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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

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The Wrap: Airport Lease, Opposition to Renewables, Book Ban Cases

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By Herald Staff

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June 10-16

Airport Lease Agreement Upended

Single Engine Plane Crashes at Cape May County Airport

On Thursday, June 6, at a special meeting of the Board of County Commissioners, Cape May County passed a resolution to prevent the automatic renewal of the Delaware River and Bay Authority Lease and Operating Agreement for the Cape May County Airport. The decision by the board came with one day to spare given the lease provision that its renewal for a new 30-year term would automatically occur unless either party delivered notice of intention to not renew at least 60 months prior to the end date of the initial term. The lease expiration date is June 7, 2029.

The arrangement between the DRBA and the county began in 1998 after several attempts at redevelopment of the deteriorating airport facility. The county owns 100% of the almost 1,000-acre property but turned over operating authority to the DRBA. The initial 30-year lease, at a cost of $1 per year, is in its 25th year.

County Commissioner Will Morey was the only dissenting vote when the resolution of non-renewal came up for a vote June 6. Morey has since issued a statement in which he was critical of the decision and the process used by the county to reach its decision, saying, “From early in the process, the county commission board did not engage in thoughtful, organized, and effective negotiations with DRBA.”

Commissioner Director Leonard Desiderio stated that it was important to the county to regain control over the property to ensure that the asset is used in a manner that serves the best interest of the county. So far the county has not been specific about the issues it feels are best addressed by county control of the site.

The decision not to renew the lease will come with a hefty price tag for the county; various estimates by Morey and county officials put the cost at between $24 million and $32 million for the county to acquire capital assets that are the result of DRBA investments.

While neither party has ruled out a new agreement for the operation of the airport, the county appears to want unfettered control of the 1,000-acre site.

Local Opposition to Renewables Grows

Columbia University’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law issued its 2024 report in June showing a growth in local and state opposition to renewable energy projects. The report found a significant increase in local restrictions since May 2023.

The Sabin Center has assessed local opposition and restrictions for renewable projects back to 1995. It finds in 2024, at the local level, almost 400 restrictions across 41 states that are severe enough to block projects. Severe restrictions at the state level are considerably fewer.

The report states, “The volume and nature of the restrictions and controversies cataloged in this report demonstrate that local opposition to renewable energy facilities is widespread and growing and that it represents a potentially significant impediment to achievement of climate goals.”

The report finds that New Jersey is one of the states where local opposition is increasing. The report singles out the 2021 amendment to the state’s offshore wind statutes that allows developers to appeal to the state when local governments block “reasonably necessary” approvals, as happened in Ocean City with regard to the bringing ashore of transmission cables for Ocean Wind I.

The Sabin Center lists numerous contested projects in the state, including controversies surrounding the offshore wind projects for Atlantic Shores and the New York Bright offshore wind area. Solar projects are also being contested in Freehold Township with NJ Solar 2000, Somerset County with Bedminster Solar Project, and the Six Flags Theme Park Solar Project in Ocean County.

The report also lists suits emanating from New Jersey against federal and state agencies challenging permits, environmental analysis and whether the agencies are complying with their own environmental protection rules.

The report comes as New Jersey is accelerating deadlines for the development of renewable capacity and as the Board of Public Utilities is moving to rewrite the state’s Energy Master Plan.

Book Ban Cases Multiply

Democrats in Trenton applauded as the Freedom to Read Act successfully cleared the Assembly Committee on Education on a 7 to 1 vote. The vote came with one abstention, by 1st District Assemblyman Erik Simonsen, a former Lower Township mayor and current athletic director at Lower Cape May Regional High School. The bill established requirements for library material in public school libraries and public libraries. It seeks to protect school library media specialists and librarians from harassment.

The Senate version of the bill still sits in the Senate Education Committee and has had no votes taken on it since it was introduced on Jan. 9.

Meanwhile, lawsuits against conservative state statutes that ban certain books or categories of books are making their way to the Supreme Court. On June 11 the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments against an Iowa law that regulates curriculum and prohibits instruction related to gender identity and sexual orientation in schools.

The Fifth Circuit issued a split decision that ordered eight books on racism and transgender issues back onto the library shelves in Llano, Texas. Adding to the litigation is a lawsuit by free speech advocates PEN America and joined by publisher Penguin Random House in the Northern District Court of Florida.

