Virtually 100% of Ventnor is thrilled with plans proposed for a refreshed, Ventnor shopping plaza on Wellington Ave.
On the flip side, virtually 100% of Ventnor not happy with poor communication skills of City Hall, made worse when major development projects are considered.
Ventnor, like most Jersey Shore towns, do the legal minimum when it comes to public notices and public participation access.
By law, municipalities like Ventnor and Margate must publish public notices in the Press of Atlantic City. Sadly, this once great newspaper now has very little circulation and a severely reduced readership. Press of AC is no longer a viable communications platform for municipalities.
What most Jersey shore towns still refuse to do, is allow public to ‘subscribe to legal notice publications’ via email. A no-cost, no-brainer.
Re-notifications. That’s something Planning Board Solicitor Leo Manos recommends if needed, in order to avoid future litigation. But in Ventnor, Commissioners Landgraf and Kriebel, along with Mayor Holtzman, may have ignored past ‘re-notify’ issues.
Ventnor City Hall could publicly apologize for it’s mishandling of Ventnor Plaza public comment periods at it’s next meeting on Jan 12, 2023.
Sending out only 11 of 33 legally required letters to properties within 200 ft of project is more than just an unfortunate error, it’s a do-over.
Headscratcher. Towns like Margate and Ventnor still don’t allow live video streaming and public/remote participation for their Planning and School Board meetings, even though both towns are well-equipped to do so.
Ventnor Plaza developer, Mark Greco, sent DownbeachBUZZ the following for our reader’s consideration.
Mark Greco, Ventnor Plaza Developer: As there is quite a lot of frustration surrounding our project at Ventnor Plaza I wanted to clear up many of the misunderstandings.
As your publication (DownbeachBUZZ.com) is the primary interaction site for resident comments, I wanted to share this with you and request you share with your readers.
After meetings with the residents of Victoria Ave both collectively in person as a group as well as individually in person, by phone, and by email, we have compiled a list of resident suggestions and requests.
This list contains many valid requests which we are happy to incorporate into our plans for the revitalization of Ventnor Plaza.
These items include:
> Guard Rail – It was suggested that at the end of the drive isle there is the potential for a car to drive thru the stop sign and across Little Rock Ave directly into the neighbors back yards. This is a valid safety concern and we agree a guard rail is a reasonable suggestion and we have incorporated this into our plan.
> Relocate the padsite restaurant nearest to Little Rock Ave – It was requested that the padsite location be shifted away from the property line at Little Rock Ave and closer to Wellington Ave. After consultation with our engineer and subject to the Lease restrictions with our National Tenants, we have agreed to make this modification to our plan.
> NJ Transit Buses – Several residents expressed concerns with NJ Transit buses driving on Little Rock Ave. After investigating alternatives, we have redesigned the plan to relocate the bus stop farther to the east, requiring all buses to enter through the center entrance of the plaza, to turn left (away from Little Rock) to a new bus stop location along the smaller stores in the plaza and to exit the property from the new driveway on “No name Street” near Dollar General.
> EV Charging Stations – It was suggested that someone heard EV Charging stations are dangerous and could “catch fire”. After extensive inquires we have found no recorded incidents of this occurring. There have been vehicle fires with EV car batteries, but none attributed to the charging stations.
Regardless of this fact, we were requested by the neighbors to relocate the charging stations further from Little Rock and we have done this in our plan. The EV stations will all be moved to a location near the center driveway entrance to the plaza.
> While Little Rock Ave belongs to the City of Ventnor and not the Plaza, we were requested to remove brush and trees growing along the side of the street to prevent rodents from nesting there. As part of our excavation and construction at the plaza, we have agreed to have our contractor clear this overgrowth provided we receive approval from the City as this is their property.
> Dead End Street – Currently Little Rock Ave has a fence at the end blocking access from Fulton Ave at the rear. I was requested to verify whether the city has any intention of reopening this for access. After investigation, I have been told that this access will continue to be closed.
