By NANETTE LoBIONDO GALLOWAY
As the New Year quickly approaches, it’s time to reflect on the past year, and the viral stories our readers found to be worthy of liking, sharing, and commenting on our social media pages.
Here’s a brief recap of the most read stories for each month of 2022 with links to the original stories:
Our top story in January highlights plans for a unique dining option in Ventnor. After securing Ventnor third and last available retail consumption liquor license, Sapore owner Tony Hoda and his partner Al Merkola presented a concept for an outdoor dining space on the vacant lot next to the restaurant. Hoda’s plan, designed by William McLees Architecture of Somers Point, includes a Mediterranean-styled outdoor dining area with a bar, fire pits, stage, restrooms, fully equipped kitchen and more. The Planning Board granted all the necessary variances and waivers needed to build the project.
The property once housed a row of stores that burned in a fire and has been vacant for more than 10 years. Previous developers had proposed mixed-use projects for the site. The lot is still surrounded by a chain link fence.
The most read story in February was about a two-alarm fire at White Star Liquors on Ventnor Avenue. Firefighter Matthew DeCerbo was injured while battling the blaze and was treated and released from the hospital. He broke his hand trying to push open a door. Police were investigating a potential criminal matter at the site.
A story about our very own Brooke Feldman received the most hits on our website in March. Feldman, who serves as a correspondent for Downbeach.com took the Miss Atlantic County Region crown at a scholarship competition held at Folsom Elementary School. The win qualified the 24-year-old Margate resident who attended the Margate schools and Atlantic City High School to compete in the Miss New Jersey Scholarship program. Our story revealed Feldman’s diverse background in musical theater, athletics at George Washington University, where she graduated in 2019 with degrees in journalism and pre-med, and her community service that focuses around supporting senior citizens. She is currently seeking admission to medical school.
A thrift store find led to the discovery of a friend of a soldier shot down in South Vietnam. Joyce Byrnes, who works at The Arc Thrift Shop in Ventnor found a copper 1970s-era POW/MIA bracelet among the many baubles that find their way to the thrift shop. Byrnes held onto the bracelet for several years before reading a post on a website. It bore the name of Ronald Paschall who was shot town in Vietnam. His platoon-mate James Fentress of Florida was located after he wrote a post about his friend on a military website. Fentress said he visits the website every year on Paschall’s birthday, Arpil 2, and posts a message about his comrade in arms. Byrnes sent the bracelet to Fentress, who promised to wear it to the annual reunion of F-Troop members, hoping to locate Paschall’s family members.
Cookie Till of Steve & Cookies By The Bay expands her food service to a second Ventnor City location. In addition to No. 7311 small batch bakery at the end of the block, Till invested in a second fan favorite location in Ventnor – Florida Cold Cuts & Liquor. The operation successfully transferred the former owner’s retail distribution license to Finn & Vera, LLC, the company running the deli.
Also in that story, we reported that the Greater Absecon Island VFW was awarded a club license for the Post home on Dorset Avenue. Members of the veterans group will be able to enjoy a cocktail, beer or wind at the site.
An early evening apartment fire caused severe damage to the property next to Sack-O-Subs and the Ventnor Square Theater located on the 5200-block of Ventnor Avenue. There were no injuries, but the damage was so extensive, the building was razed soon after. There was no damage to the theater, which underwent a multi-million dollar restoration two years ago.
In a story written by our colleague Maddy Vitale of our sister publication, OCNJDaily.com, we learned that members of the Ocean City Beach Patrol rescued three people who were swimming in the ocean after hours. A father and son were rescued off the Fifth Street beach near a jetty. Both were taken to the hospital for treatment. A few hours later, a girl was rescued off the beach at 10th Street.
Although rescuers performed their life-saving skills admirably, they warned visitors to swim only when and where a lifeguard is present.
After serious complaints from neighbors, the city deemed a house on N. Nassau Avenue unfit for habitation. The city boarded up the windows and doors to keep people from entering the house, which was filled with trash and construction debris and the front yard littered with furniture and household items. According to police, the person living in the home was experiencing mental health issues and neighbor said the woman was using foul language and exhibiting threatening behaviors to their children.
Another Planning Board approval in Ventnor won the highest number of reads during the month of September. JJCC Longport, LLC received approval to turn the vacant Ocean City Home Bank building on the corner of Portland and Ventnor avenues into five 2.5-story residences. Nearby residents received some concessions from the developer. They asked for an additional 3 feet of setback, which the developer agreed to. By the end of the meeting, the developer agreed to reduce the density to just four homes instead of five. Certain board members lamented the loss of commercial property and called the five-bedroom townhouses “overkill.”
Another planning board application received praise for resident Mark Greco’s plans to rehabilitate the Ventnor Plaza shopping center on Wellington Avenue. The strip mall is being redeveloped according to a Redevelopment Plan approved by the city two years earlier. Improvements include façade improvements, three pad sites and new tenants, including child and adult daycare centers, restaurants, a Burger King and a Starbucks store. The project also includes paving the parking lot and a portion of Little Rock Avenue and new landscaping designed to reduce flooding coming from the bay. Three variances were granted to increase the square footage of the monument sign.
Ventnor Plaza is back as the top story for a second month in a row. Residents who live on Victoria Avenue will get their chance to voice concerns about the approvals granted to the developer of Ventnor Plaza shopping center.
Only one person spoke at the meeting when the planning board originally heard Mark Greco’s application, and later residents who live nearby learned they were not properly notified of the meeting, which they said they would have attended to object to paving the street. Only 11 of the 33 property owners who live within 200 feet of the shopping center were properly notified of the meeting.
After several weeks of discussions, the planning board agreed to allow residents to be heard informally at their next meeting on Jan. 11, 2023.
This month, the biggest story came from our affiliate OCNJDaily.com, reporting on how the Ocean City Council is hoping to upgrade its ordinance to give police more leeway with rowdy teens during the summer tourism season. The city is collaborating with the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office on ways to crack down on large groups of teens gathering on the beach at night.
Their strategy is to revise ordinances to include breach of the peace, which would be anything minor that disrupts the normal flow of life. State laws enacted last year tied the hands of police when dealing with juveniles during minor crimes such as underage drinking or smoking marijuana. If approved, the ordinance would allow police to take the juveniles into temporary custody before being released to the parents or legal guardians.
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