2013-04-11 / Front Page

Challenges complicate plans for Sea Bright’s future

History, topography and post-storm realities
Staff Writer

Sea Bright Mayor Dina Long speaks to students at Rutgers University’s Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy about priorities for post-storm rebuilding at Borough Hall on Jan. 31. Sea Bright Mayor Dina Long speaks to students at Rutgers University’s Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy about priorities for post-storm rebuilding at Borough Hall on Jan. 31. SEA BRIGHT — Rutgers University students are sifting through decades of local history and complex planning challenges to map out the future of the borough after superstorm Sandy.

“What we are proposing to do is to develop three different scenarios about how Sea Bright might evolve in the future,” Carlos Rodriguez, professor at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, said.

“Regardless of these scenarios, there are certain things that will be common to all of them. There are certain problems that need to be fixed and need to be addressed,” said Rodriguez, whose studio class has taken on Sea Bright as a case study.

Three possible models are being considered based on the pre-storm population of 1,400 residents, the current population of 800, and projected growth.

The biggest challenge, he said, has been to work with the borough’s topography — a three-mile stretch approximately two blocks wide, surrounded by water on both sides and divided by a state highway.

There is the unanswered question of who owns the seawall along beachfront, along with the damaged bulkheads that are located on private property along the river with no public easements, Rodriguez said.

Many residential properties consist of structures that have been built on small lots, making elevating to the new federal flood zone standards a logistical challenge, he said.

“Sea Bright has a very complicated planning history. There are a lot of complicating factors,” Rodriguez said, adding that the challenges began when railroad tracks ran through the center of town.

“That piece of infrastructure was instrumental in shaping how the town was laid out initially. It was removed but never really addressed from a planning point of view.

“For a small town of that size, I didn’t anticipate all of these quirks, but they are there and definitely make it more interesting.”

Along with those scenarios, the students will look at the opportunities to diversify the local economic base.

“We think there are opportunities to do things with buildings and land that are currently shuttered or unused for nine months out of the year,” Rodriguez said.

“I am going to have a group of students looking at what types of opportunities we can imagine.”

To gather input from the community, the students have created a post-Sandy community survey, which was distributed at a March 20 town hall meeting.

The survey aims to assess the needs and desires of the residents, and provides an opportunity for residents to share how they feel about Sea Bright and what they would like to see in its future.

In addition, the students will use planning recommendations made in 2007 as part of smart growth planning, which outlines improvements to Ocean Avenue, the beachfront and side streets.

One focus is to make the borough more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly, especially in a beach town where people walk from the beach to the businesses along Ocean Avenue and must cross traffic.

“The absence of a pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure in a beach town is startling, and [it is] something that needs to be addressed,” he said.

“It’s something that benefits the year-round residents and something that needs to be addressed for everyone.”

Another issue that will be addressed is improving access to the waterfront.

“For a town that is three miles long with water on both sides, the opportunities to access the waterfront are limited,” Rodriguez said.

“These are issues that predate Sandy. It needs to be addressed. We are looking at ideas on how to handle that.”

Rodriguez said the class will present their ideas during a council meeting in early May.

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