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Sunday, May 19, 2024

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Diamond Beach Icona Land Purchase, Use Draws Opposition

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By Carl Price

DIAMOND BEACH – What started with a contested resolution to allow the Lower Township clerk and manager to sign documents related to the sale of property in Diamond Beach, at the Feb. 1 Lower Township Council meeting, continued to the Feb. 4 Lower Township Zoning Board meeting, where the new owners requested a use variance to use the property as a parking lot. 

The opposition to the sale and use of the lot by Icona, in Diamond Beach, began at the Feb. 1 council meeting, when Diamond Beach Citizens Action Group (DBCA) member James Sanford questioned the sale of the property, at 9000 Seaview Ave., to Eustace Mita, owner of Icona Resorts and Achristavest, a development company listed on the variance application. 

Council attorney David Stefankiewicz explained that the property was previously leased from the municipality by Icona and used for valet parking overflow.  

The lease included an option to buy for $400,000 and was advertised and available to any bidder. He stressed that the lease-purchase agreement was an open process and binding. 

Public comment during the council meeting was one-sided, with Diamond Beach residents objecting to the sale, citing safety issues due to a playground adjacent to the lot and the legality of the lot being used as a parking lot during the lease period.  

Stefankiewicz said the use was legal during the lease, and the owner would have to go before the zoning board to continue that use. 

The use variance for the property was first heard at the January zoning meeting, that was carried over to the Feb. 4 meeting due to lack of time to complete the public hearing.  

The variance includes several issues regarding an addition to the property and a request to “utilize the existing grass space parking facility, which contains 45 spaces for valet parking only.” 

The zoning meeting was held in-person and virtually. During public comment, it was less one-sided, including comments for and against the project, focusing on the parking lot.  

After a lengthy public comment session, the zoning board voted to approve the application. 

After the meeting, Sanford said Mita offered to meet with him one-on-one. 

“That may be a good idea. We can exchange ideas,” Sanford said. 

To contact Carl Price, email cprice@cmcherald.com. 

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