Ventnor Boardwalk Zoning Battle. Extracting More Taxes From Premium Land.

The 15 year Ventnor zoning battle continues. What size should the lots be, between Dorset and Derby Ave along the Boardwalk?

The Ventnor Planning Board says City Commissioners should create a new zoning district for this portion of Boardwalk properties. One caveat: DON’T reduce the current 80 ft minimum widths, down to 50 ft widths. Members of historic St. Leonard’s Tract applaud that move, but they’re still skeptical.

This parcel of land once hosted a historic landmark property owned by The Sisters of Charity of New York. Unable to afford the taxes, they were forced to sell in 2002. The sisters requested that the house, declared an official landmark, NOT be sold to developers. So, it was sold to an individual — who in turn sold it to a developer. It was eventually demolished to make way for multiple building lots. Most of those lots still sit empty today. ( Story facts from New York Times )

From Herald Extra: In Ventnor, the Sisters of Charity of New York sold their landmark beachfront home on a promise that it would be restored, only to see it demolished, and the land parceled out five ways. There was much remorse.

Video from WE LOVE VENTNOR. Some background on Gelman Properties, Ventnor Commissioner Lance Landgraf versus St Leonard’s Tract neighbors:

City Planner Roger McLarnon, zoning officer for both Ventnor and Margate, says to keep the 80 ft width x 125 ft depth requirement.

Nonetheless, neighbors still don’t trust current landowner, Gelman Properties. Plenty of neighbors believe Ms. Fran Gelman will keep lobbying for smaller lot sizes on her land between Derby & Dorset.

Michael Bluestein of Derby Ave in Ventnor, questioned land expert, Art Ponzio.

Art Ponzio spoke in favor of smaller lot sizes. Bluestein asked Ponzio: ‘have you ever been hired by Gelman properties in the past?’ Ponzio admitted to working for Fran Gelman in 2003.

Bluestein has less than favorable feelings about his experience of buying multiple properties from Ms. Gelman in the past. See video below.

Mr. Bluestein: potential conflicts of interest on Ventnor Planning Board?

Some Ventnor Planning Board members have spouses that work for the Real Estate firm of Farley & Ferry, where Ms. Fran Gelman is an agent.

Property owner, Fran Gelman, owns 2 of the lots in this contested zone between Dorset and Derby in Ventnor.

  • One lot priced at $3.2 million
  • One lot priced at $2.6 million

Lots haven’t sold for 15 years. Why? Something to do with the size? Or maybe, lots are poorly priced? Maybe 40% over current market value?

VIDEO from WE LOVE VENTNOR: Bluestein references Gelman & Ponzio.

Art Ponzio’s company is the oldest established civil engineering, land surveying and professional planning firm located within the City of Atlantic City. In business for over sixty years.

Ponzio: ‘Not one house was built in last 15 yrs, with 80 ft frontage. Obviously, that (2003) ordinance didn’t work. To me, that’s not good planning.’

Art ponzio

Art Ponzio:

  • Friendly relationship with Lance Landgraf
  • Has done work for Gelman Properties in past.
  • ‘Money’s not everything, but it’s something to think of.’
  • Smaller homes & lots sizes open up view corridors. Better air flow.
  • Reduce mass. Curb monster home growth.

Some think Landgraf is unfairly catering to property owners along the Ventnor Boardwalk. Others believe he’s simply looking to increase tax revenue.

Ventnor Commissioners Landgraf and Kriebel, along with Mayor Holtzman, have strongly supported the smaller lot sizes in the past.

Ventnor Commissioner Lance Landgraf regularly accused of being a bully.

They suggest that empty, premium, waterfront lots are holding back 10’s of thousands of property tax dollars, annually.

Ventnor Commissioner, Lance Landgraf, is a planner for the controversial CRDA in Atlantic City. He also sits on the Ventnor and Brigantine Planning Boards.

Home buyers want smaller lot sizes between Dorset & Derby Ave in Ventnor?

Landgraf, Holtzman & Kriebel want more ratables via higher density development in this area. They want to spur development & grow the property tax base.

Ponzio offered these Ventnor, assessed land values:

  • Derby to Cornwall $17,000 per running ft. value
  • Derby to Dorset $18,000 per running ft value
  • Surrey to Suffolk $20,000 per running ft value
  • Block that features three 50 ft lots, have $25,670 per running ft value.

