Commentary > Be careful on beach fee vote

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The people of Wildwood should take a closer look and do more research on the issue of beach tag fees before they go to the polls on the subject in March. It is not as simple an issue as voting “yes” or ‘no”. There are questions that have not been answered yet and they deserve an answer before such a big issue is decided.

The biggest question is what will North Wildwood and Wildwood Crest do if Wildwood goes the beach fee route? Will they follow suit or will they continue their free beach policy and, if so, will the tourists and locals avoid the pay for view territory and go instead to the freebies? Will that harm the box office, as they say in show business, and defeat Wildwood’s original purpose to raise funding to help its struggling budget?

I have heard no firm commitment from the mayors of North Wildwood and the Crest as to where they stand on the issue of beach tag fees. It is time for them to say whether they will or will not go the same route or whether they will ask the voters in their towns to decide. The matter is complicated in North Wildwood which will see a change of mayors next year, so what applies in 2013 may not be the same in 2014.

There are hints coming from government watchers, the present and the past, that North Wildwood and the Crest would have to copycat Wildwood if it approved the fees. But given the municipalities history of not always agreeing with each other in referenda involving education and merger, it is not an issue you should bet the house on or anything else for that matter.

One wonders too if Wildwood’s upcoming referendum is wrong in defining it as a binding decision. Does that mean the city will be required to go ahead even if North Wildwood and Wildwood Crest decide that the best things in life are free? Should it not be a non-binding referendum to avoid any possible negative developments that would not require commitments?

The beach tag issue tends to be a complicated one in the Wildwoods because of the island’s geography and the municipalities that share it. When Cape May imposed its fees, it was isolated from other municipalities and it did not have the spacious beaches to police. It gives cause to wonder too how much it would cost to patrol the Wildwood sands to check out the bikinis and more modest bathing attire to see if they have enough space on them to display beach tags.

These are all crucial questions that are entitled to answers before affirmative or negative votes are cast in March. It’s not as simple a referendum as it might be in Cape May. It seldom is in the Wildwoods. History has proven that.

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