MARGATE – With or without the support of Margate’s governing body, a group of taxpayers are mounting an effort to ask voters if they approve the idea of building a citywide, non-commercial boardwalk along the beach.
According to Margate Boardwalk Committee Chairman Glenn Klotz, a five-member Committee of Petitioners has been named to oversee the signing of petitions and affidavits that will ask registered voters if they want to see a boardwalk built on the landward side of the sand dune.
“There will be no formal submission (to the City Clerk) before we have all our signatures,” Klotz said. “The petition will ask one thing. It will ask if people want to see a boardwalk erected on the beach.”
He said the petition and initiative process does not promise a boardwalk will ever be built. Language in the petition states the vote will “give direction (not authorization)” to the Board of Commissioners.
“It’s to gauge the sentiment of the community and is not binding on the commissioners to actually build it,” he said. “It will just provide them with some direction on how the voters feel about it.”
The five petitioners, who are not members of the Boardwalk Committee, are Kenneth Davidson, Greg Lichtenstein, Lori Klotz, Robert Bloch and David Grossman. They will oversee the distribution and signing of the petitions.
Klotz said the petitioners or their designees will collect the required number of signatures or more from registered voters by knocking on doors, attending special events and on the Ventnor boardwalk starting in spring.
“We have until July to collect the signatures so we’ll use different methods,” he said.
Klotz is waiting for City Clerk Johanna Casey to inform the committee of the required number of signatures based on turnout during the November 2018 NJ General Assembly election.
According to Casey, the Atlantic County Clerk’s Office is investigating and will inform her of the number of voters who cast ballots in the November 2018 General Assembly election.
Klotz said if the committee obtains signatures from 10% of the total number of votes cast in the last General Assembly election, the proposed initiative ordinance could place the question on the ballot in the November 2020 election. However, obtaining signatures from 15% of the registered voters could force a special election, depending on timing.
The process includes sending the petition to the City Clerk, who within 20 days will be required to certify the signatures are valid. If they are, the petition is presented to the Board of Commissioners at the next regularly scheduled meeting, at which time it will be required to hold a “first reading” of the proposed initiative ordinance. A public hearing is held at the next meeting two weeks later, giving the public the opportunity to speak for or against it.
The commissioners can approve the initiative just like it does with ordinances with a simple 2-1 vote. If they do not approve the initiative ordinance, the question is placed on the ballot in the next General Election.
If the commission adopts it, there will still be a vote in November, because that’s what the wording of the initiative asks for, Klotz said.
Although voters can give a thumb-up for building a boardwalk, the results are non-binding, Klotz said.
“I want to be clear. The initiative does not promise a boardwalk will be built.”
He said he would prefer the question go before the voters in November, because presidential elections usually draw out more voters.
“It is still our position that the taxpayers should have their say because they will essentially be paying for it,” Klotz said.
Klotz said the commission could approve a referendum vote by resolution and create its own wording and include additional information, such as the estimated cost and how it would be funded.
“We don’t care, we just want it done,” he said.
He would also like the city to conduct an informal poll of all taxpayers, many of whom are second homeowners and do not vote in Margate.
The wording on the petition includes a phrase referencing the use of public funds, grants or private endowments to pay for the project, which the Boardwalk Committee estimated would cost $24 million.
According to a report issued by the Margate Boardwalk Committee, a “uniquely Margate” boardwalk would cost the average taxpayer $173 in the first year, and between $252 and $287 a year for 15 years, not counting repairs, maintenance, security, insurance, utilities. Additional capital costs would be incurred for re-decking every five- to 12-years.
In response to the committee’s original report, “A Margate Boardwalk for the 21st Century,” which was presented to the commission last year, city officials asked department heads to review the report and consider how building a boardwalk would affect their departments.
On Oct. 17, 2019, City Administrator Deaney said considerable research and a cost analyses must be done before the city can decide the feasibility of building a boardwalk in Margate.
The city’s response also stated that in addition to obtaining tedious regulatory approvals to build on the beach, legal issues could delay construction should a dozen private property owners who have ownership rights to the beach object in court.
Klotz said the committee is preparing a response to the city’s response, which should be issued in the next week or so.
“We believe an ongoing public debate is a good thing,” Klotz said.
“We are going to get some resolution one way or another this year, at least in the way of public sentiment,” he said.
Klotz said if voters disapprove of building a boardwalk, “it’s over.”
Initiative / Ordinance No. __ 2020
REGARDING CITY OF MARGATE CITY’S PARTICIPATION IN THE CONSTRUCTION OF A CITYWIDE NON-COMMERICAL BOARDWALK UPON IT’S PUBLIC BEACHES BEGINNING FROM VENTNOR CITY N. J’s PUBLIC BOARDWALK AT FREDRICKSBURG AVE. AND EXTENDING SOUTH TO COOLIDGE AVE. ON THE BORDER WITH LONGPORT, NJ
WHEREAS, The Committee of the Petitioners, Kenneth Davidson (8015 Monmouth Avenue, Margate City, N.J. 08402), Gregg Lichtenstein (411 N. Exeter Avenue, Margate City, N.J. 08402), Lori Klotz (118N. Barclay Ave. Margate City, N.J. 08402), Robert Bloch (4N. Brunswick Ave. Margate City, N.J. 08402), and David Grossman (308N. Jerome Ave., Margate City, 08402) desire to place an Initiative / Ordinance upon the books and public records of Margate City, N.J. as a means of ascertaining the sentiment of the voters of Margate City regarding constructing a citywide, non-commercial boardwalk upon Margate City’s public beaches which boardwalk would attach to the Ventnor City boardwalk at Fredericksburg Avenue in Ventnor City, N.J. and extend southward to Coolidge Avenue at Margate City’s border with Longport, N.J. utilizing public funds, bonds, grants and or private endowments for such a boardwalk construction; and
WHEREAS, the intent of this Initiative / Ordinance is to place the question of whether or not to construct a citywide, non-commercial boardwalk, as specifically set forth herein, on a ballot in a NON – BINDING REFERENDUM to determine the sentiment and desire of the voters of Margate City, N.J. regarding such a project, thus giving the City Board of Commissioners direction on this issue; and
WHEREAS, this ballot question and the determination of the voters shall be advisory in nature and non-binding on the Margate Board of Commissioners.
NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the City of Margate City Board of Commissioners hereby requests that the Atlantic County Clerk place the following question on the Nov. 3, 2020 General Election Ballot:
“Shall the City of Margate City construct a City-wide non-commercial Boardwalk upon its public beach extending from the Ventnor Boardwalk at Fredericksburg Ave. to Coolidge Ave. on Longport N.J.’s border, utilizing public funds, bonds, grants, and or private endowments for this purpose.”
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the following interpretive statement concerning the above question be placed on the Nov. 3, 2020 General Election Ballot for the City of Margate City:
“This question if approved by the Voters will give direction (not authorization) to the City of Margate Board of Commissioners to construct a non-commercial City-wide Boardwalk upon its public beach extending from the end of Ventnor City’s public Boardwalk at Fredericksburg Ave. to Coolidge Ave. at Longport, NJ’s border.