BERKELEY – South Seaside Park, a shore area on the barrier island, argued that the recreation budget in the town is focused more on the mainland than in their neighborhood at a recent planning board meeting.
The South Seaside Park Homeowners and Voters Association got its start in 2010 when residents there felt that they contributed too much taxes for not enough services.
In 2010, South Seaside Park made up 10 percent of the town’s ratables, but residents argued they paid much more than 10 percent of the town’s total taxes.
Most people think of Berkeley Township as Bayville, a residential town in the middle of the county on Route 9. But it also includes many senior communities under a Toms River zip code; Manitou Park, which is tucked away by South Toms River; part of Pelican Island, which is the first spot of land over the bridge to Seaside; and South Seaside Park, the appropriately named strip of the barrier island south of Seaside Park and north of Island Beach State Park.
The residents there are looking to get some relief by leaving Berkeley Township, and presumably joining Seaside Park. To do so, they have been making their case to the planning board for a number of meetings.
Gregory McGuckin, attorney for the planning board, explained that at the end of all of the testimony, the planning board would report to the town’s governing body with a recommendation. The governing body would then make a decision as to whether they would be allowed to leave.
Residents on the mainland have expressed concern about what would happen to their taxes if the South Seaside Park’s tax ratables were no longer part of the town’s budget.
For approximately two hours, officials questioned Tim Yurcisin, Berkeley’s superintendent of recreation.
He detailed the work his employees do in South Seaside Park, including the schedule of raking beaches, removing garbage, planting dune grass and installing snow fencing.
The White Sands beach was discussed, which is about three blocks in SSP. Yurcisin said the beach budget is about $100,000 annually. Sometimes, the town breaks even. Sometimes, it loses money. Sometimes, it makes money. However, in response to a question from the attorney, the town is not making a profit off of the beach and spending it inland.
Planning board member John Bacchione asked who would own or maintain the beaches if the residents left.
Yurcisin said if the beaches remained in Berkeley, then Berkeley would continue to run them.
McGuckin added that some towns do own land in other municipalities.
“Berkeley does not do a good job keeping the beach clean,” said Joseph Michelini, the SSP lawyer.
“I would say they’re wrong,” Yurcisin replied.
Pictures were provided of beach debris and Yurcisin was asked to comment on the pictures. He said that if his department is contacted about issues, they will respond. It was unknown how long the debris in question remained on the beach. Additionally, there were questions about how far into the water is Berkeley’s jurisdiction, and where does it become part of the state’s responsibility.
Michelini argued that there is no playground in South Seaside Park. The only park area they have is a basketball court that was built in memory of Sgt. John A. Lyons, a local man who was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2011. There was also criticism that the bay beaches on the mainland had more amenities.
Yurcisin said SSP is fairly built out, and there is no room for some of the amenities that are on the mainland.
Berkeley has a summer concert series. One of the concerts is in SSP and the rest are in Veterans Park, near the Central Regional schools.
“Veterans Park is our flagship park. It has a bandshell. It’s the only suitable place to accommodate” large crowds, Yurcisin said. “(SSP) has very little room and open space to have events.”
Parking would also be an issue, he said. Hosting events in SSP would be more of an inconvenience for that section of town than a convenience.
Yurcisin said that free busing to events is available for SSP residents, provided they are a Berkeley resident and not just vacationing there. Special arrangements can be made on a case-by-case basis, such as a child staying with a grandparent who is a Berkeley resident.
Michelini said that most of the year-round residents of SSP are seniors, and asked if there should be senior programs geared toward that neighborhood.
Yurcisin said that township senior programs are for all residents, and not for any specific area. He added that he has never had a request from a senior in SSP for transportation to an event on the mainland.
No final decision was made at the end of Yurcisin’s testimony. The Planning Board will continue to meet to hear testimony.