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Archive for the ‘Ocean Grove controversies’ Category

Used to be our town, too. Ocean Grove. Paul Goldfinger photo © Used to be our town, too. Ocean Grove. Paul Goldfinger photo ©  This subject is still relevant even though it first stuck its inquisitive head out of the primordial fog of the Mother Ship and Pitman Avenue.

By Paul Goldfinger, Editor@Blogfinger   (NOTE:  This was originally posted on Dec  31, 2015, but needless to say, many of you missed it.  It was reposted in 2016.)

However, in view of the current signs of life emerging out of the NERP’s resting place, here is another chance to read selected quotes by your neighbors and a few others regarding governance in this town and about the North End plan.

And for those of you who read that fake news story in the Coaster, June 11, 2020, you can watch for Blogfinger‘s response  to that mindless “news report” about the North End applications before the HPC and the DEP.

Why is it that our local institutions never seem to place the interests of OG’s citizens first?  Representative government here has failed.  The Neptune Committee makes you wait 3 hours before you get 5 minutes to speak and they show essentially no interest in what the citizens of Ocean Grove think.

They have even threatened Grovers who spoke “out of turn” at their meetings.

Now (2020)  they will take advantage of the coronavirus to further distance their governance nonsense from “we the people.”

Here is a collection of comments, mostly from 2015, but some from 2011 and 2012, repeated now to show the extent of discourse, mostly on the critical side, and to offer a sense of clamor for change leading up to 2016.  Note that this is just a mere sprinkling of quotes, chosen arbitrarily from the nearly 17,000 comments made on Blogfinger  (except for A.O. Scott) since 2009 to 2015.

A.O. Scott of the New York Times, 2015,  talks about “how power operates in the absence of accountability. When institutions convinced of their own greatness work together, what usually happens is that the truth is buried and the innocent suffer.

“Breaking that pattern of collaboration is not easy. Challenging deeply entrenched, widely respected authority can be very scary.”  (This quote of A.O. Scott comes from his N.Y.Times movie review of “Spotlight” but it rings true for Neptune Township.)

Jack (Bredin) :  The proposed subdivision (on Sea View)  will result in 4 illegal lots. Whoever purchases them could have big problems in the future, and the Neptune Township Planning Board doesn’t give a flying fig*.

Devo:  Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

Jack: You would increase your chances of getting a subdivision if you hire a politically connected attorney who can trot out a professional planner who is willing to lie to the Board under oath.  You must first make a campaign contribution.

Kevin (Chambers) : As a service to the people of Ocean Grove it would be nice to have that Committee oath of office  printed on your site to remind each of the Committee people that their duty is to uphold the laws of the State and to enforce those laws, and that includes zoning laws—–for the protection of all the people in Neptune equally.

Oath of office Neptune Comedy

Kevin: The attorneys and the planners have the obligation to the public to make sure that testimony is factual, consistent and truthful. In one of these two cases it is anything but that.

Doubting Thomas:  The people of Ocean Grove are being plundered, just as if the Vikings returned from Iceland and landed on the shores of Ocean Grove.

Jack:

What we do know is :
-The Township Committee has no heart.
-The Planning Board has no brain and,
-the OGHOA have no courage.

They all just “go along” with the “Flat Earth Society” opinions from the Township’s professional planners and engineers who most likely were referred to Neptune by the Great Wizard.

The fact is, we have no idea who is running (ruining) our town.

Blogfinger:   The Home Groaners’ Board has taken the Kool Aid and has jumped on the bandwagon which says that RSIS*** parking standards are no good for Ocean Grove

Rev Janeba:  Although I am a Brooklynite, my heart is in Ocean Grove – the Ocean Grove I KNOW, not the cartoon theme park version that so many misguided persons are trying to bring about. Thank you so much for looking out for MY best interests, too.

Radar:  I can’t remember any recent meeting that a vote was taken on the Homeowners’ position.

Bythe sea:   Who does the OGHOA think they serve? Why do they not test their positions with their own membership? I am a member and I can attest to the fact that OGHOA members were never offered an opportunity to review the RSIS issue, vote on or even discuss it.

From the Neptune Application to SIAB**:      “This application…seeks relief from RSIS standards in an overall effort to balance the needs of residents, visitors and public safety with the unique challenges of maintaining a Federal and State Historic Designation coupled with the unique and historic patterns of development that comprise Ocean Grove as a whole.”

“It is estimated that there are approximately 1.38 potential on-street parking spaces per occupied unit (ie house or condo). This potential inventory adequately addresses the parking need, given that the average number of vehicles per household in the 2010 census is 1.5 vehicles.
Neptune Township has worked in concert with the OGCMA to continue to ameliorate parking issues within Ocean Grove.”

Blogfinger  (re: RISS:)   Let’s face it, this has nothing to do with history or even parking, and everything to do with greed.

Blogfinger:   The $64,000.00 question: Even if the State turns down the application and leaves the RSIS rules in place, who is going to enforce the law?  After all, even today, the RSIS rules are in effect in Ocean Grove and they haven’t prevented condos without parking from being built— single family homes should have been constructed instead.

New Kid in Town  Has any thought been given to forming a citizen’s group to formally object to Neptune Township’s dishonest efforts to destroy our historical town for greed and profit? I for one, would be happy to join such a group and support it in anyway I could. I know many others who would do the same.

