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Saturday, June 15, 2024


Beach Theatre Demolition Issue Headed for Court


By Jack Fichter

CAPE MAY — A question of whether or not Frank Theatres has a certificate of appropriateness from the city’s Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) to demolish the Beach Theatre is headed to court.
Earlier in the week, City Solicitor Tony Monzo confirmed resident Jean Powick’s discovery that a certificate from HPC that would allow demolition of the Beach Theater expired last year.
Bruce Frank, president and CEO of Frank Theatres, told the Herald he would proceed with the demolition and will file the appropriate permits with the city.
“We have turned the matter over to counsel and we will take the necessary steps to ensure our rights are not trampled on by the city at this twelfth hour,” said Frank.
He said he would not begin demolition without a permit from the city and will ask a judge to make a determination.
Frank said the City of Cape May “made representations in writing, so we will ask that it be adjudicated and hold the city liable for the damages and costs and expenses of this matter.
“I think they are making a mistake to stop the inevitable,” he said.
“The theater won’t open again anyway even if they were correct,” Frank continued. “We’ll just leave it closed.”
If a court rules in Cape May’s favor, “It doesn’t get them anything,” he said.
“They win a battle and lose the war because now they have an old deteriorating structure that we’re not going to put any money in and we’re not going to open it and it would be a bad choice on the city’s part not to have something new and exciting and restoring the history of the front of the building,” said Frank.
He said he believed the goal of the city wants to have a theater in that location.
“They have zero chance now with our family,” said Frank.
The HPC issued a certificate of appropriateness July 23, 2007, which would allow demolition of the theater. The certificate expired one year later but appeared to have been extended when Gov. Jon Corzine created the Permit Extension Act (PEA) of 2008.
PEA extended approvals for construction or demolition that would have expired during the time period from Jan. 1, 2007 through July 1, 2010 to July 1, 2010.
Powick discovered PEA did not apply to the City of Cape May because it is classified by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) as an environmentally sensitive area, which is exempt from PEA.
“According to my calendar, it ran out in the beginning of November 2008,” she said.
As a result, Monzo said the city’s Construction Office would not issue a demolition permit if the Beach Theatre’s owner, Frank Theatres, requests one. He confirmed that all of Cape May City is in Planning Area 5, which is marked as an environmentally sensitive area.
Frank Theatres lacking HPC approval for demolition would need to reapply to the commission. Both the HPC and Planning Board have deemed the Beach Theatre as a key historic structure.

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