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Thursday, May 30, 2024


New Mahalo Application to Crest Planning Board Postponed

after the applicant's continuance request was granted March 1.
The latest site plan for the proposed Mahalo Hotel in Wildwood Crest. The Wildwood Crest Planning Board is now scheduled to hear the application for variances and site plan approval April 5, after the applicant’s continuance request was granted March 1.

By Shay Roddy

WILDWOOD CREST – An application for a beachfront hotel, which seeks major variance relief, was continued to April, much to the disappointment of a standing-room-only crowd at a March 1 hearing in front of the Wildwood Crest Planning Board. 

The Mahalo Hotel, a controversial renovation that’s adding an addition on the old Ocean Holiday Motel, proposed by ICONA Resorts Chairman Eustace Mita, previously came before the board in 2020 and was granted the requested relief, including 18 variances, at a meeting that had only one comment from the public. 

However, Mita had to amend the application to obtain a Coastal Area Facility Review Act (CAFRA) permit, with the change requiring it to come back in front of the Wildwood Crest board as a new application. 

In the meantime, the Ocean Holiday has been an eyesore, with work on the property frozen and construction fences surrounding it. 

A CAFRA permit for the 66-room project was issued by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in May 2022. Consistent with that site plan, the applicant will now request less relief than he was previously granted, with setbacks off Rosemary Road improving from the prior ask of zero feet to 11-feet.

This time, however, there is expected to be more opposition

After a smaller application before the Mahalo’s application on the March 1 agenda, involving a shed, took much longer than expected, Frank Corrado, an attorney for Mahalo Hotels LLC, asked the board to grant his motion to continue the hearing for the Mahalo until next month. 

Mita left as soon as the motion for a continuance was granted and before his attorney. 

A lawyer for the Pawlowski family, who own the Compass Motel, directly across Ocean Avenue from the proposed site, did not object to that request. The Pawlowskis sued Mahalo and the Wildwood Crest Planning Board after their 2020 approval. 

“There is represented opposition. Both sides have a number of expert witnesses. We believe the application should be heard all at once, in one session. So, I’m going to ask the board to continue the application for one month, so it will be first on the agenda,” Corrado said during the hearing. 

A few members of the public in the gallery voiced their frustrations, with board solicitor Robert Belasco having to step in and ask them to speak outside the building amongst themselves about the application, unless they wanted to stay for the rest of the meeting. 

“I know there are a lot of members of the public here tonight. I’m sorry about that. But they’d have to come back next time anyway because we’re just not going to finish,” Corrado told the board. 

The board has a 9:30 p.m. cutoff time, and the Mahalo presentation would have begun a little before 6:30 p.m. 

“My presentation, depending on how active the board was, could have easily taken 2 1/2 to three hours,” Corrado said in an interview after the meeting, adding the length of the shed application was not anticipated coming in and they were fully prepared and expecting to present that night. 

“The application would not have been completely heard tonight, given the fact that there’s an objector. The application is more efficiently presented and more cogently presented in one session,” he added. 

In the hallway after the meeting, one second homeowner in Wildwood Crest said she drove more than two hours from Havertown, Pennsylvania, for the hearing and was very disappointed it would be delayed. 

Brothers George and Paul Pawlowski, who operate the Compass together, said in an interview afterward that they were undeterred and encouraged others not to be either. 

“This is how they pulled it off last time,” George Pawlowski Jr. said, a reference to the four continuances the applicant requested in 2019 and 2020, which thinned out the objecting crowd, before getting approval in a near-empty room. 

A focus of the Pawlowski’s objection to the application is the addition of a five story tower, which creates an “L” shape of hotel rooms, obstructing the so-called view corridor.  

View corridors are a result of the Crest’s planning effort to have hotels laid out in a style that places the pool in front of the rooms and the parking in front of the pool, creating wide open streets and views. 

The borough’s Master Plan states that to incentivize investment in the hotel/motel zone, they will allow addition up, but prefer no addition out, in an effort to maintain those view corridors. Mahalo’s plan does not add height but does obstruct the view corridor. 

“This could change the direction of the island in the next five to 10 years. Big development might get rolling off of this application, and you might not recognize Wildwood Crest in 10 years. So, if you want to maintain the beauty of open avenues, the view corridors, not be overdeveloped, over congested, this is the time to speak up,” Paul Pawlowski said. 

The Wildwood Crest Planning Board will meet again April 5 at 5 p.m. 

Patrick Davenport, the chairman of the board, said he did not want to comment after the meeting. 

“I don’t think it’s necessary. We’ll wait until next month and see what happens,” said Davenport. 

Contact the author, Shay Roddy, at or 609-886-8600, ext. 142.  

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