Upset taxpayer    I invite anyone on the Township Committee that thinks we already have adequate parking, to sit on my porch on any Friday, Saturday or Sunday all spring, summer and fall, and watch the frustration among all visitors to Ocean Grove.

Michael Grover (2011)     I believe the language in the proposed Master Plan is intended to further develop ratables for the Township in Ocean Grove at the expense of its residents. The Board is attempting to set up a structure that will permit replacement of B and B’s with condominiums and development of larger structures, further adding to our density.

Don’t count on the HPC to protect us, using historic preservation as grounds to prevent conversions. Recent decisions and the North End project demonstrate their weakness against the Planning Board.

As for the Township Committee, don’t look to them for much help either. The town needs money, and this is New Jersey, enough said. We will need to protect ourselves.

Mary Beth Jahn:     (2011)    I am the sole member of the Township Committee to vote against the North End plan, and I still believe that single-family homes and not condos should be built on that site.

OGrover:  2011    The recent high density project with it’s proposed underground parking is not supposed to add to the parking issues but will do nothing to alleviate them either. (Underground parking next to the ocean and a lake? The Titanic was unsinkable, too!)

Frank: (2011)  New Jersey Site Improvement Advisory Board knows the situation of our not owning the property, and their recommendation for parking is that Neptune follow the Municipal Land Use Law’s standards that are used throughout the state. I have a copy of the letter addressed to Neptune from the Sites Board that states that the Township is to follow the standards for parking

Joan C (2012)    I was rather surprised to read that Mr. Williams stated so emphatically that he would never read nor respond on Blogfinger. Is Mr. Williams “too good” for the blog? Is he choosing to remain unaware of the concerns of our residents? I frankly had hoped that all members of both parties read Blogfinger, which is the least divisive, non-political posting of relevant information for those of us living in Ocean Grove and Neptune Township

Devo (2012)  The North end project, in its current form, will not benefit the Grove. It will generate significant additional traffic, create additional parking issues (despite what they say they are planning), will depress home/condo prices for the existing housing stock, and will add out of character buildings. I wasn’t here when all this went down, but I can’t imagine why folks in OG think this is a good idea.

The longer it is delayed, the better.

Michael Grover (2012)  Those of us concerned about noise and congestion, not to mention density and over-development, need to look no farther than the North End project. Want a problem that really happens and lasts forever? Why was this project approved, and where was the HPC to protect the integrity of our beloved historic district? It’s a lot easier to enforce the rules when the issue is the color of a house and other minor cosmetic concerns, or when you have the authority to impose a decision no matter how unjustified on a weak, defenseless homeowner. Take on the town and the developers, that’s another story.

Devo (2012)    Scuttle the redevelopment plan now, or forever be sorry you did not.

Bythesea (2012)  Developing the North End under a State sanctioned redevelopment designation is a terrible idea. I can tell you right now that, based on what has happened most other places in NJ, OG will lose all control and hate the outcome. OG should seek to bring about the collapse of this redevelopment plan. The land and location is valuable/desirable enough that the CMA should be able to manage its own redevelopment.

Despite Mary Beth Jahn’s best intent and all of our wishful thinking, redevelopment areas take on a life of their own and they always gravitate to higher than expected density and insensitivity to quality of life concerns of the town they are occurring in (e.g., traffic impact, parking, etc.).

Gosh: (2012) I have to say for the last time, the approval of the redevelopment of the North End was never legal.

Mary Beth Jahn   (2012)   Those who are sucking sour lemons and trying to run a smear campaign wouldn’t know or care, because they have no respect for the Grove’s historic designation and would have no problem turning the Grove into Condo City.

Wisher:  (2012)  There will be no distinguishing OG or Asbury Park in the future. No grand vistas, or public places for shoppers and beach-goers. People won’t come here any more than they will go to any of the myriad of other shore towns. No distinguishing characteristics. Just everything shoved up against the shoreline while developers walk about with their boatload of cash.

Gosh (2012)   Condos have been motivated by GREED and REVENUE that they bring into Neptune. There is absolutely no interest in keeping O.G. historic with single family homes; just look at the new Master Plan— there are so many gray areas for interpretation.

Bythesea:    (2012)  Where is the OGHOA on the North End Development? What stand have they taken relative to the abomination of a plan that now exists for the “redevelopment” of the North End? It is they who should be the champions in the fight against poor planning that will hurt the town. Do they just play a reactive game, or do they try to lead? Where is their position paper? Seems to me that this is by far the biggest issue on their plates for the next year.

Jack    The first and only comment from our new year (2016):

OhGee, the reason this special town exists, is to the credit of the OGCMA.

The Township Committee has the exclusive authority to adopt our zoning ordinance.
We cannot blame any property owner for developing what they are permitted to develop under the zoning ordinance adopted by the Committee.   With zoning, the buck stops with the Township Committee.

The problem is that the Committee, Planning Board and Board of Adjustment use Municipal Land Use Law in ways that were never intended by the NJ State Legislature.

**SIAB  is the State Site Improvement Advisory Board in Trenton.  They keep Blogfinger up to date on their agendas so that the Neptune Comedy doesn’t sneak into one of their meetings without the people knowing.

*** RSIS means Residential Site Improvement Standards” regarding required off site parking standards for new construction.

Editor’s note:   June, 2020. The OGNED North End Redevelopers applied to the DEP for CAFRA approval to build an underground garage at the North End.   But they were rejected, and we are seeking up-dated information as to the current status of that fraudulent plan.

