A handful of select Brigantine homeowners will soon be allowed to cut and modify portions of the dune system. Is this for the good of all Brigantine homeowners? Or is this controversial dune manipulation, purely a way for political insiders to enhance their beachfront properties?
Simpson & Guenther OK Brigantine Homeowners Carving Back Dune System
The facts: Brigantine City Council, lead by Mayor Phil Guenther, Councilman Andy Simpson and Vince Sera, want a handful of homeowners to trim and modify the dune system adjacent to their beachfront properties. Councilman Rick DeLucry was the only elected official to vote against, what he calls, one of the ‘most asinine ordinances’ ever considered.
NJ DEP prohibits environmentally harmful, dune activity. Especially by Brigantine homeowners.
This is not the first time Brigantine leadership has modified or destroyed, environmentally sensitive areas on the island.
From the book: Greenhead Politics:
Coquille Beach is a two hundred-unit beachfront condo development in Councilman Frugoli’s fiefdom of the fourth ward of Brigantine. Directly behind the development, at the foot of the dunes, lay a walking path no wider than six to eight feet. Somewhat overgrown with weeds and vegetation, the path sat on the edge of the sand dunes, just steps from the back doors of the Coquille Beach residents.
Taking matters into his own hands…..
Brigantine Councilman Jim Frugoli‘s solution was to immediately propose that the city pay to fill in, widen and raise the elevation of this path, essentially creating a road behind the condominiums, running parallel to the beach. Despite the fact that nobody knew whether the path was city-owned or privately owned by the condominium development, Frugoli wanted to perform the task at city expense. Since the path is not shown on the city’s beach access plan, it would seem clear that the path was not the responsibility of the city.
Councilman Frugoli was nosing around the Dept of Public Works (DPW) yard one day and happened to notice a large pile of dirt that had been removed from the site of a sewer line break. The dirt was not what is termed “clean fill” since it contained fragments of broken sewer pipe, asphalt and other contaminants. It was being stored in the DPW yard for use in the event of a hurricane. Seizing his opportunity, Frugoli demanded that John utilize this dirt to build the road on the beach. Costello informed the councilman that such materials were hardly appropriate for use in the beach area.
Up to this point, the request was not all that outrageous. It was inappropriate and selfish, but that was nothing out of the ordinary for Frugoli. The far worse offense was that he had technically broken the law in directing John to do the job, but again, this was all familiar territory. A more serious problem arose when Costello met with City Engineer Matthew Doran and advised him of Frugoli’s request. Doran informed Costello that the area containing the path was considered wetlands, and therefore protected from any type of work being performed. When asked if the path behind Coquille Beach could be widened, Doran told John, “…absolutely not. That’s wetlands area, don’t go in there. If you go in there, you’re on your own.”
The importance of the sand dunes cannot be overstated, especially to a barrier island like Brigantine, which is the reason for the strict protection afforded these locations by state and federal authorities.
Not only do the dunes serve to protect the beach from massive erosion that can result from storms but they also provide a habitat for protected species of plants and birds. When John informed the City Engineer’s office of Frugoli’s request to use the contaminated dirt, Doran advised Costello that he would not authorize the placement of recycled asphalt facing and dirty fill on the beach or wetlands, and that to do so would be in violation of EPA statutes. He further stated that even clean fill could not be placed on the beach without Doran’s recommendation, which would not be forthcoming without a permit from the Department of Environmental Protection.
Even if Brigantine were to receive a permit from the DEP, Doran stressed that the dirt Frugoli wanted to use was absolutely out of the question for that area.
Frugoli became incensed that Costello did not simply obey his orders and had instead consulted Doran. He remained adamant that not only would the project go ahead, but also that the contaminated dirt from the broken sewer line would indeed be used. Frugoli visited John’s office two or three more times to argue his ease further, to no avail. Costello advised Frugoli that he had a license to protect, and could not defy the City Engineer’s recommendation. Each time he was refused Frugoli’s displays of temper and frustration grew more extravagant.
According to Brigantine engineer Matt Doran, he met with Frugoli regarding this project and told the Councilman clearly that a letter of authorization from the DEP would be necessary before any work could be done in the area of the path. Frugoli, not surprisingly, denies any memory of such a conversation.
