New conditions for parking lot sale

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Ice rink lot now tied to Sept. 26 auction 

WILDWOOD—The center city parking lot the city plans to sell will have to remain parking, according to a public notice about the auction.

But, the city has also tacked on another condition.

The sale of the lot is now contingent upon the Cape May County Open Space board acquiring the empty lot at 3400 Pacific Ave., which was proposed to become a synthetic ice rink last summer.

Commissioner Pete Byron, who headed the ice rink project, said that the application is still under consideration by the county board. He said on Wednesday, Sept. 11 that the city tied the application’s progress to the lot sale because recreational space on Pacific Avenue would bring tourists to the area.

“What’s the sense in having a parking garage if there is no reason for people to come to Pacific Avenue?” he said after the Sept. 11 commissioners’ meeting. “So we’re trying to get that property to move the city forward, at no cost to the taxpayer.”

Commissioner Tony Leonetti said that the original resolution authorizing the sale of the parking lot was revised after a closed-door session on Aug. 28. He said that the issue

was a contractual matter, which would allow the matter to be discussed by commissioners without the public under the state’s open public meetings law. 

According to minutes of meetings of the Open Space board, acquiring the property was last discussed by that board on Jan. 22. The board looked upon the application favorably when it was presented last year, so long as certain conditions were met. In the Jan. 22 meeting minutes, it states that for the county to move forward with purchasing the lot, Wildwood would have to meet certain conditions as well. Those include evidence that improvements to the site would be made; advancement of the Wildwoods 2015 Plan; and modifications to the zoning ordinance to revitalize the business district.

Several sources have suggested that tying the lot purchase to the application may be an attempt to push the Open Space board to move the city’s application along.

Barbara Ernst, director of the Open Space board, and Freeholder Will Morey, who sits on the board, did not respond to requests for comment on this story.

When the city attempted to purchase the lot last summer, a group of local residents called the “Wildwood Watchdogs” petitioned the bond ordinance and ordinance allowing the purchase. They gathered enough signatures to bring the decision to a vote, and brought the city to court over the issue.

Byron said that because the watchdog group petitioned the bond and the city’s purchase of the property, and not the Open Space board, the county could continue to look into purchasing the lot for recreational space.

Before the ordinances were petitioned, Byron stated, the city was planning to cover the cost of the property until the funds were reimbursed by the county open space fund.

Pat Rosenello, director of the Downtown Business Improvement District, said that the BID would support a park or event space at that piece of land, which is included as a potential project in Wildwood’s Vision 2015 plan.

He added that tying the sale of the downtown parking lot to the open space application was not discussed with the BID.

Business owners in Wildwood’s downtown had criticized the sale of the parking lot because many leased spots from the city there for customers and employees.

Commissioners have since revised the lot sale, according to a public notice, to deed restrict the property to remain parking.

“It was done to protect some of the businesses,” Mayor Ernie Troiano said of revising the resolution. “We thought it was the best interest of the community at this particular time, and that it’s in the best interest of the city.”

The parking lot is now subject to public auction 10 a.m. Sept. 26 at City Hall, 4400 New Jersey Ave. The minimum bid is $800,000, an increase of $50,000 from the original resolution.

According to the Vision 2015 plan, this lot was set to remain parking and eventually become a Destination Station for public transportation in the city. The BID had allocated $75,000 in its budget this year to begin work on obtaining the property.

Rosenello said that the BID is still wants the lot for that purpose.

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 below. 

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