BELMAR — As this year’s summer season comes to an end, members of the borough council are making plans for next year, with members backing changes to the borough’s animal house ordinance, online beach badge sales and pop-up car rallies.
Council President Tom Brennan told fellow council members at the Sept. 16 meeting that “quality of life has become a big issue” this summer, and that he would like the council to reexamine their animal house ordinance which penalizes properties that violate borough ordinances. Residents have often voiced their frustration at borough council meetings on summer rentals, with loud music and tenants partying into the early morning.
The problem had been made worse this year due to COVID-19 shutting down the borough’s municipal court, but the councilman said that the penalties in the ordinance should be discussed.
“The animal house ordinance, although we definitely had problems with it being the courts closed and the fact that we just were not able to respond as quickly as we normally would, I am thinking that we should look at if there is something we could do to tweak it to make it a little more effective,” the council president said, saying it would be a good idea to look at how quickly penalties apply to homes in violations.
He also asked that if properties are found in violation of the borough’s rules and keep on receiving infractions “why isn’t the animal house ordinance shutting down these properties. The neighbors have to put up with it and they are just going through heck and I don’t want them to have to do that.”
Under a current borough ordinance regarding rental properties, Section 26-11 of the borough code, rental properties with two complaints are required “to post a bond or equivalent security to compensate for any future damage or expense suffered from the future repetition of disorderly, indecent, tumultuous or riotous conduct.” Bonds can cost a landlord between $500 and $5,000.
If a substantiated complaint is recorded against a landlord after bond is posted, the borough may start proceedings “for the forfeiture or partial forfeiture of the security.”
The borough provides a list on their website of homes found in violation of the animal house ordinance, having received a noise or disorderly conduct summons.
Last updated on Sept. 11 for the 2020 season, around 40 properties are on the list, the majority of which are south of 10th Avenue and located between B Street and Ocean Avenue. There have been more than 120 violations this summer.
Properties that received the most violations, according to the borough’s list, are 107 18th Ave., 408 16th Ave. and 212 12th Ave. with seven violations each.
Mayor Mark Walsifer said that the borough is working on reviewing the animal house ordinance, and more information might be presented at the next meeting regarding the state law and what the council can change “to tighten that all up and use it how we need to use it.”
Another issue this summer, according to the council president, was the pop-up car meeting that took place at night on Ocean Avenue.
Spread through social media sites, the last meet up on Aug. 24 attracted around 200 vehicles. Around 70 summonses were given out and the police department had to call the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office for assistance.
The mayor said the borough is not alone in this, as the group goes to different towns around the state and the biggest problem is that the meetups are “growing in size” and “becoming more of a problem.”
“What we are trying to figure out is how to make it a little more difficult for them to stop and accumulate. It’s something that is on the chief’s radar and the business administrator’s radar,” he said. “Before the next one happens, we are going to try to have some kind of a plan that we don’t violate anybody’s rights but deter them from coming here.”
The borough’s beachfront was busier this summer than in the previous year, with the sale of daily and seasonal badges surpassing last year’s total.
According to information provided by the borough, through Sept. 7 the borough had sold 380,491 season beach badges, netting them $3.424 million in revenue compared to the 279,955 daily badges sold last year, earning the borough $2.519 million.
Season badges also surpassed the million-dollar mark this year, with the borough having sold 19,786 badges, netting the beach utility $1.385 million in revenue. Last year, the borough concluded the season having sold 13,661 season badges and collecting $897,395 in revenue.
Only senior badges, in which the borough sold roughly 4,575 last year compared to 6,166 this year, and disability badges, in which the borough sold 252 this year compared with 295 last year, underperformed year to year.
In all, the borough made more than $5 million from the sale of badges and beach locker rentals, eclipsing the 3.683 made lade year.
The mayor said that the borough is aiming to move towards online beach badge sales, having met with one company virtually.
“The thing that we are really looking into is if they could handle the volume of sales that we have on our beachfront,” Mayor Walsifer said. “We want to try to go so people could buy daily badges online so if we have to limit next year, they will know that in advance before they come down.”
Chief Lifeguard Harry Harsin said that although the beachfront was busy throughout the summer with around 500 rescues, he is proud that there had not been a single drowning this summer in Belmar.
“I think we had an extraordinary beach season given the obstacles with COVID,” he said, adding that no lifeguards caught the disease.
The borough experienced a lot of day trippers, he added, “crowds were very excessive this summer.”
While there were no deaths at the beachfront, there were some heartstopping moments. In July, an eight-year-old boy got trapped in a sand hole at the beachfront when he dug too deep, becoming submerged in the sand.
Calling the experience “the most harrowing of his 40 years” he credited the cooperation of the lifeguards, first aid squad, police department and fire department to getting the child out and to safety.
Now, a skeleton crew of lifeguards protects the beachfront as local summer begins, with the crew aiming to do everything they can to “provide safety of our bathers.”
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