Frugoli’s response was to continue to attempt to cajole Costello into committing this crime, reasoning, “Nobody will know.” John continued to stand firm in his refusals, all the while appealing to the City Manager for assistance in dealing with the determined councilman. When Frugoli’s demands subsided, John figured he had finally been granted some relief. Unfortunately, this assumption proved to be incorrect, as Frugoli was simply biding his time. More than a month later, John happened to notice a few city trucks in the DPW yard being loaded with dirt. Reasonably sure that he had not assigned any earth moving tasks that day, John consulted Ernie Purdy and was informed that Frugoli had issued orders to have the dirt taken from the DPW yard and dumped on the path at Coquille Beach. Incensed, Costello ordered Purdy to dump the dirt back in the yard and return the trucks to the garage.
CITY OF BRIGANTINE. ORDINANCE NO. 23 OF 2018
AN ORDINANCE AMENDING THE CITY CODE AT CHAPTER 101 REGARDING BEACH AND DUNE PROTECTION
BE IT ORDAINED by the City Council of the City of Brigantine. Section 1. Chapter 101, Beach and Dune Protection, is hereby amended as follows:
§ 101-8. Issuance of Permits; Regulations; Fees.
A. All permits shall be issued by the City Council of the City of Brigantine, in the form of a resolution, for temporary activities on City-owned properties, or in the form of an ordinance granting an easement over City-owned properties, for permanent activities on City-owned properties, or in the form of an ordinance granting an easement over City- owned properties, for permanent activities. Permits shall be issued by resolution, on privately owned properties, within the area delineated by the Dune and Shoreline Management Plan only for those activities permitted by this chapter.
Section 2. Chapter 101, Beach and Dune Protection is hereby amended to include the following provisions:
§ 101-13. There is hereby established in the City of Brigantine a Dune Vegetation Maintenance Permit (DVMP), which certain property owners who qualify pursuant to this Ordinance, may seek application for and receive from the City. Such permits will be issued by the Office of the City Engineer of the City of Brigantine.
§ 101-14. Property owners eligible to apply.
A. A private property owner may apply for a Dune Vegetation Maintenance Permit if such property owner owns property that is consistent with one of the following categories:
1. The Property owner owns property that is contiguous to the dunes;
2. The Property owner is an owner of property, which property is contiguous to City- owned facilities and which facilities are contiguous to the City-owned dunes.
3. The Property owner owns property that is on a public right-of-way, which public right-of-way is contiguous to dunes directly across the right-of-way from the private property;
4. A property owner who owns property directly across the public right-of-way contiguous to City-owned parking lot, which is then contiguous to the City-owned dunes.
B. Such property owners shall make application to the City for the Dune Vegetation Maintenance Permit through the Office of the City Engineer on a form provided by the City Engineer, or his or her designee.
§ 101-15. Area subject to permit.
A. Work Area. The Work Area for maintenance of dunes is restricted to an area within two (2) parallel lines, perpendicular to the shoreline, extended from the property comers to the lesser distance from the access road or crest of the primary dune.
B. The Nature of Work. The types of work and maintenance that may be conducted pursuant to the permit are described on the application form to be provided to the property owner by the City Engineer, or his or her designee. Conditions and restrictions have been approved by Resolution by the City Council and may, from time to time, be amended by City Council to Resolution.
C. Time for Vegetative Maintenance. Maintenance work that is being performed pursuant to the Dune Vegetation Maintenance Permit must be performed and completed between October 1 and April 30. No work is to be performed later than April 30.
§ 101-16. Application review and approval.
A. All applications shall be reviewed by the City Engineer, or his or her designee, who shall review such application and make an appropriate representation to City Council which shall have final approval authority.
B. The City Engineer’s office shall be notified forty-eight (48) hours prior to the start of proposed work. Work cannot begin onsite until there has been an onsite meeting between the City Engineer, or his or her designee, and the contractor employed by the owner.
Upon conclusion of the work, the office of the City Engineer will be advised and the City’ Engineer’s office will perform a final inspection and close out.
§ 101-17. Fees.
A. At the time of the filing of the application for Dune Vegetation Maintenance Permit, the property owner shall pay a fee to the City in the amount of $300.00. Specific additional fees may be imposed by the City for certain tasks and maintenance functions, which additional fees shall be identified and provided for in the application.
Section 3. Repealer, Severability, and Effective Date.Repealer. Any and all Ordinances or parts of Ordinances inconsistent with the terms of this Ordinance are hereby repealed to the extent of any such inconsistencies.
Severability. In the event that any clause, section, paragraph or sentence of this Ordinance is deemed to be invalid or unenforceable for any reason, then the City Council hereby declares it’s intent that the balance of the Ordinance not affected by said invalidity shall remain in full force and effect to the extent that it allows the City to meet the goals of the ordinance.
Effective Date. This Ordinance shall take effect upon proper passage and approval in accordance with the law.