$1.6 million contract withdrawn after petition drive

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WILDWOOD — The city rescinded a $1.6 million contract for the lease of a boardwalk building and portion of the beach on Nov. 28.

The withdrawal of the contract comes after a group of city residents, calling themselves Concerned Citizens for Wildwood, presented petitions challenging the lease of 4101 Boardwalk, which is commonly called the monster truck building. The petitioners also opposed two other ordinances, one issuing the $1.3 million purchase of 3400 Pacific Avenue and another ordinance allowing the purchase.

 

The petitioners, which include Dara Baltuskonis, Mike Mursh, Edward “Chip” Harshaw, Mary Ann Giblin, and Kathleen McCullough, filed a complaint in Cape May County Court after the petitions were deemed invalid.

Before the matter could go to a hearing, the commissioners voted to rescind the lease of the monster truck building. The group’s attorney, Samuel Lashman said the remaining two ordinances for the purchase of the Pacific Avenue property and bonding are also expected to be rescinded.

“The petitioners do consider this a victory,” Lashman said. “But they don’t want the city to change its mind and move forward with the projects at a later time. If that happens, they want to see the ordinances put to a vote.”

Lashman said that both sides are headed to court Dec. 14 to discuss the remaining legal issues, such as if the petitions were valid in the first place, how long does the city have to wait before they reintroduce the ordinances and what the group of petitioners has to do if they want to see the matter put to a referendum vote.

“Our question is what we have to do in the future if they move forward at a later time,” he said.

Lashman said he thinks the ordinances were published incorrectly from the beginning.

“The purpose of the ordinance wasn’t published,” he said. “Just the title.”

Lashman said the city is arguing that the title of the ordinance contained the purpose but Lashman said that there was no description of what the city was doing.

The lease agreement for the boardwalk properly, formerly home to a monster truck attraction, was with Eastern Exchange LLC. It included a 50-year lease of the monster truck building and square footage on the beach, which was to be used for festivals, events, and other entertainment. The company said it planned to host two multiday music festivals per year for the next decade.

Besides the $1.6 million upfront lease, Eastern Exchange will also pay the city an annual $5,000 licensing fee for the first five yeas, as well as $1 per ticket sale, $10 per camping site per festival weekend, and $25 per recreational vehicle that it parks on the beach.

The lease says that the RVs will be allowed to park in designated areas, but will not be allowed to camp there. In the five years following that, Eastern Exchange will then pay and annual $20,000 licensing fee, $3 per ticket sold, $20 per camping tent, and $50 per R.V.


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