. But Long assured residents that businesses would be open by Memorial Day, if they are not already.

“Members of the business alliance are pulling themselves up by the bootstraps, [even though some are] still waiting for their insurance,” Long said. “They are taking money out of their own resources to repair some of the buildings.”

After being closed due to heavy damage from the superstorm, approximately a dozen restaurants are currently open — a symbol of recovery for the rest of the Ocean Avenue strip, which remains boarded up. Businesses that have reopened include Bain’s Hardware, Woody’s Ocean Grille, Dunkin’ Donuts, Navesink Marina, Giglio’s Bait and Tackle, North Shore Menswear, Ama Ristorante, Sea Bright Service Center and Harry’s Lobster House.

According to the borough’s website, businesses such as Gracie and the Dudes, Sea Bright Pizzeria, Yumi Restaurant, and Anglers Marina & Beach Boutique expect to be open by Memorial Day. Long said that volunteers are in the process of cleaning up the large drifts of sand that were deposited by the storm, as well as clearing neighborhoods of debris and garbage.

Residents who fail to clean up their properties could face fines from the borough code-enforcement officer, she said.

“The governing body agrees with those who have brought it to our attention that we need to look nicer than we are,” Long said. “We plan to have the town looking spiffy by Memorial Day.”

Summer is the short-term goal, but there is a long list of rebuilding projects that officials are just beginning to prioritize.

Sea Bright was one of the hardest-hit towns in Monmouth County, with more than 1,028 residences damaged, representing about nine of every 10 dwelling units. About 100 businesses and beach clubs were destroyed or damaged by the Oct. 29 superstorm.

Long said damage to municipal facilities is extensive, with the fate of the borough library, public works buildings, firehouse, police and first aid buildings, and Borough Hall still uncertain.

It is also unclear whether the beach pavilion, which was completely washed away, will be rebuilt.

These will be part of longterm recovery plans, a process that will include input from the community.

At the meeting, information was distributed that included planning recommendations made in 2007 as part of the “Downtown and Oceanfront Smart Growth Plan.”

One column included all the ideas formulated in 2007 for Ocean Avenue, the oceanfront and side streets.

Another column, labeled “NOW,” was left empty.

“That was then,” Long said holding up the sheet. “We are in a brand-new world with totally different circumstances. This is now, post-disaster.

“We need to hear from you which ideas are still true, which goals are still worth pursuing and which things we should take off all to- gether.”

In addition, each person who attended the meeting received a survey packet, which will be used by a Sandy Recovery Studio class from the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University to assess the needs and desires of residents as recovery moves forward.

The survey also provides an opportunity for residents to share how they feel about Sea Bright and what they would like to see in its future.

The students are working with the borough to develop conceptual design plans for the rebuilding of the borough.

But residents couldn’t wait, and ideas were quickly being bounced around for discussion.

“One thing that I haven’t seen on this list is shared services [such as police and fire departments],” one resident said. “When we talk about building a fire department, why can’t Rumson be our fire department?”

Long replied that shared services are being discussed with state and county officials, but previous discussions about shared services didn’t provide cost savings.

“What we have learned is that no one can do it as cheaply as we can, because we are not a civil-service town,” she said.

“I am not going to back an agreement unless it produces a real savings for Sea Bright.”

Another resident said that the borough should consider creating a master plan for recovery.

“If we don’t have a master plan, businesses won’t rebuild. There won’t be people coming to this town. We don’t even know how high we should build our air conditioning,” he said.

“We need your guidance. In the absence of a master plan, there is no plan.”

Another resident asked if there are plans for the next five, 10 or 15 years for the borough and, more importantly, the downtown, which will still be empty despite the few businesses opening this summer.

Long replied that the only plans mapped out were done prior to Sandy.

“Five months post-disaster, newly out of the crisis — I don’t think it’s realistic for someone to have a recovery plan submitted and ready to go,” Long said, adding that plans will be formulated after the borough assesses the results of the survey.

“When we get to that place,” she said, “we will have someone draw it so we can see what it looks like.”

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