JAMES TAYLOR

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Can Ocean Grove retain its own unique historical perspective?  This musician is warming up for the OG Summer Band weekly concert on the boardwalk. 2009. Paul Goldfinger photo ©

By Paul Goldfinger, MD.  Editor @Blogfinger.net   Re-post.  From 2018.

In a recent Blogfinger opinion piece, we asked, “Will Ocean Grove be left in the dustbin of history as a place with stifling crowding, insoluble  parking concerns, a has-been Victorian success story,  condos all over town,  a pseudo-Asbury  at the North End, self-interested “community” organizations, wealthy 2nd homers instead of year-round residents, and a town devoid of community—– known for no art, culture, schools, or values of its own?”

“And will all that would be left to focus on be the Camp Meeting Association with its specific mission and lifestyle—worthy as part of the community, but less impressive all by itself?”

“And will Ocean Grove become a place with no life to it in the winter and few downtown shops that cater to the residents?”

Is it possible that the original 1970’s vision of a historic town, as expressed in the Master Plan, eventually evaporate leaving just another shore town with rising real estate prices, elitist demographics,  outrageous taxes, and fancy seasonal shops in our downtown?

An article in yesterday’s New York Times addresses some of these changes which are turning down-home, family-oriented communities such as Avalon, at the South Jersey Shore, into something else, mostly for the wealthy.

Families with modest incomes, some of which have been there for generations are being forced out, and with them go memories, traditions, and a nostalgic atmosphere that that will be lost as the town’s character changes.  The author says that some towns at the north Jersey Shore, such as Mantoloking, are also changing.

You can read that article, linked below.   But each Shore town is different, and each has its own unique challenges.    In OG we have some unusual variations on the theme, such as the role of the CMA  and the aggressiveness of developers pushing condo conversions, as well as some home buyers who are promoting tourist rentals.

The second-home phenomenon is very real in Ocean Grove and is a strong driving force towards change.  Neptune Township cares little about historic OG.   Their actions make it clear what their goals for the town are, and we have written about those issues including illegal zoning and parking decisions, the pollution of Wesley Lake, and taxes which are too high  (the “cash cow” effect–you can almost hear the sucking sound of our money heading west.)

3 new homes are going in on Lawrence Avenue. (88, 90 and 92). Will they look Victorian? ©  4/23/18. Blogfinger photo.

Here are some “objectives and goals” taken from the Master Plan of the OG Historic District,–a “plan” which is largely ignored by the movers and shakers in the Grove who care little about historic preservation or the vision of those who were thrilled when OG was given recognition by the National and State Registers of Historic Places.

a.  “To integrate historic preservation into the Township’s history,  its historical figures and its historic sites and district.”  And “encouraging new construction that is compatible in scale and design to the physical character of the surrounding neighborhood.”

b. “To seek to insure compatibility between new development and nearby historic sites and districts, in terms of both use and appearance.”  Really?

So how do Mary’s Place and the Greek Temple get built in the heart of our ocean-front Historic District?

c. “To  encourage residents to preserve the historic character, livability and property values of historic structures in neighborhoods….”

This subject is not exactly new.  Take a look at this 2012 Blogfinger post   (and the comments which are very interesting and unique:)

Blogfinger poll on historic heritage in OG

SARAH VAUGHAN  sings a Cole Porter Broadway  song:

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After Sandy the CMA mobilized citizens and other volunteers to work together in the cleanup Oct 2012. Paul Goldfinger photo ©.

 

 

Paul Goldfinger, MD.  Editor @Blogfinger.net.   Once again the role of the CMA in the life of Ocean Grove has resurfaced.  May, 2020.

This post first appeared January  2019 regarding how the CMA affects the life styles of secular residents in town.

On Sunday June 2, 2019 a large religious event occurred that alarmed some residents who live near the Great Auditorium:

The Liquid Church brought a crowd of religious tourists here for a morning service in the Great Auditorium. Apparently it was noisy, then lunch on the Pathway with 7 food trucks, and then later with baptisms on the beach.  A usually quiet OG Sunday had changed.   The Liquid Church  was scheduled to be returning every Saturday night in July and August 2019.

This change raised these questions:  Is Ocean Grove once again becoming a Christian town?    Does the CMA have the unlimited power to expand in ways that can impact the quality of life of all who live here?   Does owning all the land give it that power?

 

That 2019  article below gets into some of these issues:

The Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association used to run this town, but all that changed in 1980 when the N.J. Supreme Court turned over our historic village to the municipality of Neptune Township.

None of the “blue laws” were left in effect, except for bans on selling tobacco, sales of alcohol, and closing of the beach on Sunday mornings.  There has been no coherent explanation for those bans and beach closure  as initiated by a private group in a public town.

The CMA retained control over the beachfront and they actually own the boardwalk but not the sand underneath, and they and others worked together to press FEMA in 2012 to help pay for the boardwalk restoration.

The Camp Meeting still owns most of the land in town as they pursue their religious “mission” which is growing year-round and has an effect on all who actually live in the Grove.

Interestingly, they have no membership list, so we don’t know how many residents in the Grove are committed to the CMA organization.  Most of their supporters seem to be religious tourists.

There is a group in town of private residents who are mostly secular and who probably number over 5,000 if second homers are included.  But, that group doesn’t  have much influence.

So how does the CMA maintain the reigns of power here, in  a democracy, to influence the residents of this community?