The issue is not new, but some studies show that the spread of book banning is unprecedented. Last year PEN America tracked 3,362 books banned in the 2022-2023 school year, a 33% increase over the year prior. In the 2023-2024 school year the pace has picked up significantly, with 4,349 books banned in the first half of the year.

Happenings

Former Stone Harbor Clerk Kimberley Stevenson filed a lawsuit alleging sexual harassment and retaliation after no response to her initial tort claim. She joins two other former employees, Robert Smith and Megan Brown, in suing the borough and Administrator Manny Parada over similar allegations.

Middle Township Board of Education plans a bond referendum for school upgrades, including pre-k expansions and athletic facilities, seeking community approval on Sept. 17.

Geoff Woolery urged the Stone Harbor Borough Council to preserve satellite commercial areas, highlighting the negative impact of converting Donna’s Place to residential use. An ordinance to amend zoning codes, favoring residential development, will be considered on July 2.

Barbara DelleMonache, founder of Curls Monthly, was named to Forbes 30 Under 30 for her successful curl product subscription service. The business, which launched during the pandemic, now boasts over 5,000 subscribers and $1.2 million in revenue.

The replacement of the 97th Street playground is delayed as the Stone Harbor Borough Council did not vote on funding at its June 4 meeting, possibly pushing completion to late summer or fall. The council awaits a county guarantee on matching funds before proceeding.

Amie Vaules, narrowly defeated by Jody Levchuk in Ocean City’s Third Ward council election, has requested a recount to ensure all votes are accurately counted. Levchuk acknowledged Vaules’ right to contest the results.

A legislative hearing addressed safety concerns at the Jersey Shore, focusing on juvenile lawlessness and community safety. Speakers advocated for tools to hold parents accountable and discussed the impact on tourism and local businesses.

Robert Williams is appointed as Stone Harbor’s new tax collector and deputy CFO, succeeding Deborah Candelore after her 26-year tenure. His appointment begins June 24, with a full term starting Jan. 1, 2025.

Dorothy Deegan of Stone Harbor celebrated her 100th birthday, reminiscing about her diverse life experiences including wartime work and family joys, embodying resilience and humor.

A judge mandated mediation after Stone Harbor’s Zoning Board rejected a settlement in Kara and Kyle Sweet’s lawsuit over denied home expansion plans, highlighting ongoing zoning and preservation disputes in the community.

Cape May County Clerk Rita Rothberg oversees the dignified burial of indigent individuals, a responsibility handled with care by her office, which arranges fewer than 10 burials annually for those without next of kin or assets, ensuring a respectful farewell.

Avalon Borough Council accepted $4,690 from developers and homeowners of new Sunset Drive homes in Stone Harbor, settling public access requirements under CAFRA rules by funding improvements at Bay Park Marina, approved by the DEP.

Cape May unveiled its new 16,000-square-foot library at the Franklin Street School with a spirited “book brigade” transferring books from the old location. The $11 million project, supported by civic groups and state funds, marks a decade-long effort to transform the school into a community hub.

Robert “Budd” Springer, a veteran with chronic kidney failure, met his life-saving kidney donor, Jill Pinkelman, whom he calls his “angel,” emphasizing the transformative impact of living organ donation.

At 73, Robert Blom continues to serve as a Special Law Enforcement Officer in North Wildwood, handling traffic enforcement and festival setups. Recognized for his dedication, Blom started his police career at age 50 and enjoys his work daily.

Spout Off of the Week

Wildwood – Just walked the entire Boardwalk and didn’t see a single backpack sign. Didn’t see a dog or bike signs either. Plenty of no smoking signs but they are two foot above the boardwalk for a 5 year old to read. Can’t expect anyone to follow local laws that are not posted.

Read more spouts at spoutoff.capemaycountyherald.com. 

Spout Off

Wildwood – Let's send medic max off in style with a big dutch hoffman race win !!

Read More

Green Creek – Trump wants unity & a softer message. Doesn’t call immigrants and us Dems “vermin.”Now calls us “subhuman.”

Read More

North Cape May – Re: The Avalon comment defending Harris and stating that she will give Trump a run for the money in a debate. Hmm. How is that southern border working out for you? Yes, that's what I thought….

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