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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

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The Wrap: New Coastal Zone Regs, Trump Visit, OPRA Changes

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By Herald Staff

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May 6-12

New Coastal Zone Regs

Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn LaTourette held a media briefing last week to share the new coastal zone rule that the DEP has already filed with the Office of Administrative Law. The new regulations should be in the New Jersey Register by July.

Environmental groups have pushed the state to move faster with climate-informed regulations.

LaTourette said the state has two “channels” of climate policy. The first focuses on reducing pollutants as a way of mitigating changes in the climate. This is best known as decarbonization and encompasses the state’s drive for clean energy in transportation and housing, as well as the use of renewables for electricity generation.

The second policy channel identified by LaTourette, which was the one that was the basis of the media briefing, is adaptation to the already unavoidable impacts of climate change. Here LaTourette spoke of guardrails to protect the state against sea level rise and rapidly intensifying precipitation, among other threats. This is the area of NJ Protection Against Climate Threats (NJPACT) that is defined as Resilient Environments and Landscape (REAL).

Here LaTourette spoke of expansion of flood hazard zones, added elevations for new construction and changes to regulations for stormwater management, waterfront construction, CAFRA permitting and wetlands management. He said one intent was to improve DEP permit processes.

Promising that the DEP will not establish “no-build zones,” LaTourette’s focus was on “thoughtful public policy at all levels.”

Speaking of stakeholders in this process, LaTourette went beyond the normal focus on the development community, labor groups and even environmental NGOs. He brought in the insurance and investment communities, arguing that the new regulations will help bond ratings at the state, county and municipal levels.

He also made a plea for the establishment of stormwater utilities across the state. In Cape May County, the borough of Stone Harbor has budgeted in 2024 for a stormwater utility feasibility study.

Now the process of adopting the new regulations begins, with a DEP expectation that the rule will be in the register by July, followed by public hearings, and then full adoption by July 2025.

Trump Visit

On Saturday, May 11, former President Donald Trump held what might have been the largest rally yet for his 2024 campaign. The rally, held on the Wildwood beach, was estimated by city officials to have a crowd of 80,000 to 100,000 individuals. Trump spoke about an hour later than his five o’clock scheduled time for roughly 90 minutes. The crowd was enthusiastic.

Several video reports, including a full two-hour video record of the event by C-Span, provide a way for anyone who could not attend to see his speech.

Trump’s remarks touched on familiar topics, including his current legal troubles, which he said were a product of a rigged Department of Justice; the economy, where he promised a return to MAGAnomics, including an across-the-board tax cut, and the southern border, where he claimed the Biden administration has lost control over who enters the country.

The rally was a major political event that briefly moved New Jersey front and center on the presidential campaign, a spot the state seldom occupies. Trump went so far as to assert that his campaign will win the currently blue state.

Cape May County is a Republican stronghold in New Jersey, having voted for Republican candidates for president since the 2000 campaign.

OPRA

The effort to amend the state’s Open Public Records Act is back on the front burner and being fast-tracked in Trenton. After a failure to get a final vote on OPRA amendments in March due to strong public opposition, lawmakers have brought back the bill with additional amendments for a second try. Within a week the bill cleared committees in both the Senate and the Assembly. Expectations are that it will come up for a final vote this week.

The same strong public outrage does not seem to be dissuading the bill’s supporters this time. The likelihood is that the fight to stop the changes to the OPRA statute will shift to persuading Gov. Phil Murphy not to sign it.

The supporters of the bill say they are updating a statute that is 20 years old to protect individual privacy and to curtail the misuse of the law by commercial data brokers. Opposition groups say the reasons given for the changes are meant to hide the fact that the amendments would make it harder for citizens, journalists and government transparency groups to see what their elected officials are doing.

Opponents of the bill focus on the weakening of provisions that have forced agencies that wrongfully deny requests to pay attorney fees. They argue that the Legislature is doing the bidding of municipalities that want to curtail the information available to citizens.

The opponents say passage of the bill would not end their commitment to continue the fight for greater transparency in government. Terrance McDonald, a self-described watchdog and editor of the NJ Monitor, wrote that Murphy has a choice to make about whether to emulate lawmakers in Michigan, who are expanding their public records law, or those in Louisiana, who are busy shielding more public records from citizen view.

