Boro seeks planner to offer vision for municipal land

Suggestions askedfor streetscapein business district

The Sea Bright Borough Council has put out a request for proposals (RFP) from planners to draft a “strategic revitalization plan” for municipally owned property in town.

The council, which has been wrestling with what to do about the overcrowded municipal building, an inadequate police headquarters and a proposal to build a swim club on the beach, is looking for professional help in coming up with an overall design for how to address all the borough’s facility needs.

One of the elements the council is requesting in the proposals is options for improving the streetscape, particularly on the western side of Ocean Avenue, where the bulk of the stores are located.

“Theoretically, if Ocean Avenue could be ‘shifted’ several yards to the east, for a distance of about seven blocks downtown, it would allow sidewalks to be widened on the western side,” the request for proposals says. “Diagonal parking with islands may also be possible on the western side. Eastern side sidewalks also could be better defined.

“Obviously, these considerations would somewhat reduce the land available for other uses east of Ocean Avenue,” the RFP continues. “However, to ignore these very real needs when planning usage across the street would be imprudent.”

Last year the council stirred up a hornets nest of opposition from business owners and residents when it initiated a study for a redevelopment plan for the downtown district that took in private as well as municipal property. Under pressure from opponents, the council terminated that study at the conclusion of the first of five planned phases.

The resolution the council passed Sept. 21 authorizing the RFP — for municipal property only — specified the planning firms that were to be invited to submit proposals.

They are Schoor DePalma, Brown & Keener Urban Design, Hillier, A Nelessen Associates, Remington & Vernick, Phillips Preiss Shapiro, T&M Associates, Maser Consulting, which is the borough’s engineering firm, and Mary Tangolics, the borough zoning official who is a planner.

The borough has $50,000 from two Smart Growth grants from the state Department of Community Affairs to fund the planning.

The RFP, approved by the council, advises those considering submitting a plan that the area to be studied includes 7-8 acres bounded by the beach to the east and the western sidewalks of Ocean Avenue to the west, the Chapel Beach Club property on the north and East Center Street on the south.

It said this includes the borough hall, the court office trailer behind it, the public library/cultural arts center, police station, fire hall, EMS, beach management buildings, pubic works garage and a recycling drop-off yard.

The RFP also notes the borough rents space to house its road equipment.

“We need to know how much interior space and parking is required for the present and future, and whether any of our existing facilities are worthy of rehabilitation,” the RFP said. “We also need help in understanding which components can be consolidated under one or two roofs and whether we should consider using the existing municipal hall or a new facility.”

The RFP also states that “a good measure” of the area being considered for revitalization will always remain public parking for seasonal beach users. And it reminds those submitting proposals that any plan they develop will have to comply with state Department of Environmental Protection and CAFRA (Coastal Area Facilities Review Act) regulations as it pertains to public beach access. It specifically asks for a waterfront open space plan.

“The primary objective of the Downtown/Oceanfront Revitalization Plan is to provide for the revitalization of this area, including development of a framework for public and private investments that is consistent with its physical strengths and true market potential,” is the stated goal of the RFP.

It says the successful plan “will define a coordinated vision and strategy for the area and articulate the most appropriate scale and character of future public and private-sector development with sufficient details necessary for implementation.”

The council also asks the planners to break out engineering costs for evaluating municipal facilities. The deadline set for submitting proposals is Nov. 1.

Councilman Charles Galloway, who has been the point person on planning, said the council will bring those submitting “the most attractive” plans in for a meeting with the governing body before a planner is selected.

The council was in general agreement on the RFP and after some fine tuning of the wording, unanimously passed the resolution approving its distribution.

The members had a more difficult time when the discussion turned to the composition of the advisory committee for the plan.

Councilwoman Maria Fernandes said the council should let the planner tell the governing body how many people and who should be on the committee.

But Councilman William J. Keeler said he would be more comfortable with the council picking the members.

Fernandes said she thought they were looking at a committee that would be made up of the mayor, two members of the council, two members of the Planning Board, two business owners and two people each — a member and an alternate — from the north beach, the south beach and central part of town.

Galloway said he thought they all had agreed to submit names.

Councilman William Gelfound expressed concern that they may wind up with 25 or 30 names of enthusiastic volunteers who want to serve, but some may not have any experience or expertise to offer.

Gelfound said the council should do a background check or sorts on those who want to serve to find out why they want to be on the committee and what they would bring to it.

“We want really sharp people who can donate some kind of smarts,” he said.

Galloway said everyone will have a list of who they think can contribute. Borough Clerk Maryann M. Smeltzer urged the council members to get their suggested names to her by Sept. 30.

“It sounds like we’re closing the door — you can’t get into heaven,” Galloway remarked upon hearing the deadline, prompting a burst of laughter from his colleagues on the council and the audience.