Business Improvement Group Asks Petro to Stop Lying About Downtown Redevelopment

Jonathan Petro

TOMS RIVER – The Board of Directors of Downtown Toms River, an independent not for profit organization designated to promote and implement the economic improvement of the Downtown Toms River business district, said that Jonathan Petro, the Democrat candidate for mayor, has been knowingly misleading the public for political purposes about the proposed revitalization plan of their district.

In a letter to the candidate dated October 18 which was copied to the Mayor and Council and subsequently released to the press, Robert C. Shea, the group’s chairman, said his letter was unanimously authorized by the Board of Directors and supported by Mayor Thomas Kelaher, a Republican, and Councilman Terrance Turnbach, a Democrat, who are members of the group.

Shea wrote that Petro and his campaign have inaccurately reported elements of the Redevelopment Plan in the news, on Facebook posts and in campaign literature.  Shea said that Petro’s representation of the proposal put forth by the Capodagli Property Company, the redevelopment firm engaged by the Township through competitive bidding, has been knowingly “false,” “misleading,” and “disingenuous.”

Petro, in his former capacity as Chairman of the Greater Toms River Chamber of Commerce, was present during a presentation by Capodagli in early September and never voiced any concerns or objections to the plan.  “I am at a loss why you now have chosen a political forum to espouse your concerns about the proposed development of Downton Toms River,” Shea wrote.

Shea issued three specific clarifications to correct Petro’s “inaccurate facts”:

  1. The proposed redevelopment DOES NOT include 10 story apartment buildings and WILL NOT obstruct the view of the river.

Capodagli is proposing a combination of retail, dining, parking and entertainment venues in the proposed residential buildings which will be approximately 4-6 stories.  The buildings will be no taller than recently approved structures and will blend in with the current Downtown motif.

2. The plan ALREADY INCLUDES the amenities that Petro is “calling for.”

The proposal includes restaurants, parking, and retail.  It also includes space for TR School’s Poseidon Laboratory, a kayak launch, an amphitheater and an outdoor rooftop lounge.  All of these amenities were shown in the plan presented to the Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Committee, including Petro, in a meeting that occurred on September 4.

3. Petro’s call to build the businesses before the residences is economically unsound.

Economic activity is fueled most by people who live in a community, followed by people who work in the community and then people who visit the community.  That is the formula espoused by the experts of the International Council of Shopping Centers and Jody Alessandrine, the former director of the BID. “Without sufficient demographics to meet their standards, high quality retailers are not even looking at Downtown TR,” Shea wrote.

Shea noted that previous plans to revitalize downtown have been derailed by politics as well as by bad luck like recessions and natural disasters, “But now, many believe – the planets have aligned – and we must work together to see this effort through.”   The business leader concluded his letter with a plea to stop misleading the public in an effort to get elected and to join the BID in supporting the project rather than issuing misleading criticisms.

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