Courtesy of the Herald News – By Deborah McGuire
WILDWOOD — The city’s claim to fame as having free beaches may soon be coming to an end.
An agenda item on the Wed., Jan 11 Board of Commissioners’ meeting, calls for the discussion of a referendum ending free access to beaches and instituting beach tags.
Discussion of bringing beach tag fees to Wildwood is not new. During the July 13, 2011 Commissioners’ meeting, the idea of instituting beach fees was mentioned as one way of helping to pay for maintenance of the city’s miles of beaches.
“We welcome people from all over the world to enjoy the beach, boardwalk and entertainment at our vacation destination,” said Mayor Ernie Troiano in a July 23, 2011 press release. “ However, our first responsibility must be to our Wildwood residents and taxpayers, many of whom do not benefit from the huge influx of beachgoers in the summer.”
“Tourism is the lifeblood of our economy and Wildwood maintains a world-class beach and boardwalk, sponsors events, encourages business development and promotes family fun and relaxation,” added Commissioner Pete Byron in the same press release. “The burden on the Wildwood taxpayer has been tremendous and we recently inherited an extremely difficult financial situation. We have an obligation to the taxpayers to explore every possible revenue source.”
Not everyone in the city is happy about the possibility of beach fees.
“The beach fee is a user fee, a tax by any other name, which is regressive, inefficient and objectionable to many,” said the Greater Wildwoods Hotel Motel Association in a July press release. “It also conflicts with the law in several areas and this organization will oppose the fees on behalf of its members, visitors to the Wildwoods, and for the entire Wildwood economy and tourism business.”
“Wildwood will continue to open its arms to visitors,” said Commissioner of Public Safety Tony Leonetti in the July 23, 2011 release. “Our challenge is to provide first-class amenities and services without unfairly and disproportionately encumbering taxpayers. We know we are a resort community and we know we need to promote tourism for our economic vitality. It’s also equally important that our local residents are not taxed out of their homes.”
The Commissioners’ meeting will take place Wed., Jan. 11 at 6:30 p.m. in the second-floor Commissioners’ Meeting Room in City Hall.