BELMAR, NJ — The start of summer in Belmar under coronavirus restrictions has heightened efforts to rein in seasonal renters who are creating an environment described by some year-round residents as “the Wild West.”
Most of the problems stem from executive orders by Gov. Phil Murphy that have kept bars and restaurants closed, while gradually increasing the number of people who can gather outdoors and indoors, according to borough officials.
For the Belmar Police Department, it has meant cracking down primarily on those streets where summer renters have become a public nuisance to their neighbors, particularly on the weekends at a time when 11 local bars have not been able to open.
And the numbers reflect that effort. In a 36-hour period from Friday, June 12 through Sunday, June 14 in both Belmar and Lake Como, the department issued 132 summonses for drinking in public and on the beach, and urinating in public, and another 30 for violations of borough noise ordinances, according to Police Chief Tina Scott.
“This past weekend was a little crazy in Belmar,” Chief Scott told the Belmar Council at its June 16 meeting, adding that three extra police patrols were brought in to bolster its regular on-duty force during the evening and early-morning shifts.
In addition, two to four officers in uniform and plains clothes were patrolling the streets, handling quality-of-life issues and noise complaints, she said.
With eight more Class I special officers joining the force, Chief Scott expects patrols to continue with its increased efforts this Friday and Saturday night, as she plans again to be in constant contact with the sergeants on duty.
The department’s efforts were commended by borough officials, including Councilwoman Patricia Wann, who lives in the southern end of town where a major incident occurred on June 13.
“The south end was horrendous … and the residents were so upset over what was going on. But in less than two and a half hours, everything was shut down,” she said, adding that she couldn’t be more proud of the BPD’s quick response.
While Chief Scott said that stepped-up patrols and enforcement will continue every weekend throughout town, she strongly encouraged residents to call the department immediately at 732-681-1700 to report any concern, regarding noise or any quality-of-life issue, as it is occurring.
“I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to get an email for something that happened over the weekend. I want to address it when it’s happening,” she said.
Compounding problems in Belmar is state legislation enacted in May that allows food and drink establishment to sell and deliver mixed drinks and cocktails during the coronavirus crisis — creating a “cocktails to go” problem in Belmar, resulting in the rise in the number of people drinking in public.
The situation has prompted borough officials to ask Gov. Murphy to repeal the law. “(The legislation) may work in a town in the interior of the county or the state, but it doesn’t work in a town like Belmar,” said Borough Administrator Edward Kirschenbaum, who said they are still awaiting a response from the governor’s office to their written request.
Borough officials are hoping the start of limited outdoor dining at bars and restaurants this week will help ease the problems in Belmar’s residential neighborhoods, as well as on its beaches, where Department of Public Works crews have been cleaning up from people leaving their take-out food and beverage containers. The daily deluge of trash has required the borough to obtain another dumpster for its removal.
“The beach has been a mess because the restaurants have been closed and the only place they can eat has been the beach,” Kirschenbaum said.
Meanwhile in a related matter, Mayor Mark Walsifer said that an investigation is under way by the police department’s detective bureau and borough code enforcement officials to determine whether summer rental landlords fraudulently applied for year-round certificates of occupancy — in order to circumvent the seasonal CO process, which requires the adherence to more stringent rules, including the borough’s “animal house” ordinance (see below).
Legal action will be taken against any property owners who knowingly filed the incorrect application, he said.
Below is a video of the Belmar Council's June 16 meeting:
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