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Monday, July 15, 2024

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Commissioner Urges End to Dispute Between Locals and Second Homeowners

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By Shay Roddy

To access the Herald’s local coronavirus/COVID-19 coverage, click here.
WILDWOOD CREST – An online war continues between local residents and second homeowners, as tensions are high while the coronavirus pandemic continues to kill thousands of Americans.
Wildwood Crest Commissioner David Thompson, in charge of public safety, took time out of the Board of Commissioners meeting, held via Facebook and YouTube streaming April 8, to say enough is enough with the back-and-forth comments online.
“This island cannot survive without second homeowners and tourists. We’re not talking just second homeowners. It’s tourists as well,” Thompson said, in an interview with the Herald.
“Let’s be fair, the majority of them were not coming down in March any other year. It was just because of the virus and escaping,” Thompson added. “They have time off, the kids are out of school and they’re running from the virus. I do not blame them. I totally understand, but you have to see both sides.”
It comes down to a matter of understanding the realities of Cape May County’s infrastructure, having empathy for the large number of senior citizens who are full-time residents and taking the perspective of someone scared and feel their safe place is being invaded and their resources are being strained, Thompson said.
“I grew up with that. My mother raised me before you do or say anything put yourself in their shoes,” he recalled.
The tension was born when county and municipal politicians, including Thompson, began imploring second homeowners to stay away from the Jersey shore due to concerns of them carrying the virus into the county and straining limited hospital resources.
Many second homeowners were insulted and questioned why they were being told not to access property they own and pay taxes on. Many took time to remind locals how much the economy at the shore depends on vacation homeowners, sometimes in not so friendly terms.
Lisa Paul, who commented on the Herald’s Facebook page, called the cries to keep second homeowners out “hysteria.”
“So we can’t come to our homes that we pay taxes on because we might infect you?” Paul commented.
Some locals felt the second homeowners were prioritizing their interests over the health and wellbeing of the local people, who share one small hospital in the county.
Mary Lloyd didn’t mince words when stating her feelings on the Herald’s Facebook:
“Please try to understand how we feel about you coming here right now. WE DO NOT WANT YOU HERE!” Lloyd wrote. “It’s hard enough to be here year-round and receive proper health care. Now we have to deal with a virus that no one has ever had to deal with. Then you want to run here bringing it with you.
“We do not have the resources to take care of the year-round residents let alone you. You have brought your infected self here and now want to be treated. No!”
Thompson hopes the online vitriol will not have a lasting effect on neighborly relations once the virus passes.
“Once second homeowners get down here and get into their units, things will calm down, and they’re going to go live as usual,” Thompson said. “Will they have some resentment? Yes, that’s the nature of people. Will they not be as happy? Possibly, but life will still go on.”
However, in the comment section, the battle rages, with some saying they’re calling off vacation plans or a Cape May County retirement because of the animosity they feel.
“Every local on here wants to fight with all the second homeowners and tell us to go away and act like were second-class citizen….I planned on retiring down there in a few years. Definitely changing my plans now,” Mike Murtaugh wrote, on the Herald’s Facebook page.
Several understand, and Thompson hopes more will join them. He said those who have called and given the commissioners a chance to explain the rationale behind the plea for second homeowners to stay away have quickly changed their tune.
“They won’t get to use the beach in June, possibly July, if we don’t stop this thing,” Thompson said.
Joanne Egan, who identified herself as a second homeowner in a Facebook comment, on the Herald’s page, asked for more people to follow her lead and stay home.
“I’m a homeowner and can’t wait to spend my time at my house in Wildwood, but human life is much more important….Please continue to stay home so we can beat this virus,” Egan wrote.
To contact Shay Roddy, email sroddy@cmcherald.com.

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