The owner of the decaying Beachwood Shopping Center on Route 9 South in Bayville wants more time to respond to the township's demolition order issued several weeks ago.
"We request time to inspect the condition of the property and the alleged violations," said Michael J. McCalley, attorney for Beachwood Mall LLC.
The shopping center - a longtime eyesore off the busy highway - has been vacant for years. Township Fire Official Jack Wiegartner ordered a number of corrective actions be taken after a vacant store in the strip mall caught fire during the height of Hurricane Sandy.
He ordered owner Priscilla Oughton to take a number of corrective actions immediately, including vacating the shopping center, removing the structures, demolishing the structures and removing all debris.
Oughton is the daughter of the late James E. Johnson, who built the shopping center decades ago. She lives in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea in Florida.
"As you are well aware, Ocean County was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy," McCalley said in the Nov. 21 letter to township officials. "The damage referred to in the cover letter to the Notice of Violation appears to be a direct consequence of the storm."
McCalley said granting a hearing and giving Beachwood Mall LLC more time to assess the storm damage is "both necessary and appropriate."
Mayor Carmen F. Amato Jr. said last night the township would "stick to the letter of the law."
"I think the township has been more than patient for the last decade and a half," Amato said.
Firefighters couldn't get too close to the blaze the night Sandy made landfall in Ocean County because of metal and debris whirling through the air. They had to lay fire hoses across Route 9 to the Roy Rogers restaurant across the street.
Oughton could have faced up to $5,000 a day in fines, had she not requested a hearing, according to Wiegartner's letter
"You are hearby ordered by the fire official to correct the violations listed on the accompanying "Violations Report" with the time, or by the date specified," he said in the letter to Oughton.
Oughton will also be liable for the costs of any fire suppression, if a violation directly or indirectly results in a fire, the letter states.
"The building was unsafe to enter," Bayville Volunteer Fire Company Chief Kenneth Anderson said shortly after the fire. "It looked like the Fourth of July."
Wiegartner outlined eight violations of the Uniform Fire Code in the letter. They include:
• Ceiling roof collapse on the entire premises
• Openings in walls ready to collapse.
• Broken glass in front of all the stores.
• Entire front of structure falling down
• Sinkholes in shopping center parking lot.
• Building is not secured
• Abandon premises, building declared unsafe and abated by demolition.
• Hazardous electrical conditions arising from improperly used electrical wiring.