Residents showed up en masse Wednesday to protest a proposed traffic change on Sunset Avenue.

LONGPORT – After hearing multiple strong objections on a plan to make a section of Sunset Avenue one-way, the Board of Commissioners Oct. 23 withdrew Ordinance 2019-19, which was introduced Sept. 18, from consideration.

After a resident who lives on Sunset Avenue approached Commissioner Dan Lawler about doing something to slow down traffic in the area, the commission investigated the issue and introduced an ordinance that would make Sunset Avenue between 32nd and 33rd avenues one-way going east toward Margate.

About 40 residents attended Wednesday’s public hearing on the ordinance to object to changes they said would assist one homeowner to the detriment of others. Residents questioned how a complaint from just one resident could result in an ordinance revision.

“It’s a disgrace you would even entertain this just because one person says he can’t pull out of his driveway,” one resident said.

A resident who lives on 33rd Avenue said she had “grave concerns” about additional traffic being funneled onto 33rd Avenue, which is a main thorofare to the beach that is controlled by a traffic light at Atlantic Avenue.

Another woman said during the summer, most residents would have problems pulling out of their driveways.

A traffic study paid for by year-round resident Glenn Falso, who asked Lawler for the change because it is difficult to back out of his driveway due to vehicles coming from around the corner, said “it’s a safety issue that has to be addressed.”

“The onus is on you to deal with that,” he told commissioners. “If someone gets killed, it’s on you guys.”

Residents agreed, however, that something needs to be done to slow traffic in the area.

Traffic engineer Heather Balgowan of McMahon Associates, who was hired by Falso, conducted traffic counts in October, but the numbers were seasonally adjusted, she said. She also conducted field views and reviewed police crash reports. She determined that 95% of traffic flowing along Sunset comes from Amherst Avenue. She noted a fence on the corner causes a sight distance issue and the narrow roadway has no shoulder, which creates conflicts for vehicles backing out of homes along Sunset Avenue bayside.

She recommended traffic calming measures, including making the roadway one-way in either direction, installing raised crosswalks that act like speed bumps and installing additional signage alerting motorists to speed limits and people backing out of their driveways.

Police Chief Frank Culmone said electronic speed signs that have been installed at various locations, which also measure speed limits of passing motorists, have discouraged speeding, which he said is not an issue.

“None of the speed signs indicate there is a serious speeding problem,” he said.

“Our reputation precedes us,” he said about Longport’s reputation for ticketing motorists who drive more than 25-miles-per-hour.

Culmone said he had no concerns regarding making the roadway one-way in either direction, there were no accidents in the area, and installation of speed bumps would cause noise issues, especially from trucks and trailers going over the bumps.

“It’s a quality of life issue and you guys have to work it out,” Culmone said.

Borough engineer Richard Carter said speed bumps could be noisy and cause damage to the undercarriages of passing vehicles.

During public comments, several residents complained about traffic issues on other streets, especially during the summer months.

Commissioner Dan Lawler, who proposed the ordinance change on behalf of the resident, suggested the ordinance be withdrawn until more research could be completed to find the best fix for the neighborhood.

“We want the people to speak and give us their opinion,” Lawler said. “Nothing will be done today.”

Solicitor Pacifico “Pat” Agnellini said that although the ordinance was being withdrawn, it could be re-introduced at any time in the future.

Commissioner Jim Leeds noted that a fence on the corner of 33rd Avenue contributes to the sight-distance problem and that fence heights should be reviewed by the Planning Board.

The motion to withdraw the ordinance was approved unanimously.

“I personally don’t want it to come back until we have a lot more information than what we have right now,” Mayor Nicholas Russo said.

In other business, the board approved an ordinance increasing salaries for members of the Longport Policemen’s Benevolent Association following the approval of a new four-year contract. The salary line item for police will increase 3.1% this year, 1.9% in 2020, 2.75% in 2021 and 3.25% in 2022.

A first-year police officer will be paid $46,288 this year, while the highest salary in 2022 for an officer with nine years of service will be $105,883. Sergeant salary will range from $106,270 this year to $114,883 in 2022. Salary ranges for lieutenants is $115,303 to $124,648 and captains will earn between $125,103 and $135,243. Officers who started working before Jan. 1, 2015 will earn slightly more in the final year of the contract.

Russo commended Administrator A. Scott Porter and PBA President Quinton Wright for their “reasonableness and compromise” in working out the agreement.

The board also introduced an ordinance raising water and sewer rates starting in 2020.

Fees will be $215 per household for water and $375 for sewer usage under 75,000 gallons per year. Excess water usage rates will be $1.80 per 1,000 gallons for usage between 75,000 and 100,000 gallons; $2 per 1,000 gallons between 100,000 and 125,000 gallons; and $3.75 per 1,000 gallons over 125,000 gallons. There will also be a fee of $1.80 per 1,000 gallons for sewer usage over 75,000 gallons.

A public hearing on the ordinance is scheduled for 9 a.m. Friday, Nov. 22.

Categories: Longport

Nanette LoBiondo Galloway

Award winning journalist covering news, events and people of Atlantic County for more than 20 years.