Donovan’s Reef paying stiff price for tiki hut

Bar has been fined by CAFRA for keeping building in coastal zone

By Sherry conohan
Staff Writer

By Sherry conohan
Staff Writer

SEA BRIGHT — The state Department of Environmental Protection has slapped a $20,000 fine on the owner of Donovan’s Reef for maintaining a tiki hut on the beach in violation of the Coastal Area Facility Review Act.

An administrative order signed by Peter T. Lynch, chief of the Bureau of Coastal and Land Use Compliance and Enforcement, holds that the tiki hut, which is used as a bar, constitutes an unauthorized development activity within the coastal zone. It threatened to fine the owner, LBP Corp., an additional $25,000 a day for each day the violation continues.

The order identifies Edward F. Bowler of Little Silver as the owner and operator of LBP Corp. Teresa Bowler, who manages Donovan’s Reef for her father, said they were responding to the DEP within the 10 days allowed to explain the tiki hut is now a temporary structure and should be permitted. She said it is removed from the beach in the winter.

"The problem was they initially said it was permanent," she said. "We took out the concrete pad, but they never came back to see it."

Councilman William Gelfound, the beach commissioner, said the borough would abide by whatever the DEP directs to be done.

"If it becomes a temporary structure and they take if off the sand for the winter, that’s OK with me," he said.

The Borough Council this past summer ordered three private individuals to remove tiki huts they had built on the beach because they were deemed illegal.

Bowler said the tiki hut was in Donovan’s Reef’s parking lot all last winter and was put on the beach three days before Memorial Day. She said it will be moved back to the parking lot for the upcoming winter as soon as arrangements can be made to get a crane in to lift it over the sea wall.

The tiki hut bar is closed for the season and has been for a while, she added.

Bowler said Dr. Robert Carducci and Bob Phillips were partners with her father in LBP, and Carducci, who is a lawyer, was contacting the DEP.

Bowler said they hoped Carducci could straighten matters out and win approval for the tiki hut to stay in use as a temporary structure.

"It’s like the lockers and cabanas at the beach clubs," she said.

The DEP order said LBP was found in violation as a result of compliance evaluations conducted on Aug. 20, 1999, and Sept. 10 of this year. It noted that the law requires any development within the coastal zone gain permit approval from the DEP. It said the unauthorized activity at Donovan’s Reef involved the construction of a 16-by-16 foot wood deck, a 19-by-19 foot hexagon shaped tiki bar surrounded by a 5-foot wide slate floor and a 12-by-15 foot pie-shaped wood deck, "all on and in front of the seawall on the beach," without the approval of the DEP.

The order said a site inspection by personnel from the Bureau of Coastal and Land Use Compliance and Enforcement was attempted on Aug. 26, 1999, but access was denied. The case manager left her business card and asked to have the owner contact her to arrange a meeting, it said. The order said the owner, Edward F. Bowler, called the bureau the next day and a meeting was set for Aug. 31, 1999. Bureau staff met with Bowler at the site on Aug. 31 and the tiki hut was found on the sand beach.

A notice of violation was issued on Sept. 3, 1999, the order noted.

According to the order, the LBP Corp. retained William McHeffey to prepare a permit application in an attempt to legalize the structure and on Oct. 27, 1999, the Land Use Regulation program rejected McHeffey’s application and indicated that additional information was required. The order said McHeffey resubmitted a revised permit application to the Land Use Regulation Program on Dec. 3, 1999, and on May 23, 2000, it was denied.

That denial was appealed and the appeal was assigned to a deputy attorney general for review. On Nov. 1, 2001, the order said, LBP Corp. told the administrative law judge it would like to attempt to resolve the matter through the DEP alternate dispute resolution process, according to the order. On Nov. 5, 2001, the deputy attorney general handling the case advised the administrative law judge that the state did not consider the matter appropriate for mediation or settlement.

In August of this year, the order said, it was determined that the land use appeal in this case is closed. The order said Paul H. Schneider, the attorney for LBP Corp., withdrew the appeal in letter dated March 14, 2002.

LBP Corp. was directed to comply within 10 calendar days of receipt of the order and submit a proposal for restoration of the site and a schedule for removal of all of the structures. A civil penalty of $20,000 was assessed.

LBP Corp. was advised by the DEP in the order, however, that it was entitled to request a hearing. If no request for a hearing is received within 20 calendar days of receipt of the order, it will become a final order on the 21st day and the penalty will be due and payable to the state treasurer.