The plan to put self-contained RVs on a prime oceanfront beach in Wildwood, N.J., just seems to get bogged down the further along the summer progresses.
The latest story posted by Shore News Today indicated that city commissioners admitted at the Aug. 22 meeting that issues with the RV park operator are causing the delay with opening the park.
“We have some concerns with the operator,” Mayor Ernie Troiano Jr. said. “We said at the beginning, if we weren’t 100 percent satisfied with certain things, we would not move forward.”
Troiano said these concerns were why the stakes marking parking spots for RV camping at Cresse Avenue were removed last week. However, he said these concerns didn’t mean the park was killed for 2012.
“We are in the process of relooking at the RV parks,” he said.
Sources with reliable information had indicated earlier this month that the organizers of Point Break Management Group LLC, the management company that had won the bid to oversee the RV park, were having internal issues.
The CEO of Point Break Management is the mayor’s cousin by marriage. CEO Jamie Peterson joins Chief Operating Officer Ian Cairn and Dante Guliano as principles in Point Break.
It was said that one of the organizers was trying to push the other two out of the company, but no one from Point Break or the city would confirm this.
Bob Grandinetti, Ocean Towers Condominium president and organizer of the protests against the RV park had challenged Troiano to give a definite answer about whether the park would be open this summer. Troiano did not.
Grandinetti also mentioned a letter to the city from Cape May County Health Officer Kevin Thomas, which said the health department needed to review the park and approve it before RVs could park there.
Troiano said he had just received the letter Aug. 23, however, in an interview last week Thomas said he had sent the city a letter requesting more information about the park almost two weeks prior, and had not heard a response.
Thomas said if the city operates the RV park without county approval, it would be a violation and the health department would shut it down.
“I need to see plans,” Thomas had said.
Troiano, however, said Thomas was confused about the nature of the RV park. He said Thomas had referred to the park as a “campground” that would require electricity and water hookups, which isn’t the case.
Troiano said he planned to discuss concerns with Thomas and seek the correct approvals.
“There’s a big difference between a campground and an RV park,” Troiano said at the meeting, and pointed a finger at Grandinetti and RV protestors for portraying the “wrong image” for what would be on the beach.
“These are big, motorized recreational vehicles,” Troiano said.
The RV park was planned to host about 80 RVs, which would have to be self-contained, because no electricity or water would be run to the site. They would enter at Cresse Avenue and park in marked spots that would run for up to $150 a day, despite not having hookups.
The protested beach RV park, originally set to have its grand opening this Saturday at Wildwood, N.J., will most likely be empty, Commissioner Pete Byron said.
Byron said there has not been a single confirmed reservation for the RV park, however, that doesn’t mean the idea has been squashed, Shore News Today reported.
“It isn’t the city’s intention to abandon the idea completely,” Byron said.
The RV park was a planned beach amenity to increase revenue in the city. According to Byron, if there are no reservations for the park this summer, it will not have a major impact on the city’s expected revenue.
“Most of the revenue from the beach was expected to start in 2013,” Byron said.
Meanwhile, with two weekends left in August, and indications from some sources that there will be no RVs on the beach at all this summer, no one from the city would say what would happen next with the RV park.
No one from the company hired to manage the park would talk at all this week.
The park was expected to hold about 80 RVs between Hand and Leaming avenues, and the RVs will enter at Cresse Avenue.
Jamie Peterson, CEO of Point Break Management Group LLC, the company managing the RV park, had said previously that spots at the park are $150 per night for large spaces and $120 for smaller ones. He added that the RVs had to be less than 18 years old to park on the beach and self-contained.
Neither Peterson nor chief operating officer Ian Cairns returned phone calls this week, despite several messages.
Peterson had said earlier that there were a handful of reservations made for the beach RV park in the weeks leading up to the grand opening. However, witnesses haven’t seen a single RV roll onto the city’s beaches.
The RV park opening was an aspect of a five-week beach festival set to kick off Saturday as well, which will include surf lessons, beach volleyball, cabana rentals, and other entertainment.
The park, however, has been hotly debated since the city introduced the idea.
Bob Grandinetti, board president of Ocean Towers Condominiums and one of the key organizers of demonstrations against the RV park, said he has not seen RVs parked on the beaches as of yet.
“Something is very fishy,” Grandinetti said, noting that he knew people who had tried to book RVs on the beach through a phone number given to them by the city, but never received a phone call back to confirm a reservation.
Grandinetti is one of almost 2,000 residents and vacationers who have petitioned the city to cancel the RV park. In a letter to the mayor and city council, these petitioners ask that the city seek other methods to raise money on the beach instead of the RV park.
“We believe that the RV beach parking will detract from the beauty and enjoyment of the Wildwood beaches,” one letter to the city reads. A copy of the petition was also sent to Gov. Chris Christie, Sens. Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg, as well as state Sens. Stephen Sweeny and Jeff Van Drew, Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection Bob Martin, and U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo.
