Berkeley Township Council Goes Into Closed Session On Beachwood Shopping Center

Pre-demolition work appears to have stopped on Bayville's biggest eyesore

Beachwood Shopping Center, Bayville, New Jersey
Beachwood Shopping Center, Bayville, New Jersey
by Patricia A. Miller

The battered Beachwood Shopping Center was on the agenda for the Berkeley Township Council's closed session Monday night.

But just what was discussed will have to wait.

"There was a lot discussed that's not public," Township Attorney Lauren R. Staiger said.

Pre-demolition work on Berkeley's biggest eyesore seems to have come to a halt. There are no trucks in the cracked parking lot on Route 9 South and apparently no one working on removing metal and glass from the dilapidated buildings.

"Not right now," Township Council President James J. Byrnes said when asked if any work was going on.

The township received two $12,500 checks from the interested redevelopers, M&M Realty and Lennar Corp late last year. The funds were placed in an escrow account, Mayor Carmen F. Amato Jr. said then.

The two companies were named the redevelopers of record for the site earlier last year. The Beachwood Shopping Center is the Town Center portion of the township's massive redevelopment plan.

Lennar and M&M Realty are still in negotiations with owner Priscilla Oughton over the remediation of the site, which has environmental problems.

Oughton - who lives in Fort Lauderdale By-the Sea in Florida, has steadily been accruing fines for the condition of the shopping center since Superstorm Sandy slammed into Berkeley over a year and a half ago.

Metals and asbestos in the buildings has to be removed before any actual demolition can begin. Only a state-certified asbestos remediation firm can do the work, Byrnes has said.

So far, the township has collected $65,000 in fines from Oughton. She inherited the shopping center from her father, the late James Johnson. He built the plaza decades ago and named it the "Beachwood Shopping Center" even though the site is in Berkeley, after a tiff with township officials.

The fines began when Township Fire Official Jack Wiegartner ordered a number of corrective actions be taken after a vacant store in the battered strip mall caught fire during the height of Superstorm Sandy on Oct. 29.

Shortly after the storm, 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.

Wiegartner found eight violations. Oughton was notified she would be fined $5,000 a day for each one.

Township Attorney George R. Gilmore has said owner Priscilla Oughton and the redevelopers of the site on are negotiating the costs of tearing down the multi-structure center and possible remediation.

There are a number of environmental issues with the shopping center - built by Oughton's father James E. Johnson decades ago, he said.

Mayor Mayor Carmen F. Amato Jr. signed an order on July 15, 2013  giving Oughton a month and a half to tear down the shopping center, the bane of more than one administration in the township's history.

But the township has since granted Oughton two extensions, on Gilmore's advice. Gilmore has said he doesn't want the township to incur additional legal expenses or liability.

cookiejar May 21, 2014 at 10:24 AM
Beware Berkeley Residents!! Lennar and M&M Realty pulled out of this project months ago. Go ask our council president why???
d.m. May 21, 2014 at 11:36 AM
Yeah ,why a closed session, what r we being protected from? Knowing about the horrible condition of the shopping center!
Heywood May 21, 2014 at 12:27 PM
Just curious if this is an actual Ad for the property in question? Asking price is $1.5 million. http://www.weichert.com/51282904/
Keeping whats mine May 21, 2014 at 06:24 PM
Berkeley is run by pussies. Level this dump and bill the bitch that owns it. if she does not pay by a set time it belongs to the town. Done. Come on now
Brandy the Dog May 21, 2014 at 07:26 PM
Of course the township wants to own that toxic waste dump. It makes Kurnels look like Galapagos.


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