Around 2011,  Blogfinger became interested in the role of the CMA as it relates to the “community ” of Ocean Grove—ie the residents of the town.  We interviewed the  President of the CMA.  He said that the group would focus on its “mission” and not on the community of residents. That’s when I first learned that the CMA actually had a policy regarding the rest of the Grove.

After Sandy hit, the CMA stood tall to deal with the beachfront damage, but they also opened their arms to the secular OG community to help pay for it via the Together Fund.

Clearly the CMA is a sort of neighbor for all of us, but it is a peculiar sort.  They have power and influence in Neptune that enables them to strong arm certain issues in the Historic District such as congestion, parking, land use, North End Redevelopment, and life-styles for residents.

If we ask residents of OG the question: “What do you expect from the CMA,” we suspect that opinions will range from “nothing” to “a great deal.”

If you try to answer that question by thinking about the recent history of the CMA as neighbors in town, consider this summary below.  It is a short list of how they impact all who live here.

a.  They have lucrative large events through the year, especially during “prime time” which effects all of us who live here and which bring no money to help the OG  community.

b. They bring in thousands of tourists for their religious based events, but also for the town- wide clogging mega secular events on Ocean Pathway such as the Flea Market. They hope to extend their reach year-round.

c. They don’t care much about the secular residents in town as evidenced by their seeming indifference to issues that effect all of us, such as when they threatened to sue over permit parking before the conversation ever got out of the starting gate.

And you would think that they would be concerned about the Master Plan, the Land Use abuses, historic preservation, and other matters that involve them. But they never speak out about these topics.

d.  They were found to be guilty in 2007 of discrimination, and that stained the reputation of the entire town.

e.  They have been intimately involved with the worrisome plans for the project at the OG North End.

f.  Secular programming has been cut back at the GA.

Of course, there are many positive attributes for the entire town that stem from the CMA’s presence in the Grove such as: the 4th of July parade; Illumination Night;  Christmas events;  a clean and friendly beachfront; a wonderful summer music program; and activities for families, kids and teenagers.

So, what do you think?  Please comment below.

ELVIS:   “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling”

 

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The Lagoon* at Shell Point, a private contained religious-owned community in Fort Myers, Florida Paul Goldfinger photo. Jan, 2020.

 

 

By Paul Goldfinger,  Editor @Blogfinger.

Is the Camp Meeting Association’s unique status in Ocean Grove  so unusual that there is no other town exactly like it?  We would be interested to find another for historical and comparison purposes.

After all, the OGCMA is a religious organization with its own goals within the larger universe of Neptune Township and Ocean Grove.  They own 99% of the land in OG and they have political leverage in Neptune Township even though they no longer have official power.  When they governed the town—1869 to 1980, everyone had to follow their rules.

They functioned like a gated community.   They would interview prospective residents and explain that all who were accepted had to follow those rules, many of which were religious based, such as the constraints on many activities on Sundays.

But OG is no longer like a gated community. No one can make laws for Ocean Grove except the elected officials in Neptune.  Of course the CMA can make rules for its own buildings  (like no food in the Great Auditorium and no gay weddings in its chapel.)  Some would say that the CMA can make rules for its public parks and for the beachfront (eg no admittance on Sunday morning.)  The entire town is prevented from organizing certain events on Sunday, such as occur in Asbury Park  (eg  Pride Parade  and their January Beer Festival.)  Such limitations trace back to the CMA and they still persist in 2020.

We discovered  one such place similar to the OGCMA within the city of Fort Myers, Florida, called Shell Point.  This is a 700 acre community that provides homes and life styles for retirees. Everything within its boundaries is owned by the CMA—the Christian Missionary Alliance.

Unlike the OGCMA, the Alliance owns both the land and all the residences (homes, condos, apartments.)   And, unlike with the OGCMA, everyone who lives in Shell Point has signed a contract to follow all the rules.  So if they say “no alcohol” within their boundaries, then that is what happens, and rule breakers can be forced out, and the city stays out of it.

OGCMA insists on no alcohol in town by convincing Neptune to have an ordinance—an actual law, but only in the OG part of town.   So the way that power is exerted, in this regard, is different for these two religious-based communities when compared to each other.

Like OG, Shell Point is bordered by water on 3 sides, and they have a large central auditorium where religious events are held.  They also have parking problems. Governance is by a Board that has a mixture of religious and lay people.  The residents do pay some property taxes, but the amount is small and shared with management.  Everything is leased.

Unlike Ocean Grove, Shell Point does resemble a gated community but without gates.  And it is different in many other ways as well.

Geographically, the OGCMA is woven into the fabric of life in the Grove, literally and figuratively, whereas Shell Point’s properties, physical and otherwise,  are clearly demarcated by boundaries and this characteristic reduces the chances of clashes with the community at large, as sometimes occur in Ocean Grove.

Overall, we would be hard pressed to find any towns in New Jersey that are comparable to OG, especially the way we have the CMA which is part and yet not part of our town at the same time.

At a person-to-person level, an important difference  is that there is considerable overlap of the OGCMA with the secular and diverse residents of Ocean Grove.  And that is where conflicts may occur, as we saw in 2007 during the gay civil ceremony angry exchanges and the fight over Kirk Cameron’s appearance in the Great Auditorium. And now we have the Parking Wars.

In Shell Point, the residents are all on the same page and rarely overlap in important ways with those who live outside their invisible borders.

