BELMAR, NJ — Many beachgoers bring umbrellas or small pop-up enclosures for young children when going to enjoy a day in the sand and surf.
But beach towns along the Jersey Shore are seeing an increasing number of large tents or canopies rising along the water’s edge on any beach day — some being set up two to three across, creating large covered compounds.
It’s called “beach-spreading,” and Belmar is looking to ban the practice before it becomes a major safety issue along the borough’s beachfront.
The Belmar Council introduced on August 1 an ordinance that would prohibit canopies and tents or any shade-producing devices measuring more than 36 inches in height, width or depth from Memorial Day to Labor Day — when the beaches are the most crowded. Umbrellas with one central shaft supporting the umbrella canopy in an upright position and small sun shelters measuring under the prohibited size would continue to be permitted throughout the year, according to the measure.
“Everybody who lives in Belmar is for this ordinance,” said Councilman Mark Walsifer before the council approved the measure’s introduction in a 4-0 tally.
In supporting the proposed regulations for safety reasons, Councilwoman Jennifer Nicolay said she recalls her neighbor getting hit in the head by a large tent, while Mayor Matthew Doherty said people are setting 10-foot-by-10-foot tents alongside each other, obstructing ocean views for other beachgoers. “These are tents you see in backyards and parks, or you take to tailgate at MetLife Stadium,” he said, emphasizing their inappropriateness for the beach.
While beach-spreading has not reportedly caused any mishaps in Belmar, the practice can pose a safety risk for several reasons, according to officials.
Since the poles on large canopies cannot be properly secured in sand, the structures can easily go airborne on windy days, injuring individuals in their paths. And depending where they are set up, large tents can hinder a lifeguard’s direct line of sight and access to the water.
A public hearing on the ordinance, followed by a final vote, will be conducted at the borough council’s September 5 meeting, to be held at 6 p.m. in the Belmar Municipal Building, 601 Main Street.
Taylor Pavilion Bookings Topic of Discussion
During the public session of the meeting, Angela Pfeifer of Fifth Avenue questioned Mayor Doherty at length about procedures at the new Taylor Pavilion for renting space for private events. Merri-Makers Caterers, which was awarded the bid to operate the Cruz Bay Café concession at the facility, also has reserved a total of 17 Saturdays in May June, September and October of 2018 for weddings. All of its required paperwork, including $25,500 in total facility fees, has been submitted to the borough.
Maintaining that she didn’t have anything against Merri-Makers as a business, Pfeifer said she was surprised how many dates could be reserved without having actual events — thereby, she claimed, giving the catering company an advantage over residents. “That can guarantee a wedding will be there every weekend, and I don’t think that’s what the residents had in mind,” she said. “(Merri-Makers) is making a lot of money on our tax dollars that paid to go to Taylor (Pavilion.).”
Mayor Doherty said that Merri-Makers has booked dates in the future and has paid for them — “just like anyone else can. We consider them a partner and we’re lucky to have them. We hope they are successful, and the residents should be too because of how much money they pay to be up there,” he said, referring to the nearly $109,200 in annual rent it pays the borough to operate the seasonal Cruz Bay concession.
Calling the Taylor Pavilion a huge asset to Belmar, Doherty said that no community events have been affected by any outside bookings of the pavilion. He added that the Belmar Woman’s Club is the only organization to receive a “permanent” home at the facility.
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