Advocates: State funds needed to save Takanassee
Voters urged to approve Garden State Preservation Trust
BY CHRISTINE VARNO
Environmentalists, activists and local officials gathered on the Long Branch oceanfront last week to advocate for state funding that would preserve the historic Takanassee Beach Club property.
To save the Elberon beach club property from being developed, the activists asked voters at the June 26 press conference to approve a preservation bond initiative on the November ballot to support public acquisition of the Ocean Avenue site.
“We are here to urge voters to vote yes in November,” said Long Branch Councilman Brian Unger at the press conference, which was held on the public sidewalk fronting the beach club property.
The $200 million Garden State Preservation Trust (GSPT) bond, if approved, would make state funding available which could be used to help acquire the beach club, which is assessed at $10.7 million, according to Unger.
“Takanassee is so important to the Shore and to the entire state in so many ways,” said Unger, who has spearheaded efforts to preserve the site.
“We have to move quickly with acquisition plans when the time is ripe,” Unger added.
Private developer Takanassee Developers is the contract purchaser of the site, and an application for a Coastal Area Facilities Review Act (CAFRA) permit is currently pending before the state Department of Environmental Protection.
DEP spokeswoman Karen Hershey said Monday that the agency had not yet ruled on the CAFRA permit and had requested additional information from the developer.
“We have requested a cultural resources report,” Hershey said, adding that the report is required due to historic structures located at the beach club property. which date to the late 1800s.
“We want to know how they plan to address those historic structures,” she said.
Also at the conference was Mayor Adam Schneider, who said, “One of the things that is sadly true is over the course of the last 20 years, the cost of land has skyrocketed.
“And the funding available [to preserve sites] has not,” he said. “The funding is absolutely essential to the future of the state.”
Other activists at the conference included representatives of the New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club, American Littoral Society, Surfrider Foundation, Elberon Voters and Property Owners Association, the Monmouth Conservation Foundation, a Monmouth County Freeholder candidate and historians.
Representatives for Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-6) and Assemblyman Sean T. Kean (R-11) were also present at the conference.
John Weber, the East Coast regional manager of the Surfrider Foundation, said at the conference that the Takanassee property is located on a stretch of the New Jersey coastline where there are only a few public beach access points.
“Access is not just a way to get on the beach,” Weber said. “It is restrooms, it is parking. This would be perfect for a great public park if we can get the money to purchase the property.”
The 5-acre Takanassee Beach Club property currently owned by Ginger Peters, her brother Scott Peters and their sister-in-law Kristen Peters, has been owned by the family since 1680.
After a court-ordered sale of the property, private developer Takanassee Developers is the contract purchaser of the site.
The developer has applied to the state’s coastal land-use agency for a CAFRA permit to build 21 luxury homes on the property.
A principal in Takanassee Developers is Isaac Chera of Elberon, who is being represented by Jerold Zaro, a partner in Long Branch City Attorney James Aaron’s law firm, Ansell Zaro Grimm & Aaron.
If the DEP denies permission for the private housing development, Chera can choose to drop the project, appeal the decision or re-design building plans, according to a press release from the New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club.
However, the release states, Chera has failed to deposit a required $1 million down payment and Scott Peters has filed a lawsuit to have Chera’s purchase contract invalidated.
According to Scott Peters, his sister, Ginger Peters, took her two family members to court almost three years ago to force the sale of the Takanassee property.
Ginger Peters, who has cerebral palsy and spinal stenosis, contends the sale is necessary because she needs funds for medical expenses.
According to Scott Peters, who opposes the sale, Superior Court Judge Alexander D. Lehrer ruled in favor of Ginger Peters and ordered the sale of the property. Peters noted that before being appointed to the bench, Lehrer was a partner in the Ansell law firm, which is representing the developer.
The press conference was hosted by The New Jersey Sierra Club and the environmental group’s director, Jeff Tittel, said that the forum was a chance for activists to press their case for public acquisition of the beach club.
“This bond act is critically needed to help keep the Green in Green Acres,” Tittel said. “Without it, we would run out of funding and important sites like Takanassee would be lost to development.”
In a prepared statement read at the conference, Pallone said, “Takanassee represents a perfect example of what Green Acres funding should be used for.
“By voting in favor of the November ballot initiative we will be sending a strong signal that the Takanassee Beach Club is exactly the type of area we should be using federal, state and local preservation funding to protect.
“And that New Jersey is serious about open space and historical preservation issues,” he added.
What is now the Takanassee Beach Club was a lifesaving station operated from 1876 to 1928 as one of the 42 lifesaving stations situated three-and-a-half miles apart along the New Jersey shoreline from Sandy Hook to Cape May.
The property still contains the three original buildings, which were constructed between 1878 and 1903.
Crews of the lifesaving station patrolled the Long Branch beaches until 1928 when the Coast Guard deactivated the station and the site became the Takanassee Beach Club.
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