CAPE MAY - For years, controversy has swirled around plans to redevelop the Jetty Motel, at the Cove in Cape May.
Built in the 1950s, the masonry building with a stucco finish does not contribute to Cape May’s Victorian ambiance.
Plans to demolish the structure and build a larger resort hotel have moved through various city boards and commissions for over 15 years.
In 2006, the Historic Preservation Commission approved a demolition permit for the structure, but inaction on the permit led to it expiring.
Cape May City Council attempted to resolve a dual zoning issue that year, but it was negated by opposition to the project and the city’s failure to follow the required notification of residents within 200 feet of the proposed project.
In 2010, the property owners, again, sought to gain approval for a redeveloped structure, evoking neighborhood opposition. Opposing groups spoke out at a Planning Board meeting calling the plans for a four-story structure with the addition of a single-family home on the same large lot overreach and a threat to the community at the Cove.
Parking is Now the Issue
The Sept. 14, 2021, meeting of the city’s Planning Board was set to hear a case for how the proposed motel project would handle parking. That agenda item was adjourned at the request of the applicant, Cape Jetty LLC. The reason given for the request was “push back” on the application.
The request will be on the agenda for the Planning Board’s Oct. 12 meeting, at 6:30 p.m., in City Hall’s auditorium.
A particular focus of the current application before the Planning Board is parking and how the proposed development intends to meet the city’s parking requirements for the larger 53-unit resort, with the 240-seat restaurant. The current structure has 34 units.
Following the city’s rules for parking, a report by the city’s engineer says that the new structure would require over 130 spaces, but development plans currently call for providing half that amount.
Cape May’s parking problem is already an issue of constant debate and dissatisfaction. Over the years, plans for a garage were defeated by those who felt it would damage the city’s historic charm.
Cape May is a city of under 3,000 permanent residents, with as many as 50,000 individuals in town in the peak summer months. The city’s Master Plan notes parking as one of the major challenges facing the town. That plan states that land-use decisions need to “ensure that parking is provided for any new development.” The plan documents the same parking issues with commercial structures, as well.
It is difficult to gain approval for a project with significant shortfalls in parking for tourists, restaurant patrons and staff.
As part of the opposition to the site’s redevelopment, a group of residents, under the name “Save Our Cove,” launched an online petition calling on residents to “stop the proposed Jetty Resort” in what the petition terms “an already congested area of town.”
The petition obtained 745 signatures, as of Sept. 27, with a goal of 1,000 in a little over a week. The petition is addressed to the Planning Board and Mayor Zack Mullock.
Some of the citizens supporting the petition called the proposed development “a blight on the landscape,” accusing the city of “selling out the principles” that drew residents to it. Now, as the city’s permanent population continues to shrink, they argue on social media that the future of the historic landmark resort could be “Sea Isle City” with its “overdevelopment.”
The passion of many of those who signed the petition is often placed in a context of a larger battle to “stop the overdevelopment” of the city in which officials are allowing the “building of bigger buildings to be built on smaller lots.”
This all comes as the city’s advisory committee on municipal taxation and revenue presented evidence of the increasing commercialization of residential structures across the resort. It also follows the U.S. Census Bureau finding that the city experienced the largest drop in permanent residents in towns of over 1,000 people in New Jersey - 23.3%.
These are not issues directly linked to the application before the Planning Board, but they are issues raised in online posts by individuals supporting the petition.
For some, the concerns specific to the Cove project are part of a larger argument that “Cape May is already getting too overgrown and over-commercialized.”
For one resident, the issue is straightforward: “There are enough hotels and motels in the business area, the influx of more people and cars in the area of the Cove would destroy the integrity of the community there.”
Another petition supporter states it in simpler terms: “Bad idea all around.”
If this opposition turns out at the Planning Board’s October meeting, things could get lively.
To contact Vince Conti, email firstname.lastname@example.org.