CAPE MAY - At the last regular meeting of 2020, Cape May City Council, on a split vote, with the support of then-Mayor Clarence Lear, approved final steps to move 10.5 acres of city property to the Recreation and Open Space Inventory (ROSI).
The move was controversial since the property is adjacent to the Sewell Tract, where ongoing litigation is in settlement discussions.
Council member and new Mayor Zack Mullock opposed the move, saying it could potentially introduce complications into the settlement discussions, arguing that the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), a party to the litigation, asked the city to “hold off” on the action.
Mullock argued that the city’s taxpayers have a right to compensation from the state when 10 acres of valuable property are moved to the ROSI list. Mullock said both sides to the dispute on the council wanted the same outcome - no development of the Sewell Tract.
Mullock Jan. 5 moved to rescind the actions of the previous mayor and council and had the votes to do it, 4 to 1. To accomplish the action, Mullock had the resolution added to the agenda during the public meeting, meaning there was no notice to the public that the action would be taken.
Councilmen Shaine Meier and Christopher Bezaire were concerned the action was not consistent with Mullock’s campaign promises about increasing transparency in government.
Mullock argued that the emergency nature of the action was due to the urgent need to notify state officials that the city “changed its mind” with respect to adding the property to the ROSI list.
In the end, Bezaire was one of the four votes for the move to rescind the previous action, while Meier voted against it.