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Thursday, May 30, 2024


Mullock Says Council Opposes Special Zone for ICONA

A corner view of Mita's proposed hotel. The council publicly declared their opposition Sept. 6 to granting ICONA Resorts a special redevelopment zone designation to speed the process and bypass the city's planning

By Vince Conti

CAPE MAY – One week after ICONA Resorts CEO Eustace Mita made a public presentation of his plans for a seven-story grand hotel across from the city’s Convention Center, Cape May Mayor Zack Mullock used the Sept. 6 council meeting as a forum to state that the governing body is against Mita’s plans for a redevelopment zone designation to aid in the realization of his hotel.
“This council has said no to redevelopment,” Mullock said. “We have communicated that to Mita’s attorney, and I now say it publicly.” 
The communication to Mita’s attorney was in the form of a letter from City Solicitor Christopher Gillin-Schwartz dated Jan. 21. That letter made clear the council’s wish that ICONA “utilize the existing process to review any plans for development.”  The city’s letter was in response to a specific request from ICONA that the city begin a “preliminary investigation” to determine whether the site “may be considered a development area.”
Mita had his answer from the city’s governing body almost nine months before he made his pitch to the public on September 1.
At the public meeting, Mullock argued that the council’s lack of support for a redevelopment area is based on a sense of fair play. 
“We all want what’s fair,” Mullock said, referring to the fact that other developers in the city, along with all property owners, must go through the normal process of approval from the city’s planning and zoning boards and its Historical Preservation Commission. 
“These boards have served Cape May well over the years,” Mullock said. “They have helped make Cape May what it is today.”
In 2019, ICONA purchased the property that once housed the historic Beach Theater for $6.7 million. At his public presentation Sept. 1, Mita called his own property blighted and an eyesore. He presented a conceptual plan for a grand hotel complex in the style of an expansive luxury hotel from the early 20th century. He argued that the city badly needs such a five-star hotel but added that the project could only go forward with the flexibilities offered by a redevelopment zone designation. 
The presentation by Mita was timed just over two months before the November elections in which four of the five seats on the council are on the ballot. Whether the same council will make the final decision on a redevelopment zone may rest on the results of those elections.
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