Happenings

Three individuals smashed the glass of the Queen May jewelry store on Washington Street, making off with high-end items including jewelry and designer bags. Police are investigating.

North Wildwood’s emergency beach fill project, directed by the governor’s office, will use sand from Hereford Inlet to replenish beaches between 2nd and 26th avenues, aiming for completion by July 4 with contributions from the state and city.

Environmental groups appealed a state decision allowing an offshore wind farm, citing concerns over seabed destruction and whale migration interference, following a lawsuit dismissal. Arguments may not be heard until early 2025.

A woman was hospitalized after her vehicle crashed into a tree on South Old Tuckahoe Road, prompting response from multiple emergency units. The cause of the accident is under investigation by the State Police.

Middle Township Committee adopted a $27.6 million budget for 2024, featuring a $0.029 tax rate increase and utilization of surplus funds to offset additional taxation amid new expenses. No public comments were made during the budget hearing.

The DeSatnick Foundation is providing Upper Township with a new beach wheelchair for 2024, aiming to enhance accessibility. Originating from a personal experience with spinal cord injury, the foundation extends support to individuals across several New Jersey counties.

Marcus H. Karavan II, a respected attorney and former county GOP chairman known for his political contributions and dedication to the local Greek community, passed away at 69 after battling cancer.

Four South Jersey men face charges related to child sexual exploitation following a multijurisdictional operation titled “Operation Blank Space,” utilizing advanced technology and undercover methods.

Lower Township Council introduced bond ordinances totaling $8.5 million for road, drainage, and capital improvements, including park upgrades, equipment acquisition, and administration needs, with a second reading scheduled for May 20.

A Cape May County dispatcher facilitated the successful delivery of a baby after receiving a call when a pregnant woman’s water broke, exemplifying dispatchers’ training and role as unsung heroes in emergencies.

At its May 7 meeting, the Stone Harbor Borough Council revised the 2024 municipal budget to comply with state requirements, removing funds for employee raises while maintaining a 1-cent increase in the local purpose tax, resulting in a $22.2 million budget.

Wildwood increased its Police Department’s sergeant count while eliminating an administrative captain’s role to bolster street presence. Despite a shortage of seasonal officers, the force now comprises 51 full-time officers.

Michelle Stanton, 29, of Villas, was arrested for manslaughter and child endangerment after her 6-month-old son’s death. The incident occurred on June 25, 2023, in Lower Township, leading to second-degree charges against her.

Stone Harbor Borough Council will investigate complaints of oversold parking permits, prompting a review by the Public Safety Committee amid resident concerns raised during a recent work session.

Cape May City Council approved a $39.9 million budget for 2024 with no tax increase, keeping the local purpose tax rate at $0.361. Utilizing a surplus of $5.9 million offsets taxation, allowing for a $2.6 million increase in general fund appropriations without affecting the tax rate.

Wildwood Crest Police K-9 Quest’s detection of narcotics during a traffic stop led to passenger Alexander Hudson’s arrest on drug and weapons charges, including possession of methamphetamine and unlawful possession of weapons.

Cape May County’s 911 central dispatch system, operational for six years, brings cost savings and enhanced public safety to six towns and county agencies, with contributions based on a charge-per-call formula. Expansion potential highlights successful local government collaboration and service improvement.

Spout Off of the Week

Lower Township – Re: The Lower Township comment that the Stop for Pedestrian signs are a road hazard. Not so. The real road hazards are the “nit wits” that have to drive 50 MPH + along Beach Drive, Rosehill Pkwy., Scott Ave. and other residential streets. That along with rolling thru stop signs and red lights. The township needs to wise up and put rumble strips along the above-mentioned roads, Me and others like me are fed up with self-centered speeders. Do something L T. This nonsense is getting old!

Read more spouts at spoutoff.capemaycountyherald.com. 

Spout Off

Court House – Hi, I'd like to make this comment about all the "free" College money Biden is going to throw at people and YOU are going to pay for it. I went to Drexel for Architectural Engineering,…

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Lower Township – 10 years ago when the FBI shut down the Silk Road they seized 144,336 bitcoins. Today that is worth over 10 billion dollars. Maybe they could sell them and use it to take care of our veterans or…

Read More

Cape May – What happened in Wildwood over the weekend is the result of the weak-minded liberal policies that have been established by Murphy. When will people wise up and realize that liberals and their mindset…

Read More

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