And unlike with many gated communities and unlike Shell Point, our CMA isn’t able to exert its powers of persuasion within a geographically demarcated zone, as it did pre-1980, and the demographics in OG are now quite diverse.  We are sometimes stepping on each others’ toes, priorities and life styles.

So Shell Point does resemble Ocean Grove’s CMA in some ways, and that is interesting, but there are many differences.

We are still looking for another community where a religious presence like the CMA coexists in a comfortable way with others in town.  We have found no nearly identical community to compare with.

So we are on our own in OG,  trying to find solutions to certain issues, and sometimes that seems insurmountable as with parking.  And that is why parking is about more than parking.

 

* “Forever Friends” is a 1500 pound stainless steel structure by Douglas Hayes (b. 1968) and donated by a Shell Point benefactor.  The birds have a 10 foot wing span.  The lagoon features manatees which visit regularly.  Shell Point is open to the public and has various races and religions among its residents.

 

PAUL MOTIAN:    “I Remember You”

 

[/audio

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William Heatley was taking a ride in a banner plane over the beach in OG. It was August, 1981, and he took this photo. © Special to Blogfinger.net

William Heatley was taking a ride in a banner plane over the beach in OG. It was August, 1981, and he took this photo. © Special to Blogfinger.net  Click to enlarge   Re-post from 2015.

Note Wesley Lake to the right. The North End Hotel has been torn down, but the salt water swimming pool remains.  You can see the outlines of the North End area which will be “re-developed” according to the North End Re-development Plan. and imagine where the condos will be along Lake Avenue, Spray Avenue, and the Ocean. Then imagine a hotel there which probably will actually become condos.  Oh, and don’t forget the parking garage underground, stores, and new North End boardwalk.

The process is currently moving forward, and that “progress” is being followed here on Blogfinger. Pay close attention to the changes in NERP 2008 which are being slipped into place.      See our post later today.    —–PG

Thanks to William Heatley for making his photograph available here.

ASTRUD GILBERTO  “Only Trust Your Heart.”

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Main Avenue Ocean Grove. The people want to preserve our lifestyle and keep the small town of Ocean Grove historic and uncluttered. Paul Goldfinger photo of the Days Kazoo Band on July 4.    Blogfinger.net

 

We have announced the forthcoming Planning Board meeting and have encouraged citizens to attend. I would caution you about a dirty trick sometimes evoked in the past whenever a controversial topic was to be discussed at the Mother Ship.

If a large number of Grovers were anticipated to attend, the meeting might be cancelled and rescheduled in the dead of winter.

Here’s a copy of some information transmitted by email from the OGHOA:

“The North End Redevelopment Agreement will be on the agenda for the next scheduled meeting of the Neptune Township Planing Board on Wednesday, November 13.  7 pm in the second floor meeting room at the Municipal Building, 25 Neptune Boulevard.

“The Planning Board will review the Redevelopment Agreement and the many plans that are incorporated in the Agreement. These include the site plan, traffic plan, drainage plan, landscaping plan and architectural drawings. There’s a lot to unpack here, and the Planning Board’s review is a key part of the process.

“If you care about this issue; the obligations of the redeveloper and how construction in the North End is expected to unfold, you should attend the Planning Board meeting.”

 

Blogfinger finds this message from the Groaners to be hopelessly incomplete either due to  ignorance of the subject or purposeful evasiveness.

Among the many issues which should be addressed in the open include:  Environmental impact, financial guarantees, parking garage, parking in the neighborhood, easements across the boardwalk, subdividing one lot into two,  plans to block public access, impact on Grover lifestyles in that area and actually all over town, air and light for the public, relationship with the Asbury Park Casino, elevations related to the boardwalk,  pollution of Wesley Lake, plans for Lake Avenue,  HPC evaluation, flood prevention,  retaining wall along the lake, payment to repave the Municipal Building parking lot, types of retail, condominium details, access for fire and sanitation, CMA ground rents agreements, and the very legality of these proceedings.

Since this plan is a redevelopment plan which received preferential zoning, the public has a need- to-know place in the process. This presentation should be an open book, and the reading of that book should take many meetings to be done properly.  Maybe you can think of some topics that you would like to hear about.

Can you imagine that all the above “plans”  might be approved in one fell swoop?  Well, if the Planning Board wants to rush it through  (a “snow job,”) they will, but the topic and all its ramifications  should be carefully considered, and that should require many public meetings.

Blogfinger reporters will be at the meeting, and Jack will be breathing fire, and hopefully he won’t be the only one bringing a ring of fire.

—PG     Blogfinger.net

 

JOHNNY CASH: 

 

 

 

 

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Aurora under construction. Paul Goldfinger photo. July, 2019. Much of the decorations have been removed  (temporarily we assume.)

 

By Paul Goldfinger, Editor@Blogfinger.net

In March, 2019, Blogfinger discussed the latest status of the proposed Aurora Hotel makeover.

3/19 Aurora BF post

We discussed some of the questionable issues as the developer was winning the argument to turn the historic hotel into 4 condominiums under one roof.  Many were concerned about historic preservation.  We pointed out that there were congestion , parking and land use issues.

As for parking, technically RSIS standards would require 8 off-street parking spaces, but there wasn’t enough room.    However,  the Board allowed a reduction to four and suggested that the developer make an application* to the Department of Community Affairs in Trenton for a “de minimis exception for any/all RSIS parking requirements.”

