LONGPORT – Merry Christmas, Longport! For being good girls and boys, a Longport woman would like borough residents to have a new park to enjoy on their way to and from the beach.

According to borough Solicitor Michael Affanato, a Longport woman has bequeathed two beach-block lots valued at more than $3 million to the borough. Dorothy McGee, who served as the borough’s school board secretary for more than 20 years, said in her will that she always envisioned the lots next to her Atlantic Avenue house as a park.

Dorothy McGee

McGee died in November. Her obituary described her as a “spitfire” who was always ready to provide “sage advice, a good joke or a good story.” A former Miss America Hostess and member of the Board of Directors, and an active member of the Atlantic County Charity League for more than 30 years, she was a member of the Longport Garden Club and the Longport Historical Society.

It will be a difficult decision for the Board of Commissioners to decide if it will accept the lots, invest as much as $100,000 of taxpayer dollars to improve the lots with a gazebo, walkways and landscaping, and deed restrict it as a park in perpetuity.

Block 17, Lot 11.01 measures 54 by 100 feet, while Lot 11.02 measures 108 by 100 feet. Both lots are buildable according to current zoning regulations, but there is no parking available on 22nd Avenue and in the alley behind the lots. Property records show that each of the lots have an assessed valuation of $1,632,000.

The properties are located on S. 22nd Avenue, the only block in Longport that has yellow brick sidewalks.

McGee said in her will that she wanted to see a gazebo built there and the lot surrounded by a 3-foot fence and appropriately landscaped with bushes and flowers. Her heirs have no objections to her gift.

The board will have to consider if it would take two valuable lots off the tax rolls. Each of the lots, although vacant, currently generates $17,500 in tax revenue each year. If the lots were developed, tax revenue for each property could reach as high as $50,000 a year.

If the borough doesn’t accept it, her beneficiaries could develop the lots and create two large ratables, Affanato said. The borough should also consider the cost of building the park and maintaining it in perpetuity.

Affanato said if the borough decides to build the park, it will have to comply with all local ordinances regarding park operations, including usage, hours and alcohol restrictions. A previous environmental issue involving an oil tank was resolved years ago, he said.

“Values are high and it is an expensive gift to the borough,” he said.

Commissioner Jim Leeds questioned the timeline for the borough to decide.

Affanato said her estate is hoping to get the issue resolved quickly, or as soon as the public bidding process and budget constraints allow, “maybe by summer 2025,” he said.

Costs to build the park would need to be budgeted or bonded. The board asked city engineer Ed Dennis Jr. of Remington & Vernick to estimate costs. Dennis said there may be recreation grant funds available to fund all or a portion of the cost of building the park.

Mayor Nicholas Russo said the proposal was a “no brainer.”

Russo said he appreciates the “nice gesture” that demonstrates how residents love their little hamlet by the shore.

Although there may be a loss of future revenue, the park would increase property values of the homes on 22nd Avenue, and costs to create the park would not be as high as $100,000 because McGee’s requests for what it should look like are modest, he said.

“I know the family, and I’m shocked and pleasantly surprised she thought of the borough in this way. It reflects on how people hold the borough in such high regard,” Russo said Thursday morning.

He said he would be in favor of moving forward with creating the park. He noted that the beachfront park at 33rd Avenue was also deed restricted for recreation and open space.

“In the long-term, people will be able to enjoy a little bit of green space in an area that has already been built out with large luxury homes,” he said.

Commissioner Dan Lawler said he is “neutral” about the issue at this time.

“If we do it, we have to do it right,” he said. “The lost revenue on taxes should be considered.”


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Categories: Longport

Nanette LoBiondo Galloway

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