MARGATE – The developer of the former Capt. Andy’s marina has overcome another obstacle which will enable him to rebuild the 34-slip marina, along with a fueling station, bait and tackle shop, restaurant and a 4,000-square-foot insurance office on the second floor. However, additional hurdles could delay construction.
Despite objections from residents who live across the street from the project, the Board of Commissioners June 7 unanimously approved an ordinance vacating a 3-foot by 100-foot section of the Amherst Avenue right of way to accommodate the project design.
According to Harbour Bay, LLC owner Sean Gormley, the vacation was necessary because the city requested a 6-foot wide easement across the entire length of his property landward of the bulkhead to accommodate a bayfront promenade that is part of the city’s Master Plan.
Amherst Avenue resident Ed Berger said the board should not grant the vacation for a promenade that is “years off and not funded.”
“Your taking 300-square-feet of safety away from our neighbors, visitors and children,” he said.
Berger and his neighbors at the Harbor Vista townhouse development across the street from the marina, said a traffic impact study should be completed to determine how the development of a 149-seat restaurant with no onsite parking will impact traffic safety.
Amherst Avenue is a two-way street, with parallel parking on one side and angle parking next to the bulkhead on the other side. Capt. Andy’s had 10 private parking spaces, but the building’s design will reduce the number of spaces to four, including one handicapped space.
The building will cantilever over a portion of the parking area, eliminating six of the spaces, but no portion of the building will be located in the right-of-way, Gormley said. The four remaining parking spots will be reserved for any of the property’s uses.
“Because of the promenade, the front of the vehicles won’t be able to pull up as far as they can now, so to make the spaces a legal size, we asked for the vacation,” Gormley said in a telephone interview Monday afternoon.
Residents presented a photograph showing a mockup of four vehicles across the Amherst Avenue cartway to demonstrate how drivers would pull up next to parked vehicles to discharge passengers, which they say would create a traffic hazard for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists.
“You are creating a choke point that is going to endanger the safety of people in the area,” Berger said.
During the public hearing on the ordinance, six residents spoke against granting the approval.
Resident Ray Romito said he has seen motorists blow by drivers dropping off patrons at two other restaurants that are next door to the marina.
“It’s not that we don’t want to see business expand, we want safety for all of our people,” he said calling for a traffic study to be completed before the commission approved the ordinance.
Harbour Bay attorney Benjamin Zeltner said that in addition to recommending the commission consider granting the 300-foot vacation, the Planning Board on Feb. 22 voted 6-3 to grant a waiver to its requirement that a traffic impact study be completed.
One resident who attended the Feb. 22 meeting noted that Planning Board members said restaurant goers would likely be walking to the site, riding bicycles or taking Uber, “but they drop off on the side of the road,” as well, Mariann Sozio said.
“Traffic will back up,” she said.
Barbara Beck said granting the waiver was not in the best interest of the city.
“You should take into consideration all factors that influence safety,” she said. “I respectfully ask you to request a traffic study before a wrong decision is made.”
Steven Leiberman said the commission could save the money on the cost of doing a traffic study by just going to the site on a Wednesday, Friday or Saturday night.
“It’s a nightmare,” he said.
Gormley will have other obstacles to overcome before he can start building, but he plans to immediately start replacing the city-owned bulkhead at his own cost.
“It should be finished in about three weeks,” he said.
The owner of Sophia’s restaurant, Two Daughters, LLC has filed a lawsuit naming Harbour Bay, the City of Margate and the Planning Board and seeking reversal of the Planning Board’s decision to grant 12 bulk variances, including approving four parking spaces when 60 would be required. Attorney Anthony P. Monzo of Monzo Catanese Hillegass PC of Cape May Courthouse, also petitioned the Superior Court to invalidate a recently revised zoning ordinance that permits the uses planned for the site without the need for a variance.
Additionally, the Harbor Vista Homeowners Association is challenging the NJ Department of Environmental Protection’s permit for the project in Appellate Court.