Wildwood Watchdogs want referendum before county funds Pacific Ave property

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WILDWOOD—The group of residents who petitioned against Wildwood’s planned purchase of a vacant lot on Pacific Avenue for a park and ice skating rink in 2012 have sent a letter to the county urging the freeholders and the Open Space Board to put the issue on a ballot before moving forward with the project.

“Over 200 people signed a petition that said we didn’t want this, and yet the county is going to move forward with this,” Dara Baltuskonis, a Wildwood resident and member of the Wildwood Watchdog group, said Friday.

Besides the letter, which was also sent to media outlets, the group sent copies of the petitions; a document they claim is a feasibility study done by Triad Associates that did not recommend an ice rink in the city; a second feasibility study also allegedly completed by Triad Associates that lists costs for the project and potential revenue; and several news reports about the ice rink. 

 “We ask you where the taxpayers’ rights are,” the letter states. “Come visit our town, and you will find 80 percent of the businesses are closed on Pacific Avenue, and the majority of our businesses are on our boardwalk in this seasonal town.”

The city had planned to purchase a vacant lot at 3400 Pacific Ave. in 2012 to be used as recreation space, most likely a synthetic ice rink. Then, when residents petitioned for a referendum on the bond ordinance which allowed for the purchase, the city repealed the ordinances instead of bringing them to a vote.

At the time of the purchase, officials had said the Open Space Board had initially viewed the project favorably. They planned to purchase the land, and then be reimbursed by the board.

In January, the city worked with the Downtown Business Improvement District to bring a collaborative plan for the lot to the Open Space Board. That proposal includes an area for an amphitheater, festival space, and a proposed recreation site that is most likely to become an ice rink, if the project is approved.

In response to comments from residents, Wildwood’s city attorney Mary D’Arcy Bittner said in January that the city is working to include these opinions in its proposal.

“The city is taking these comments to heart and wants to do the project in a way that has no negative impact on taxpayers,” Bittner said at the time. “That is a goal of the project and does influence the wording of what we’re looking for in this application.”
Baltuskonis said that as of Friday, the watchdog group had not yet received feedback from county officials about the letter and documents sent to them.

Peter Lomax, chairman of the Open Space board, has said that the board is open to hearing from residents. He did not immediately return phone calls for comment on Friday. In January, he said that the board was yet ready to make a determination about the project.

The next Open Space board meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. April 22 in the Intermediate Meeting Room in the Cape May County Administrative Offices, 4 Moore Road, in Cape May Court House.

Email Christie Rotondo at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or comment on this story at thewildwoodleader.com. 

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