Downbeach Ocean Frontage:

  • Longport: average width of 45 ft
  • Margate: average width of 50 ft
  • Ventnor: proposed R1 boardwalk zone width: 80 ft

Landgraf claims it would be too expensive to create a new Boardwalk district, complete with an update of the zoning maps.

Landgraf and others, including local planning expert, Arthur Ponzio, prefer to reduce lot sizes. They see municipal tax benefits of squeezing in more homes along the Ventnor Boardwalk.

Word of caution: A new boardwalk zone could reduce ability to subdivide properties. Variance would be needed to reduce lot size to less than 80 ft frontage.

Several St. Leonard’s Tract residents applauded the board’s recent decision though.

From July 30 2018, Ventnor Planning Board Meeting:

  • Arthur Ponzio believes that rezoning will not have much of an impact on the properties in that zone.
  • Nicholas Talvacchia, attorney for the Gelman estate, speaks in favor of the proposed zoning changes in the Residential 1 District.

Ventnor Planning Board

  • Chairman – Jay Cooke
  • Vice Chairman – Tom McAdam


  • Commissioner Lance Landgraf Jr.
  • Mike Weisen
  • Tom Halpin
  • Jay Cooke
  • Tom McAdam
  • Roman Zabihach
  • Lorraine Sallata
  • Dan Smith III
  • Leonard Mordell
  • Peter Tocco, 1st Alt
  • Tim Koob, 2nd Alt
  • Greer Gaskill, 3rd Alt
  • Wendy Bartlett, 4th Alt
  • Leo Manos Esq., Board Solicitor
  • Carmella Malfara, Board Secretary
  • Roger McLarnon, Board Engineer

The Ventnor Planning Board meets at 6:30 on the second Wednesday and fourth Monday of each month. Call 823-7987 for more information.

4 thoughts on “Ventnor Boardwalk Zoning Battle. Extracting More Taxes From Premium Land.”

  1. Beachfront lots on the market for 15 years without selling means one of two things. Overpriced lots or real estate recession or depression. The answer? Overpriced lots. Everyone involved knows this to be the answer. Why change the character of a neighborhood just for one owner. Encourage owner to finally price the existing lots at a fair market value and they will sell. Problem solved.

  2. Elizabeth (Betty) Johnson

    A 62.5×125 foot lot is “under contract” at 114 S Portland-asking price 2,649,000. The last prices for the D=2 lots you are speaking of was 2,699,000 for the corner 85×125 Derby lot (almost 20% larger and almost the same price) and 2,199,000 for the 80×125 foot lot….Jerry, where are you getting your real estate value info and why are you saying these lots were not sold because of inflated prices…if you do believe this area is so special, are you saying an 85 foot lot with views of the fishing pier, on a beautiful street is overprices at 2,699,000?? It seems the “market” may disagree, since the 62.5 foot smaller lot is under contract.
    How large is the lot that your house sits on Jerry? Is that a horrible, small lot, or an oversized 50 foot lot, that the majority of R-1 zone homes sits on-and didn’t John Iron’s himself build 2 of the 3 homes on 50 foot lots between Surrey and Suffolk…he EVEN lived in one of the homes himself-it seems he should be the disqualified from speaking about not allowing 50 foot lots after he profited from the same, I never heard him say at the time he bought and built that 50 foot lots were so bad, and he actually lives on another 50 foot lot after he sold both the Boardwalk 50 foot homes (which are beautiful).

    When will all the citizens of Ventnor have the justice of allowing the property to be developed and get the tax revenue…can someone do a calculation as to what dollar amount has been lost over these 15 years or so, not having taxable homes on these lots-we have lost for far too many years…it is the only area of 80 foot zoning and Lance seemed to say on the video above 80 feet is “spot zoning” so, I would get the facts together and do whats best for all of vintner, not just St Leonards Tract…we are all tax payers…Also, I heard someone say at one of the meetings that this area isn’t even SLT…so, why is Lance Langraf giving such importance to what they say and flip flopping

  3. Is there any consideration of lowering the taxes in Ventnor? Many people in Ventnor do not have children attending the schools and as home owners we’re paying a large amount in taxes every year, and only using homes 6/7 months of the year.
    Had this been presented to the board previously?
    Thank you all in advance for any attention and I am looking forward to your insights on this.

    1. The fact that residents use their home as a vacation property bears zero relevance to taxes. City services and costs are year-round. Bring realistic especially with risky costs, there can be no reasonable thinking (other than wishing) that taxes would go down.

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