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Wednesday, July 17, 2024


‘Save Avalon’s Dunes’ Group Rallies at 53rd Street


By Megan Gillin-Schwartz

AVALON — A rally drew just over two dozen people July 14 at 9:30 a.m. at 53rd Street and Dune Drive; the purpose, to draw attention to the construction of a single family home and the consequent removal of hundreds of trees and bushes in order to build the structure.
Save Avalon’s Dunes (SAD), a group of Avalon taxpayers who organized the rally and de-scribe themselves as a grassroots, all volunteer citizen’s group, brought the decisions of the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and borough council to appeals court, alleging that the new construction is unlawful in accordance with a borough ordinance prohibiting a new structure on the dune front property to be larger than the footprint of the original structure built on the property and a State Aid Agreement with the DEP prohibiting the construction of swimming pools in the high dunes.
“It (the construction) is disturbing more of the dune than the original structure,” said SAD member Craig Rothman.
“The high dunes protect us. It’s the removal of the physical root structure of those plants and trees that destroys the dune structure,” he said.
SAD also alleges the construction project is illegal, citing Avalon Ordinance 216-1987, Section 7-9.2, Item F, which states, “It is unlawful for any person, persons, corporation, partnerships, association or anyone acting in their behalf or at their instance to remove any snow fence or beach vegetation which exists in the beach dune area.”
“Personally, I object to the stress on the environment,” Elaine Scattergood, president of SAD said at the rally.
The 53rd Street property is located within the high dune area and is listed DEPs division of Fish and Wildlife, as habitat to endangered birds and plants. Proposed construction at this location is subject to the terms of the borough’s Beach Protection Ordinance and has been wrought with debate since it’s inception nine years ago.
As the protest went on, cars, bikers and runners moved past along Dune Drive on the sunny Saturday morning, some honking or yelling out the windows in support of SAD’s effort. Others were not as happy to see the crowd of brightly colored signs and people and their message.
Stacie, daughter of Michael and Jane Rice who own the 53rd Street property, was one of the early morning joggers who passed. She stopped momentarily to confront Scattergood.
“I don’t think you understand what this has done to my family,” she said. “My parents are very good people, very philanthropic people. It’s rather devastating. My father did every-thing he was supposed to do.”
“My parents are good people, and I can’t tell you how devastating it has been for my fam-ily, and my children to see their grandparents name dragged through the mud,” said Rice.
Michael Rice is the president of Utz Quality Foods of Hanover, Pa and a sign Rothman held read “Boycott Utz Potato Chips.”
Michael and Jane Rice applied for the proper permit to construct with the borough Zoning Board in 1998. In January of 1999, the request was denied by the Zoning Board pending a decision by the DEP.
The Rice’s then filed an application with the DEP to construct a new single family home and the borough Environmental Commission submitted comments to the DEP requesting the application be denied, which the DEP did on June 10, 1999.
The Rice’s appealed and the DEP settled April 16, 2001 permitting for the construction of a five-level, forty-room residence with pool and cabana.
“They may be good people, but they are certainly misguided,” Scattergood said after Rice had left.
“This is the last maritime forest and we have to protect it,” she said.
The dunes stretch from 43rd to 59th Streets, offering hurricane protection and serving as home to hundreds of species of birds and animals. At least four threatened and endangered species of birds live in the dunes.
Contact Gillin-Schwartz at (609) 886-8600 Ext 24 or at:

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