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Monday, July 15, 2024

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Avalon Votes Funds to Concluded Marina Settlement

By Vince Conti

AVALON – At an Avalon Council meeting May 15, the borough’s governing body introduced a bond ordinance for $240,000 as part of a $300,000 expense for reconfiguring the electric infrastructure in the Marina district.  The long-delayed electrical project is among the last pieces of a 2017 settlement agreement that permitted Marina owner Travis Marshall to move ahead with plans for the development of a residential complex on the property.
Marshall bought the property in 2012 with a clear and unrestricted deed. The previous owner had secured a partial vacation of 20th Street in order to facilitate plans for a residential development. The borough’s action in vacating the street followed agreement by the then owner of the Marina to include specific public amenities as part of the development effort.
Following Super Storm Sandy, Marshall made necessary alterations to the original development plan and in 2015 went before the Planning Board for approval. His plans were not approved because they did not contain the public amenities that the borough said were part of the deal to vacate the street.
The borough sued in February 2016 but suffered setbacks at both the trial and Appellate level. A petition to have the case heard by the state Supreme Court was denied.
The courts ruled that Marshal was shielded from the obligation to construct the amenities given that he was unaware of them when he purchased the property. The ruling noted that the power to place restrictions on the deed rested with the borough which had not done so.
Meanwhile Marshall countered with a suit against the Planning Board. Settlement talks and formal mediation ensued.
On Nov. 1, 2017, Marshall’s plans were approved by the Planning Board. He was free to pursue the development. In a press release the borough said the settlement was important to the Marina District and “would pay dividends for years to come.”
The settlement agreement gave all sides something to point to.
Marshall was free to move ahead with his project. The complex would include 20 boat slips available for public rental, a renovated gazebo that would mimic the borough’s well-known gazebo on Dune Drive, and a public-access boardwalk from the gazebo to the waterway. All were elements of what the borough wanted.
The borough agreed to reconfigure the electrical infrastructure in the area and move it underground, allowing the wooden utility poles to be removed and improving line of sight views of the water. The borough also agreed to replace 40 feet of bulkhead along with a 10-foot “wing-wall.” The work would all be at borough expense. The borough also agreed to pay the costs of the mediation.
The changes to the infrastructure and the improvement of the bulkhead increase resiliency in the area which was pointed to by both sides.
According to James Waldron at the May 13 Council meeting, the delay in completing the work had been largely due to the fact that Atlantic City Electric’s original contractor for the work had gone bankrupt, forcing the utility to submit new cost estimates for the work that were “substantially higher” than what the borough had expected. This necessitated the new, amended and supplementing bond ordinance.
More than once in the council discussion Waldron and Council President Nancy Hudanich referred to the fact that “time was of the essence.”
Waldron said the project would only require 5 to 7 work days.  He did indicate that the work may stretch beyond Memorial Day because of the difficulties involved in getting coordination among Atlantic City Electric, Comcast and Verizon, all of whom have wires that are part of the to-be-reconfigured infrastructure.
The bond ordinance will be scheduled for a subsequent council meeting, likely the first meeting in June, when a public hearing will be held prior to a vote on adoption of the ordinance.
To contact Vince Conti, email vconti@cmcherald.com.

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