Open Space Purchased In Berkeley, Manchester, And Ocean Gate

On some lots in Good Luck, not much has changed since Superstorm Sandy. (Photo by Patricia Miller)
On some lots in Good Luck, not much has changed since Superstorm Sandy. (Photo by Patricia Miller)

BERKELEY – It’s been more than six years since Superstorm Sandy blasted the Good Luck Point section of Bayville, destroying many of the homes in one of the lowest sections of the township.

Most of the modest two- and three-bedroom ranch homes, many of which had been in families for years, are gone now. They have been replaced by much larger homes with multiple stories in the section east of Bayview Avenue.

But there are still a number of vacant lots in the area, which haven’t sold. Good Luck Point juts out into Barnegat Bay and frequently floods during storms.

And now the lots probably won’t be for sale. The Ocean County Natural Lands Trust has received nineteen voluntary requests from homeowners in the area who want to sell their properties to the trust, said Mark Villinger, the trust’s supervising planner.

The sale of the properties must be approved by the township and by the Ocean County Board of Freeholders, he said.

“A lot of these owners are very happy to see some movement,” Villinger told the Berkeley Times.

The cost of the Good Luck Point acreage will be paid for with the help of $4.2 million in Federal Emergency Management Agency money and a Department of Environmental Protection grant of $923,805. The county’s Natural Trust Fund will also provide $416,994, roughly eight percent of the cost, Freeholder Director Virginia Haines said.

“We are working in partnership with FEMA, the state DEP and the Office of Emergency Management and Berkeley Township to acquire these properties which were impacted by Superstorm Sandy in October 2012, resulting in the homes being demolished,” Haines said. “When we began to see an increase in the number of requests we were receiving for potential acquisitions in the area of Good Luck Point it was clear that there was a need for a larger acquisition project.”

Ten offers have been accepted as of press time, totaling $2.4 million, she said.

“These properties expand on existing natural lands open space and provide additional public access to the waterfront,” said Freeholder Gary Quinn, who serves as liaison to the Ocean County Planning Department, which oversees the county’s Natural Lands Trust Fund.

“This was one of the areas of our county devastated by Superstorm Sandy,” Haines said. “By acquiring these properties we are hopeful it helps the property owners, who sustained a great loss. It also allows the township to receive additional points under the Community Rating System, which gives residents discounts on their flood insurance.”

Berkeley Council members voted unanimously at the Jan. 28 council meeting to approve the potential sale of the lots and marshland in the Good Luck Point area.

The county also wants to buy 4.7 acres on Chelsea Avenue in nearby Ocean Gate, at the mouth of Jeffries Creek that feeds into the Toms River. It features a beach, lagoon and bulkheading, which provides public access to the water. The land has some structures on it that have fallen into disrepair, which will be removed by the county, she said.

On some lots in Good Luck, not much has changed since Superstorm Sandy. (Photo by Patricia Miller)
On some lots in Good Luck, not much has changed since Superstorm Sandy. (Photo by Patricia Miller)

“This purchase will help us in our ongoing work to protect and preserve our waterways now and into the future.” Haines said.

Ocean Gate has already adopted a resolution approving the purchase.

The advisory committee has also recommended the purchase of 5.68 acres in the Roosevelt City section of Manchester, appraised at $40,000. The scattered lots are near 1,700 acres called the Structural Management tract, purchased for preservation back in 2014.

“This acquisition will allow for the vacation of unimproved paper streets and enable better security and management of the existing natural lands property,” Haines said. “We estimate this natural-lands property will grow by about 100 acres if the streets are vacated. “Buying these smaller lots that are near or adjacent to already preserved open space helps us with maintaining the property by creating one contiguous open space parcel.”

The Natural Lands Trust Fund program was established to acquire and maintain environmentally sensitive lands, natural areas or open spaces that would generally remain in their natural state and for farmland preservation, according to the program’s website.

The properties that are purchased will be used as passive recreation areas, Villinger said.

Ocean County residents approved the Natural Lands Trust Program back in 1997. The program, which was established in 1998, provides a 1.2 cent dedicated tax for the county to acquire land. The trust has nine members.

Jennifer Peacock contributed to this report.