In July 2018, the owner, “Old Forge at Ocean Grove” received a use variance from the Neptune Zoning Board of Adjustment.   The Board says that two hearings showed “overwhelming public support” for the proposal. (BF note:  we hear otherwise.)

The  Neptune Planner testified that this was a fine decision, “satisfying the requirements of the Master Plan and that the ‘character” of the building will be retained.'”   The planner said that the proposal would  “promote historic use and reduce intensity.”

In the Resolution, item #24, the Board concluded, “There are no substantial negative impacts for the use (no substantial negative criteria present) as said renovation is set to enhance the neighborhood (architecturally, historically, and structurally for health, safety and welfare of surrounding residents) and the majority of the surrounding neighbors are fully supportive of the proposed use as set forth in testimony.”

So, the use variance was granted.

Then in August 2018, a civil action was brought against “Old Forge” and the Zoning Board by Kevin Chambers of Ocean Grove.  His suit was based on alleged land use violations which would  cause “substantial detriment to the public good.”

But Kevin Chambers’ suit was denied in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Monmouth County.  There was no appeal.

In September, 2018, the same Board approved the site plan for the project.

We have no documentation, but evidently the HPC heard the plan and asked for some changes, so the final HPC approval is pending.  Meanwhile work is ongoing.  We don’t know what’s happening with the interior work to create 4 condominiums under one roof, separated by fire walls.  The HPC will undoubtedly eventually give final approval.

And the outside is supposed to preserve the historic look of this very important historic structure.

In April  2019, it was revealed that the developer’s lawyer had applied by letter to the Dept. of Community Affairs (DCA)  for a de minimis exception to limit on-site parking.  The State advised the lawyer that neither the DCA nor the Site Improvement Advisory Board (SIAB) approve de minimis exceptions. They said that it is the responsibility of the municipality.

So the State punted, and presumably the Neptune Board approved zero to four off street parking spots—we don’t know.

We will prepare a post trying to explain what happened with the DCA.   Is this how the Town got away with approving over 300 condos over the years, none with parking?

Needless to say, those of us who follow this sort of thing were expecting RSIS parking standards to be enforced, but they were not, and I double checked with the DCA as to the legitimacy of that letter. 

So, for the sake of those neighbors who love this idea, they better wish for some rich people with no cars, no friends, and no relatives.

 

JOHN DENVER     “Looking for Space”

“And I’m looking for space
And to find out who I am
And I’m looking to know and understand
It’s a sweet, sweet dream
Sometimes I’m almost there
Sometimes I fly like an eagle
And sometimes I’m deep in despair.”

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Some Grovers are investing huge sums to create authentic Victorian restorations like this gorgeous newly redone Main Avenue showplace, but that alone does not define us.  Paul Goldfinger photo May 2, 2017.

 

Another ambitious Victorian restoration. Note the original siding being brought back to life at great expense . Blogfinger photo © Ocean Grove at  Main Avenue.

 

Ocean Grove July 4 parade, 2015. A truly unique community event. Paul Goldfinger photograph

 

Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger–updated and re-posted from 2017.

 

In 2019, on its 150th birthday, Ocean Grove is a small town without a clear sense of identity.  It has a local government that treats us like an appendage to be milked, but otherwise there is no love emanating from Neptune Township. We may be part of Neptune officially, but we are clearly NOT part of Neptune in our hearts.  Most towns have a continuous thread of history that has resulted in a strong sense of identity, but not Ocean Grove.

Citizens say that they “love” the town, but the definition of that love remains undefined.   Many just like being here at the beach.  Is the Grove  just a collection of old houses interspersed in another cozy shore town?   Or  maybe it is the perception of the town as a place with an unusual and special  culture that attracts people to live here.

Many  like the urban feel, the friendly neighborhoods, the comfortable  sidewalks for walking, the porch culture, and the magic of summer evenings on the boards or fun at the beach.  And for some it is the closest nicest shore town to NYC.

Those who say they “love the town”  often have little knowledge of the town’s history as a religious enclave.  They have no interest in it as a historic place recognized by State and Federal historic registries.  So, to what extent is OG an authentic and serious historic district—a very special place for that reason?

A related question is whether this town was conceived as a tourist attraction?  The answer to that is an emphatic no.  Sure, in the late 1800’s, religious tourists came here in droves, mostly by train, and that identity persists to a  lesser extent today,  but the CMA community is no longer as central to life in Ocean Grove as it once was.  OG evolved into a residential community with cottages and boarding houses.   The Victorian buildings were  less valued than they are today and many had gone into decline.   Its census population was more than it is today.

Forty years ago, the downtown was not a tourist place to have a burger, buy a T shirt, take a tour, go to a massive craft show on the Pathway, or close down Main Avenue to sell Thai food or sell shlocky art or display old British cars.

Instead the downtown had a serious grocery/butcher shop, several doctors’ offices, a video store,a flower shop, a cleaners, a cafeteria, a newsstand, a newspaper, a drug store, a barber shop,  a fishing club, a seashell shop, and a town pool.   In other words it was a town that was largely for the residents. So many towns at the shore are not  primarily for tourists, for example Atlantic Highlands, Avon-by-the Sea, Long Beach Island, Spring Lake, Deal, Avalon, and Allenhurst.

But now Ocean Grove has become  a mish-mash—a combination of all of the above; but for those who actually  live here  (year round or part-time), or want to live here, we need to define our situation more clearly: what is the heart and soul of this town?  Or maybe those attributes don’t even exist. Maybe it will never be that sort of town.

