Wildwood rescinds $1.6 million contract leasing building, section of beach

From the Press of AC


WILDWOOD — City Commission on Wednesday rescinded a $1.6 million contract that allowed for the lease of the city’s former monster truck building and acres of beach, and plans to purchase downtown land for possible use as a skating rink are expected to meet the same fate.

The contract was one of three ordinances a committee of city residents had sought to have placed on the ballot or rescinded since they were introduced this summer. Those ordinances — 933-12, 936-12 and 937-12 — allowed for the bonding of $1.32 million to buy a downtown property, the actual purchase of the 3400 Pacific Avenue property for a synthetic ice skating rink, and the leasing of the city’s Boardwalk property at 4101 Boardwalk and adjacent beach for 50 years, respectively.

Dara Baltuskonis, one of the residents who led the petition drive, said the group’s attorney, Samuel Lashman, had been in touch with the city and the remaining two ordinances for the purchase of the Pacific Avenue property and bonding are also expected to be rescinded.

Those measures met with controversy as residents said the concept of an ice skating rink in the shore town was a poor match.

“Obviously, I don’t agree with any of the projects,” Baltuskonis said. “We have the highest taxes in the county. Why are you spending more money?”

“In regards to the beach, it’s our public beach. It should not be a tool to support the budget,” she said. “The beach should be preserved.”

She said she was disappointed that the city pursued the projects in the first place.

“When we are in such a fiscal crisis with the city, you don’t spend foolishly,” she said. “I expect better management as a resident and a taxpayer.”

The lease agreement with Eastern Exchange LLC, a company with addresses in North Wildwood and Haddonfield, was originally approved Sept. 12, the same day the city approved its 2012 budget.

Under the agreement, the company said it planned to host two multiday music festivals per year for the next decade and pay Wildwood a licensing fee for the events plus share the revenue. It immediately met with opposition from residents who formed the petition committee.

City Clerk/Administrator Christopher Wood said the petitions were not valid because the documents apparently were missing their attachments.

The petitioners collected about 70 more signatures than the 117 needed, but Wood found that copies of the ordinance were not attached to the signature pages, despite the fact that each signature page referred to an ordinance being attached.

Superior Court Judge Raymond Batten was asked to rule on the validity of the petitions, but that hearing will no longer be needed as the city looks to rescind the remaining ordinances.


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