BELMAR, NJ — While the borough’s lease on the former church property currently occupied by the Belmar Community Center/Library Annex ends in three months, it has not been given a firm date on when the move needs to be made.
“Although the lease expires December 31, 2019, we will be working with the borough to ensure that relocation of municipal services are transitioned well," said Carolyn Conover, director of communications for the United Methodists of Greater New Jersey, which recently informed the borough that it will not be renewing the rent-free lease on the former First United Methodist Church at 503 Seventh Avenue.
“United Methodists of Greater New Jersey have been blessed to partner with the Borough of Belmar to use our facility to house services for the community,” Conover said. “The lease with the borough was due for renewal on December 31, 2019, which prompted internal conversations about the best way to steward the property. After conversations with the borough earlier this month, we agreed to not renew the lease in December."
While there has been speculation that United Methodist plans on selling for property for redevelopment, Conover said that no decision has been made, emphasizing, “We value our relationship with the community and want to make sure the borough has appropriate time to transition to other facilities.”
Since the lease agreement was first executed in October 2017, the complex has housed programs and activities of the Belmar Public Library, including expanded offerings for seniors and the new Belmar Community Makerspace, and has been used by civic and community groups. It’s also been the longtime home of the Belmar Food Pantry/Clothes Closet, which continues to be run by Neptune-based United Methodists.
“We will be working with the leaders of this ministry to identify how best to provide (those) services to the community in the future,” Conover said.
Belmar Mayor Mark Walsifer said that the borough is exploring its options to relocate the programs being displaced. “We are looking around for space that we can rent to continue the programs. We will be working with the (library’s Board of Trustees) because they are the ones that handle the programs and that building,” he said.
Walsifer added that the aging building, which the borough maintains in exchange for using the building rent-free under the lease agreement, will soon be in need of major repairs. “The roof desperately needs to be replaced. The boilers for the heating system are hanging on by a thread. There is no air conditioning and no off-street parking,” he said. “So the borough would have to tackle these repairs and it would be a large cost to the taxpayers because the library on its own would not be able to afford to fix all this.”
Before Belmar took over use of the building, it had been vacant except for the Belmar Food Pantry/Clothes Closet. Following Superstorm Sandy in 2012, the church building and school were closed for an extensive renovation project. However, when it was complete and it was time for the church to reopen, many of its members had joined other nearby parishes.
The complex, which sits on one-half acre at the corner of Seventh Avenue and D Street, is assessed at $2.15 million — $1.15 million for the 17,000-square-foot facility and $1 million for the land. It sits in an R-75 residential zone, which requires a minimum corner lot size of 9,000 square feet with a 60-foot minimum frontage. Since United Methodists is a nonprofit organization, the borough collects no taxes on the property.
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