Elected officials do not really represent the Grove’s citizens. So democracy doesn’t exist as defined by representative government. The Neptunite governing operation is like a secret foreign occupying power that has undercover agents and contacts who live among us, but has underlying agendas based upon self interest.

A local government is supposed to represent its community of residents and try to make their lives better, but our situation now is the opposite.  Witness the efforts to bring large numbers of tourists to town to the consternation of those who live here, and the failure to solve problems like zoning abuses, over-building, and the invasion of the parking snatchers.

The Camp Meeting Association ran the town for 111 years.  During that time, until 1980, they had reason to believe that the unique religious culture which prevailed till then, as odd as it was in America, would last  forever.  They certainly did not envision the town becoming a historic site.  They had no problem letting many of the early houses deteriorate. And it is unclear if stores during those years sold T shirts, surf boards, jewelry or pizza.

But when Ocean Grove was handed over to Neptune Township in 1980, and with the CMA giving up governance and most blue laws,  it was like a child who lost his parents and was given to someone for foster care—for money.

The town, which was becoming quite diverse by 1980, went forward without a clear sense of who or what it was, and today, what is its character and purpose?

The result is a place with a variety of power centers, all self interested  and largely propelled by an active real-estate market;  and all without the will to find a framework, a common identity, and direction for the town as a whole.

So the town of Ocean Grove, lacking leadership and a sense of town-wide community, is adrift and thus what goes on here is helter-skelter and out of focus.  That is why no progress is made in solidifying the town as a real place with its own sense of being.  If it weren’t for the homeowners who have brought to life historic homes that had been on life-support, this would be a pretty disheveled and much less desirable place.

The vision of an authentic historic town, defined by its historic designations, is currently fraudulent because most citizens don’t give a rat’s tail about its history. Even the “Historic Preservation Commission” has gone dark and has seemingly slipped into the shadows, never to be trusted again.

It is rare to find a historical event here such as re-enactments, poetry readings, vintage music concerts, classical street musicians, jazz, and educational programs about the town’s history for those who actually live here.  Instead we shut down Main Avenue for car shows and we crowd the town with huge numbers of strangers (ie tourists)  to have giant retail events of no value to the town itself while the residents struggle to find a parking place and to share our streets with the free parkers heading to Asbury.

We have had a major Walt Whitman Poetry Festival and a Blogfinger Film Festival (for collegiate film students.)  And we had arts in the parks,  People’s Garden Tours, classical street musicians, and other community cultural events, but most of them died on the vine.

The Ocean Grove Homeowners Association has no idea what it should be doing, and its leadership has no idea what its mandate is. It is not only essentially worthless in terms of bringing this town together and forward, but it has actually become a force working against the people—a subversive presence.

Jack Bredin is correct that the only workable solution is to become our own town again  (it actually happened for one year in 1925, but the church vs state  dilemma caused it to collapse on itself.) Perhaps it is possible once again, but not in a place where the citizens are apathetic and don’t seem to care about a vision for the town.

So  Ocean Grove, despite some wonderful attributes, is poorly defined, and the citizens are seemingly satisfied to ride the waves, sleep on the beach and enjoy being here, much like so many other Jersey Shore towns, although many of those towns actually have their acts together and know who they are or what they want to be. For example Belmar has only one mega-event each year.  Its mayor says that his main concern are the town’s residents.  The beach scene is a given in all Shore towns.

Bradley Beach , our neighbor to the south, which lacks the history that we have, knows what it is.   Go there to experience a true Jersey Shore town.  Forget the architecture, just view it as a fine place to enjoy the shore.   Take a deep breath and smell the ocean.  Go on Main Street on a summer night and have some Thai food or terrific Italian delicacies.  Sit outside at a real  coffee shop and watch the young people walking by or heading towards the boardwalk.  Bradley Beach has a heart and soul which goes all the way back to its founding. It knows what it is, and that’s a good thing.

And here’s a song for the kids in town, especially the teenagers who breathe life into the town no longer  known as “Ocean Grave.”

THE CRESTS:

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July 6, 2019,  parade in OG for Independence Day and the 150th birthday of Ocean Grove. But read the banner, to see what the CMA is celebrating.    Click image to read it.     Paul Goldfinger photo.

 

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This fine work of fictionalized history is by an Ocean Grove author.  It is about Victorian OG in 1905. It describes a life of over 100 years ago in the Grove  that had nothing to do with the Camp Meeting. The book is available on Amazon. Posted with permission.

 

By Paul Goldfinger, Editor@Blogfinger

At the concert on July 4 in the Great Auditorium, Gordon Turk, the host for the concert, said to the audience that we are celebrating “the birthday of the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association.”  If you read the recent writings of the CMA, it is quite evident that their main goals for this 150th anniversary are based on their religious “mission.”  Just read the 2019 “Ocean Grove Summer  Program Guide” and you will see what they are doing in addition to what they are saying.

In other publicity ads, the wording  for the 150th seems to say that we are celebrating the birthday of the town of Ocean Grove.  And yes, there are many secular events scheduled as well, but it all happens without an effort to clearly define what this town is really about and, in particular, to recognize that there is another Ocean Grove besides the religious based community.

After the founding of Ocean Grove in 1869 by the Camp Meeting Association, the Town’s public taxpaying community and the private religious organization called the OGCMA were essentially one and the same.  But as time went by, considerable diversity evolved, and many residents were not affiliated with the CMA;  but they all had to follow the CMA rules (“blue laws”)  based on religious principles, and those rules were enforced by their own police force.

