Township Officials Going After Longtime Eyesores
Beachwood Shopping Center, Santo Marina site under code enforcement scrutiny
Are you tired of looking at the battered hulk known as the Beachwood Shopping Center when you cross Beachwood's boundary and enter Berkeley Township?
So are township officials.
So sometime next week - unless things improve - summonses will be issued for the current condition of the site off Route 9 South, Township Council President James J. Byrnes said.
"Something has got to be done soon," Byrnes said this weekend.
The shopping center - which is actually in Berkeley, not Beachwood - has been largely vacant for decades, slowly deteriorating from the elements. Plants and weeds are growing inside some of the stores. The show "Life After People" could film here.
Developer Donato Donofrio has yet to sign an agreement with the Johnson family, which has owned the property since the 1960s. The two parties have to agree not only on a purchase price, but cleanup costs for the site, which comes with a myriad of environmental problems.
The Beachwood Shopping Center is ground zero in the township's massive Town Center Redevelopment Plan. Town officials rejoiced when the State Planning Commission members unanimously approved the plan in Trenton on July 16.
But they are running out of patience with the condition of the site - the so-called "gateway" to Berkeley Township.
"No matter who owns it, it's an unsafe structure," Byrnes said this weekend. "That's my concern."
Code enforcement officials are also clamping down on Ray Masucci - the owner of the old Santo Marina site. Masucci received a letter from the township last week advising him to get going on cleaning up the site, which was neglected for years by the previous owner.
"We gave him a shot, but he needs to continue," Byrnes said.
The Board of Adjustment in July approved Masucci's controversial amended plan to redevelop the aging marina, which sits at the mouth of the Toms River.
The approval came after two lengthy special hearings on "The Cove On The Toms River At Berkeley." Residents in the neighborhood came out in force to object to the plan, which required a number of variances.
Masucci - who bought the property from Paul Santo two years ago for $1.9 million - put up plastic orange fencing and removed a number of abandoned boats this summer. Neighbors had complained about unsafe conditions the site for years.
But the battered docks, old office building, trailer, high grass and weeds and construction debris are still on the site.
Township officials recently stepped up code enforcement efforts, and began going after violators throughout the township. But it's not fair to require homeowners to maintain their properties and not target large landowners as well, Byrnes said.
"We are going after other people just for long grass," he said.