2013-06-20 / Front Page

Sea Bright shifts focus to long-term planning

By NICOLE ANTONUCCI
Staff Writer


Sea Bright’s plans for long-term recovery will address ongoing issues and future initiatives such as revitalizing the downtown, where the U.S. Post Office branch and most businesses sustained major storm damage. 
NICOLE ANTONUCCI Sea Bright’s plans for long-term recovery will address ongoing issues and future initiatives such as revitalizing the downtown, where the U.S. Post Office branch and most businesses sustained major storm damage. NICOLE ANTONUCCI SEA BRIGHT — With assistance from stakeholders such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and NJ Future, Sea Bright is developing a framework for long-term recovery and a cohesive vision for a sustainable future.

Representatives of the FEMA Community Disaster Assistance Program told the Borough Council on June 13 that they will help create a planning document that addresses recovery initiatives and outlines projects that can make the borough more resilient.

“Our goal is to help communities that have been hardest-hit by an event such as superstorm Sandy and to recover with greater resiliency, and weathering and dealing with future events,” Ted William Theodore, who will lead strategic planning for FEMA, said during the council workshop meeting.

“We will work on behalf of the community, only at the request of the community. And we hope to leave you with a community that is looking forward to the next 100 years of existence.”

For the next three months, Theodore — along with a team of six professionals made up of planners, engineers and a mitigation advisor — will help the borough integrate recovery plans.

Those plans include models created by Rutgers University’s Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy and the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), as well as a financial report by the Harvard University Kennedy School that outlines funding priorities.

Linda Weber, a FEMA community recovery assistance specialist, said the goal is to create a steering committee consisting of community members to analyze the documents and come up with a priority list.

The overriding planning document will consist of an outline of projects, costs and a list of action items and recommendations to guide the borough for the future.

“The idea is that we want to help you in any way we can and help the community move toward recovery and get some of that work and task off your table and onto ours,” Weber said.

“It will talk about the reports from Rutgers and NJIT, piecing all these recommendations together, sorting out what you like, putting on a shelf what you don’t want right now and starting to prioritize these strategies to come up with a vision of what this community is going to look like in this resilient fashion.”

Mayor Dina Long said that the planning document would be an important step to allow the community to move forward.

“We have a lot of moving parts and it has to be in one collective place so that we can effectively chase the funding to fund these projects,” Long said. “This is an important step for us.”

She suggested that the borough hold a townwide meeting to create subcommittees that would focus on five specific areas of planning: downtown revitalization and the beachfront; housing rehabilitation; public access; traffic circulation; and special needs.

Patrick McNamara, borough attorney, pointed out that the planning board is in the process of re-evaluating the borough’s master plan and suggested that members of the planning board be on the subcommittees.

Weber added that the planning document would not replace the master plan but complement it by addressing recovery and mitigation issues.

After the committees outline their goals for each planning area, a representative from each subcommittee would work on the steering committee to create the final planning document.

“We think a fairly brief, intensive process is the best for work of this kind and we are hoping to complete the community engagement in three months,” Theodore said.

“Getting these things up and running will energize the community, will bring a sense to the community that Sea Bright is becoming better and stronger.”

Once the document is completed, a recovery manager from NJ Future will help the town begin turning the projects into reality.

Teri Jover, managing director of New Jersey Future, explained that the recovery manager would work with the borough for up to three years, depending on funding.

“Essentially you will have this plan that will have these action items and what we hope this person will provide is to take some of these things forward,” Jover said.

“They will be a member of your town and will be an extension of the town’s capacity to take on some of these tasks, help bring in other resources and funding.”

NJ Future is a nonprofit that brings together concerned citizens and leaders to promote responsible land-use policies, according to the organization’s website.

Jover explained that this is the first disaster recovery effort the group has undertaken that is being made possible through a grant.

“The goal is to get a long-term commitment of three years. Our reality right now is one year with the funding that we have,” she said.

“However, NJ future is a nonprofit so we have funding options that we can pursue to build out our program.”

Theodore added that the recovery manager working with FEMA, would be a benefit to the community.

“A recovery manager is something we try to find funds for in the work we are doing and it’s usually very difficult to find funding to carry the work for another year,” he said.

“The overlap would allow the manager to learn what we are doing, how we are doing it, and the people involved. There is nothing like a paid staff person whose job it is to guide you, to help you make those projects a reality.”

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