However, in 1980, Neptune Township took over governance, and the CMA was no longer in charge, although it subsequently brought to bear considerable influence— moral, practical,  and political.

The historical truth, looking back, is that there were groups of residents who got together to oppose the CMA governance as early as 1898 when a group of “lessees” in town sued to get the CMA to pay property taxes to the Township.  The lessees lost the suit at the NJ Supreme Court.

OG historian Gibbons said in 1939:   “Many times residents and land lessees of the town have voiced their objection to the local rules, to the tax situation, or to the form of government, especially from 1900-1925, and there have been many court fights.”

There were those who wanted secular public governance not private religious based rule. In 1920 there was a law passed  in Trenton called the “Ocean Grove Borough Bill.”  There actually was a public democratic town of Ocean Grove established, but for only one year; the law was reversed because the new Borough failed to rid itself of the blue laws.

This anniversary is about 150 years of history in this town, and there are many elements that the CMA had nothing to do with:  Presidential politics with visits by Teddy Roosevelt, McKinley, Garfield, Wilson, and US Grant among others, commercial district with historic businesses such as Days, historic organizations such as the Historical Society of OG, Ocean Grove United, and the Homeowners Assoc., suffrage  and feminist movements, architectural design and historic preservation, celebrities such as Caruso who visited Grovers here, businesses that started here such as Mrs. Wagner’s pies, giant events such as craft shows and flea markets, Town-wide Yard Sale, OG Film Festival, tax and zoning issues, land use issues, famous hotels, shipwrecks, Wesley Lake pollution, wildlife, restoration of homes around town including the famous Ocean Pathway, demographic evolution, residents’ issues with Neptune Township, parking challenges, relationship with Asbury Park, condoization, and more.

The point is that this 150th  anniversary is both that of the CMA and the Town of Ocean Grove as separate but related entities.  One is a private religious based group—the CMA, while the other is a public largely secular community with taxpaying residents often on a different wave length.   The situation, of course, is complicated by the  CMA’s ownership of the land.  This unique connection has yet to be ironed out.

Currently the CMA, which is promoting this 150th anniversary celebration,  is behaving as if it is all one and the same, and their writings confuse the distinctions.  If you read their summer program guide, there is no doubt that they are mostly celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Camp Meeting Association.

The idea of another historic  “Ocean Grove” is getting lost in the shuffle;  the “other Ocean Grove” is a historic 150 year old residential small town with much to celebrate besides religion.  And don’t expect the media to “get it” because most of the citizens don’t “get it” either.

So, regardless of these distinctions, we are in the midst of a festive sesquicentennial, and we can thank the Camp Meeting Association for organizing it and paying for it.  And they have every right to do this celebration in whatever way they choose, but at least let’s speak clearly about what is happening.

Let’s enjoy the events, but don’t lose sight of the strange admixture of three factions  that goes on here—perhaps the only such arrangement anywhere in the US.

Don’t depend on Neptune Township to help at all to understand these distinctions,  even though they have a sign on Corlies Avenue, near the Grove, that says that we are their “Historic District.”

But they really don’t care much about the Grove. Look at what they do, not what they say.     The Neptuners enjoy the apathy and the distinctions, because they get to milk the cash cow, exploiting whatever differences we have in our town.

JOHN LITHGOW  sings about knowing who we are and appreciating our differences:

 

How to refer to our town

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New Jersey Marathon in Ocean Grove. Paul Goldfinger photo © 2015.

On August 23, 2017, Newsmax published its top 50 religious landmarks in America.   They began their coverage with this:

“Christian pastors and Jewish rabbis and leaders have initiated nearly every significant sociopolitical event in America. Their churches and synagogues were catalysts and hubs that made possible the American War of Independence, the abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, and civil rights. They founded schools and hospitals, created architectural wonders, and emphasized the preservation of nature.

“Religious landmarks in most of the original 13 states could easily fill their own top 50 lists, especially the cities of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. However, these sites exemplify the diversity of America’s Judeo-Christian heritage and commitment to religious freedom — the hallmark of American exceptionalism.”

This statement is extraordinary and it is true. Below is what they said about Ocean Grove:

1. “God’s Square Mile;” Ocean Grove, New Jersey; 1869 This popular seaside retreat, concert, and vacation destination for millions is a lasting testament to the Victorian-era revivalist movement that followed the Second Great Awakening.

Methodist ministers founded Ocean Grove believing “religion and recreation should go hand in hand.” Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this quaint town is crammed with picturesque Victorian homes, antiques, a historic Auditorium, chapel, and tent community, and offers numerous tours and activities on land, sea, and air. Methodists still gather here regularly as well as other Christian groups

 

Editor’s Note:

This designation is huge, at least in the eyes of the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association. It  is a great honor for the CMA, but it perpetuates the myth that Ocean Grove is still a religious community and not a small town with multiple factions including the CMA.

The CMA is a powerful presence here, but the most salient emblem of the community are the Victorian homes which are maintained and paid for by a largely secular and diverse community of residents.

This award will have practical consequences, and perhaps our readers would like to speculate as to what these consequences will consist of.

Here is a link to the Newsmax presentation:

www.newsmax.com/BestLists/top-religious-landmarks-america/2017/08/23/id/809233/

Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger,net

BEN WEBSTER:

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