· Sidewalks – Several residents requested that we DO NOT install sidewalks along Little Rock Ave as part of the paving project because they did not want to encourage kids to “hang out” there like they do on Washington Ave in Margate. There are no sidewalks on our plan and they are not being required by the city as part of our approvals.
> Headlights – The question came up regarding car headlights traveling from the plaza to Little Rock Ave shining in house windows. Our plan includes a line of Arborvitae trees which grow tall and wide and will create a landscape barrier preventing line of sight between the houses and the street.
> Bike Racks – Several residents said they ride bicycles to the plaza and requested we add bike racks near Acme and the future Pickle Ball facility. These have been ordered and will be installed immediately upon our receipt.
> Drainage from the plaza onto Little Rock Ave – As required by the city engineer and construction building codes, our plan includes numerous additional storm drain inlets, and substantial grading and elevation improvements to the plaza parking lot and all of the run off from the plaza is collected and removed through our underground system.
Not only will the plaza storm run off NOT drain onto Little Rock Ave, but the design of the pavement work will better provide for proper runoff of stormwater on the street which does not exist today.
> Current flooding in Victoria Ave residents backyards
While we are not touching any private properties, the improvements we are doing on Little Rock Ave should provide for better runoff than currently exists and if residents properly grade their backyards to drain away from their homes the water should travel along Little Rock Ave and resolve this issue.
> Property Values – It was suggested that the improvements at Ventnor Plaza could adversely effect the property values of the homes along Victoria Ave. On this point we must disagree.
The plaza is in a state of age related distress. The substantial investment we are making in this revitalization project, along with the flood prevention measures we are undertaking, make Ventnor Plaza a landmark property and the primary destination for residents, visitors, and the entire island population of the surrounding communities. This can only improve property values through the beautification of the area, creation of the primary destination for residents, vacationers, and commuters to and from work.
> Several residents requested we DO NOT pave Little Rock Ave at all. This is not a request we sought approval for as part of the revitalization of Ventnor Plaza. This has nothing to do with the approvals we obtained. This is and has always been a city owned street and the city could have paved it at anytime.
There were public hearings back in 2019 whereby a “Redevelopment Zone” was established including not only the Ventnor Plaza but adjoining properties as well.
The intention of this zone was to promote business in the area, and to provide for improved public safety. It was debated and approved that traffic is safer if it is moved to the traffic light at Little Rock Ave rather than the uncontrolled method that currently exists.
Additionally, on the opposite side of the plaza there currently exist another traffic concern. There are 2 driveways extremely close together at the eastern end of plaza at No Name Street which serves as the entrance to the neighboring Dollar General.
This “entrance” is actually another city street and the city determined it to be safer to combine the plaza entrance and the No name street entrance to prevent cars from colliding when exiting at the same time.
I personally know someone who was killed in a traffic accident at this location.
These traffic movements were memorialized in a Resolution in November 2019 and became a requirement of any improvements done to the plaza.
We have incorporated these into our plans for the revitalization. This is a separate and distinctive issue which is not tied to the revitalization approvals but to the prior approvals from 2019.
There were public meetings over 3 years prior to our purchase of the plaza and our revitalization project is subject to the Resolution.
We did not request this change.
However we wholeheartedly agree that this will provide a safer traffic pattern for vehicles and pedestrians. We regret that some residents did not receive mailings at their homes, but we did send mailings to all the addresses we were provided by the city in addition to advertising in the Atlantic City Press.
There has been no deliberate “coverup”.
We have held public and private meetings with residents in an effort to incorporate everyone’s input.
We have received conflicting requests also. Some made requests and others requested we not include the same things. We all want Ventnor Plaza to represent our community in the best way possible.
I hope that all the personal attacks on the Commissioner stop and we all make Wednesday’s meeting a productive interaction.
The support for our project has been overwhelming and we have tried to listen to all suggestions to make this a project that includes everyone’s voice.
While we can not do everything suggested due to lease restrictions, etc but we have made our best effort to deliver a new and improved Ventnor Plaza.
Mark L. Greco
MLG Realty, LLC