May 4, 2015
Commissioner Bob Martin
New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
Re: Please ensure that the Green Acres Program denies Brick Township’s request to build a restaurant at Traders Cove Park.
Dear Commissioner Martin,
We are writing on behalf of Save Barnegat Bay, a not-for-profit organization that receives contributions from over 2,000 families and small businesses annually, and which worked for forty-four years to help secure the current beautiful public park created at Traders Cove in Brick Township.
Although the township allowed our funds to lapse, it is of note that Save Barnegat Bay donated over one million dollars in Green Acres funds to Brick Township toward the purchase of this park. Save Barnegat Bay has more supporters in Brick Township than in any other town.
We are writing to urgently request that the Green Acres Program deny the proposal of Brick Township to build a restaurant at Traders Cove. We believe that the proposal, if approved, would violate the both spirit in which this park came into being and the regulations governing waterfront development:
- The approval of a liquor license is completely inappropriate for a waterfront park. In addition to diminishing the enjoyment of responsible park users, a liquor license puts at risk restaurant patrons who may drink to excess and fall into the water, the lives of good Samaritans who may jump in to save those patrons, the restaurant concessionaire who may be held liable, Brick Township who may be held liable, the Green Acres program itself, and the boating public. Alcohol and water bodies are a lethal mix. The Department should not make itself a party to foreseeable tragedy.
- The creation of a restaurant at Traders Cove Park is flatly opposed to the Department regulations regarding water-dependent uses. Consider the definition of “water-dependent use” stipulated at NJAC 7:7E-1.8
- “Water dependent” means development that cannot physically function without direct access to the body of water along which it is proposed. Uses, or portions of uses, that can function on sites not adjacent to the water are not considered water dependent regardless of the economic advantages that may be gained from a waterfront location. [emphasis added]
Also at NJAC 7:7E-1.8 consider:
- Water dependent uses exclude, for example: housing, hotels, motels, restaurants, warehouses, manufacturing facilities (except for those which receive and quickly process raw materials by ship), dry boat storage for boats that can be transported by car trailer, long-term parking, parking for persons not participating in a water-dependent activity, boat sales, automobile junk yards, and non-water oriented recreation such as roller rinks and racquetball courts. (emphasis added)
- In order to be profitable in the shore’s seasonal economy, any restaurant at Traders Cove will have to take up an amount of parking spaces that will deny traditional park users space in which to park. On summer days when the boat ramp is being used, space is already at a premium. In addition, the Township rents the boat slips and each slip usually generates at least one vehicle, if not two. Visitors to the park’s many other amenities, including playgrounds, kayak launch, picnic area as well as people enjoying access to fishing, crabbing, and seining takes up additional spaces. Park staff require spaces too.
- The aforementioned problem of insufficient parking space will be exponentially worsened once the economy revives and the current use of boat slips increases to full population.
- The parking spaces taken up by a restaurant will render far more difficult or even impossible the evening use of the park for public concerts, which will put in jeopardy an entire category of use anticipated by the public and intended when the park was originally created.
- In order to be profitable in our difficult seasonal economy the restaurant will have to be sited either at a high elevation in order to allow patrons to see water—in which case the structure will visually dominate the park—or very near the water—in which case the structure will deny numerous traditional forms of enjoyment to the public.
- It is patently unfair to restaurant owners in Brick Township and elsewhere at the shore that their tax dollars should be used by government to bring into being a publicly created competitor to their private businesses.
Save Barnegat Bay has always been sympathetic to the fact that Brick Township is running what is essentially a regional park. It should be noted, however, that the township currently has a substantial revenue stream from this park in the form of winter storage rental. As boat slip rentals increase, an even greater revenue stream will result.
Traders Cove should remain the beautiful and peaceful waterfront park that it was intended to be. It should not be transformed or diminished by the creation of a commercial profit center.
We ask that the Department honor the true spirit of a public waterfront park, as well as the safety of the fishing, crabbing, and boating public, and deny the request of Brick Township to build a restaurant so that the parks current tranquil and popular uses may continue without impediment.
Britta F. Wenzel, Executive Director William deCamp Jr., President