In an interview, Grandinetti said that when, and if, RVs set up camp on the beach, they will be met with some demonstrators who are on call to protest their arrival. This small demonstration, Grandinetti said, will be coupled with signs currently hanging on the Ocean Towers condos that say “No RVs on our beach.”
“But then again, that’s if they show up,” Grandinetti said.
Jerry Yeatts, executive director of the Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA), defended those who camp in RVs.
“They respect individuals, they respect the community,” he said. “They aren’t going to intentionally cause damage or create distress on citizens.”
According to Yeatts, there are 85,000 FMCA member-families , or about 170,000 individuals. The association has a code of ethics, which Yeatts said members are expected to adhere to.
“Really, we’re going to leave an area in better shape than when we found it,” he said.
Yeatts also added that the nightly price for RV parking on the beach in Wildwood is much more expensive than the average price to park an RV overnight.
About 300 protesters, carrying signs and chanting in unison, walked the Wildwood, N.J., Boardwalk between Leaming and Hildreth avenues Saturday (July 28) to fight a city plan to allow recreational vehicles on the beach.
“No RVs on our beach, no RVs,” chanted protesters, many of whom own condominiums at the nearby Wildwood Ocean Towers, the Press of Atlantic City reported.
A banner plane even flew overhead protesting the RV plan. The placards protesters carried summed up some of their concerns.
“We want dunes, not RVs,” read one.
“RVs belong in a campground,” read another.
The city plans to allow RVs on the beach as a way to increase revenue. The city does not have beach tags, but Mayor Ernie Troiano is hoping to create some form of recurring revenue from the strand.
Robert Ferris, a member of the condominium association, said the city may realize $200,000 in revenue by allowing RVs but may lose as much in taxes as properties are devalued.
“Our building has 176 units, and we pay about $1 million in taxes. This will devalue our properties. They will lose in property tax whatever they gain in revenue,” Ferris said.
Most of the protesters, who also came from neighboring Wildwood Crest and North Wildwood, were not concerned with economics as much as safety, pollution, noise and other issues.
“Water comes up to the Boardwalk in a storm, and in a good storm comes under the Boardwalk,” said condo owner Bruce Balady. “What will they do, tow out the RVs?”
Another concern is using Cresse Avenue to access the beach. The protesters say this is a busy area and that it is not a safe plan.
“All it will take is one accident, and that will be the end of this,” said Karim Kaspar, the attorney for the protesters.
Several protesters were worried about their children and grandchildren going to the beach and having to pass the RVs.
“I don’t want my grandchildren walking through a trailer park,” said Willa Piplitz, who has lived across the street on Ocean Avenue since 1947.
Condo owner Andy Thomas worried about the types of people who would camp on the beach.
“It will be like an Eagles game with tailgaters getting drunk,” Thomas said.
Pollution is another concern. The park will not have electricity, so the protesters say generators will be running all night long, causing air and noise pollution. Some worry about sewage being dumped on the beach, as the RVs will have to use their own holding tanks while they are there.
“They will dump when nobody’s looking. They don’t want to take it back with them,” said Colette Pecsi, who lives six blocks away in Wildwood Crest.
There was also a bit of animosity about perks the RVs owners could avail themselves of on beaches that are officially closed to the public between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
“Residents can’t have a pet on the beach. We can’t grill on the beach. We can’t have alcohol. We can’t even go on the beach after 10 o’clock at night,” said Ocean Avenue resident Cindy Criss.
Some offered solutions. Pecsi said the city should institute a minimal beach tag fee to raise money from the beaches. Others just wanted the RVs moved to a different beach.
The area for the RVs has been staked out with 78 spots, but none is actually there yet. Ian Cairns, whose company Point Break Group Management LLC recently received a five-year beach concession contract, said RV rentals will begin this week at $150 a night for a 60-foot spot and $120 for a 30-foot spot.
“It’s a huge beach. There’s tons of room for everyone,” Cairns said.
The RVs, Cairns noted, are just one component of a beach festival that will run for five weekends beginning Aug. 18. He said they got a late start this year, but plans are for beach events between Memorial Day and Labor Day in 2013. The company’s plans include teaching surfing and paddle-boarding while offering volleyball, inflatable water slides, water cannons for children, BMX competitions, platforms for skateboarding, paintball, and other events. Cairns said he has founded surfing competitions in California.
“All of the issues they are protesting are the same issues we are concerned about. I’ve been a surfer for 45 years. I want to surf in a clean ocean,” Cairns said.
He said a crew will handle trash and there will be security at the RV location. All RVs will be required to pump out sewage before they arrive and, if they fill up, will be required to leave and pump out again. Cairns said RV generators are very quiet.
“They will be an asset to Wildwood and will bring revenue to businesses,” Cairns said.
Robert Grandinetti, president of the condominium association, said the protest “was outstanding. He said only about 100 of the 300 protesters were from Wildwood Ocean Towers. He said the group also collected signatures on a petition protesting the RVs.
“We’ll give it to (Mayor) Troiano, for what it’s worth. We’re not sure he’s listening to us,” Grandinetti said.