Ice Rink ordinance to be voted again

Attention: open in a new window. PrintE-mail

 WILDWOOD- After the city unanimously approved purchasing a $1.3 million property for an ice rink on Pacific Avenue Aug. 22, the ordinance is set to be rescinded.

That doesn’t mean the deal is off, though.

City Administrator Chris Wood said ordinance 927-12, which was titled “An Ordinance authorizing the Acquisition of Land for Public Purpose in the City of Wildwood” will be rescinded once the commission approves ordinance 936-12 Sept. 12.

This new ordinance was drawn up to make “language changes,” Wood said. He explained that the former ordinance did not list the block and lot number of the property the city is set to purchase.

“We want to make sure it’s a clean ordinance,” Wood said.

Ordinance 936-12 was introduced at a commissioner’s meeting Aug. 28, when the city was also set to approve the city’s budget. A public hearing and possible adoption of the ordinance is set for Sept. 12 at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall at 4400 New Jersey Ave.

This ordinance authorizes the city to “acquire” property at 3400 Pacific Ave. for “public recreational use.” The property is currently an empty lot, and is owned by Pii Wildwood LLC. According to the tax assessor’s office, the property was last assessed at $1,350,000 for land only.

According to public records, the property was foreclosed on in November of 2008. At that time, it was owned by Royal Site Development LLC. It was then that Pii Wildwood acquired the property.

When city officials sent the ordinance to the Leader, they included a letter from Cape May County lawyer James Arsenault. In this letter, dated July 16, Arsenault writes that Cape May County Open Space will consider reimbursing the city for the purchase if certain conditions are met.

“The Open Space Review Board viewed your presentation favorably,” the letter states. “The board agreed that, subject to a formal application and a determination of certified land value for the parcel, the board would recommend the Board of Chosen Freeholders provide reimbursement toward the acquisition to the city.”

While the letter states that a formal application must be submitted, Byron said he had already done so when he made his presentation to the board June 26.

“It’s a done deal,” Byron said. “It isn’t costing us anything.”

Byron said that the reimbursement was the normal procedure for being awarded the funds, and that the city would most likely purchase the property in October. He said the city expected to see the reimbursement by the end of the year.

The conditions listed in the letter include that the rink advance the “Vision 2015” plan, including that the project would promote and advance the plan’s “downtown open space objectives.” It also says that “measurable progress toward achieving the Vision 2015 plan must be made in the short term.”

Other conditions from the open space board include implementing local zoning and planning changes to Pacific Avenue to “encourage and enhance residential development,” demonstration of how the project would make money for the property’s necessary improvements, and demonstrate that the project has regional support from Wildwood stakeholders, like the Greater Wildwoods Tourism Improvement and Development Authority.

The letter states that these conditions are “preliminary and by no means exhaustive.”

“At this juncture, the Open Space Review Board will await the filing of an application from the city of Wildwood and will take appropriate action upon the receipt of such an application,” the letter concludes.

At the Aug. 22 commissioners’ meeting, when the purchase was first approved, Byron said that Open Space would cover the cost of the land purchase.

“We got a confirmation from Open Space that they are going to fund the acquisition of this property,” he had said.

Barbara Ernst, the director of open space and farmland preservation for the county, could not be contacted for comment by presstime.

When the ordinance was open for public hearing Aug. 22, some residents spoke out against the project. Some of the comments resulted in shouting matches.

“I really don’t think it’s useful for us to have an ice rink, I mean how many children are going to use this?” asked Kathy McCullough, a Wildwood resident. She suggested that the property be used for some other purpose, like a movie theater or general store, instead of an ice rink.

She also suggested that because Byron is a Realtor, his involvement in purchasing the property could be a conflict of interest, and pointed out that the ice rink acquisition is a $3 million budget item, even though the property only cost $1.3 million.

Byron said that amount was incorrect, and denied that his involvement was a conflict of interest, because he was not acting as a Realtor in pursuing the project.

“What we’re doing is unbelievable, it’s the most dynamic idea that this town has seen,” Byron said, obviously frustrated. “This will bring year round jobs to Pacific Avenue. It will bring new life to Pacific Avenue.”

He painted a picture of the community and visitors ice skating in their bathing suits in the summer, because the rink will be made with synthetic ice that can be used year-round.

“This is unique and fantastic opportunity to bring life and confidence back to Pacific Avenue,” Byron said.

When McCullough asked for a copy of the ordinance, city clerk Chris Wood said there was nothing in writing on the ordinance. City Solicitor Marcus Karavan said the ordinance could be adopted without it being written, however it has to be “reduced to writing” for publication.

Mary Ann Giblin, another Wildwood resident, asked about a feasibility study that had been completed by Triad Associates about the ice rink. She suggested that two studies had been done by Triad, and the first had suggested that the ice rink was not sustainable in Wildwood.

Byron said that only one feasibility study had been completed, and it was presented to Cape May County’s Open Space Board.

“Why don’t you let private business purchase that land, and encourage them to come into this town, and let them take the risk?” said Giblin.

Both the Business Improvement District and Greater Wildwoods Tourism Improvement and Development Authority have written letters of support about the project, Byron said. He also referenced the city’s 2015 plan, which was a five year plan crafted by elected officials and business leaders in 2010 to transform the city with a convention center hotel, additional parking, and a revitalized downtown.

Byron claimed that in the 2015 plan, this location of the proposed ice rink was always conceptualized to be a park, which would bring foot traffic to Pacific Avenue. The ice rink, Byron said, was a unique concept for the proposed park that would revitalize Pacific Avenue, which he described as “dead.”

Mayor Ernie Troiano Jr. expressed his support for the rink, and stressed that the city would go about building it carefully and economically. He said sponsors and investors would be possibly sought to take over some of the cost from the city.

“The initial cost is zero to the tax payer,” Troiano said.  “We’re not going to go out tomorrow and build a rink.”

Christie Rotondo can be emailed at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or you can comment on this story at www.shorenewstoday.com.


blog comments powered by Disqus