LAKE COMO, NJ — For a small Jersey Shore community with no beachfront, Lake Como is still right in the middle of all the summer action, particularly on the weekends.
And that’s because of several major factors: Some of its streets serve as main arteries for vehicles getting to and from Belmar’s Ocean Avenue less than one-half mile away. Its population of 1,700 swells significantly when summer renters move in. And five bars, including the ever-popular Bar Anticipation, are located in this 0.265-square-mile community.
For Lake Como officials, finding ways to ease any traffic, parking, summer rental and quality-of-life concerns that may arise from Memorial Day to Labor Day is a top perennial priority.
“We want to strike a good balance between our summer visitors and our residents,” said Mayor Brian Wilton. “While summer visitors bring in much-needed revenues to our businesses, we have to make sure we can keep it enjoyable for year-round residents as well.”
Putting the Community Policing Program in High Gear
A collaboration between Lake Como and the Belmar Police Department, the Community Policing Program is aimed at opening a dialogue with residents with that specific purpose in mind. Each street in the borough is assigned to one police officer, who serves as a community outreach specialist, working together with residents to resolve problems in a timely manner. A list of officers and their assigned streets is attached here.
Mayor Wilton also welcomes residents to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org with any matter they believe should come to his attention. “I need to hear immediately about any issue or problem a resident may have,” he said. “We have to be proactive and make sure everyone’s concerns are being addressed.”
Improving Traffic Patterns is Major Goal
This year, improving safety on streets heavily traveled in the summer drives another major initiative. Belmar Police Chief Andrew Huisman has been working with the borough on revising traffic patterns and parking regulations on 17th and 18th avenues, as well as New Bedford Road — west-to-east streets that provide direct access to the Belmar beach.
When these narrow two-way streets become packed with parked cars on both sides, traffic cannot pass easily in either direction, posing a safety risk and traffic hazard. Compounding the situation is the high rate of speed motorists are traveling as they maneuver these congested residential streets.
To improve traffic flow, options currently under review include turning certain streets one-way in the most-effective pattern, prohibiting parking on a portion of 18th Avenue from Friday through Sunday, and placing “traffic calming “ devices on 17th Avenue near Newman Street to keep motorists from speeding. Effective yesterday, May 26, New Bedford is now one-way westbound for the summer.
The borough council is expected to review a final proposal at its next meeting on Tuesday, June 7.
Ensuring Summer Renters, Bars are Good Neighbors
To handle the influx of summer renters, visitors and day-trippers, Lake Como officials hope to continue with the success it had last year when the Belmar Police Department took over patrol operations in May. Under its contract with neighboring Belmar, Lake Como’s streets will be patrolled by Belmar’s full-time police force and an additional 33 special police officers, many of whom will patrol on bike or on foot at all times — even into the early-morning hours when bar patrons and party-goers are returning home.
Addressing quality-of-life issues of residents living near the five bars in Lake Como, the borough requires all of these establishments to conduct daily litter patrols in designated areas by neighborhood. When the police department finds it necessary, they also must implement “shush patrols” to help reduce noise caused by bar patrons outside their bars.
Several bars also have additional conditions on their liquor licenses. PK’s Shamrock Pub, situated in a residential area on 18th Avenue, is required to have on-site security personnel and must pay for additional police patrols when warranted — a decision that is made by the police chief. Also, lines of people are not allowed outside its premises after 11 p.m., and live entertainment is only permitted on Friday and Saturday until 1:20 a.m. and on Sunday until 11 p.m.
A major destination for many summer visitors by foot and by car, Bar Anticipation is assisting in crowd control at its expansive 16th Avenue location. In cooperation with the borough, it has designated a separate entrance in the rear of its property where bar patrons can assemble — rather than near the street — while waiting to gain entry into the establishment.
It is also required to have security personnel on its premises and sufficient manpower to control lines outside its establishment and at its entrances, specifically at drop-off locations and taxi lines. As a courtesy, Bar A offers a free shuttle servicing the surrounding area for patrons looking for a ride to the bar or for a way to get home.
Streamlining the Short-Term Rental Process
Regarding summer rentals, the borough will continue to make it easier for landlords to accommodate short-term tenants — those looking to rent on a monthly, biweekly or even weekly basis.
Under seasonal rental license regulations implemented in 2016, a property owner pays a $150 inspection fee and a $50 tourism fee for every dwelling that is rented from May 15 to September 15. If a tenant changes during that period, a “certificate of self-inspection” must be completed and submitted to the borough’s Code Enforcement Office. In the past, landlords were required to go through the full inspection process each time the dwelling changed tenants — even if the rental period was for a little as a week.
As of May 25, summer rentals are down nearly 12 percent compared to last year, falling from 92 to 81 dwellings that have received certificates of inspections.
A Tiny Shore Town with a Picturesque Treasure
Despite the challenges that the summer brings each year, Lake Como has attributes that sometimes go unnoticed. Its quaint downtown area along Main Street has a variety of merchants, shops, professional offices and eateries that are popular destinations for local residents and visitors alike.
As part of its ongoing redevelopment of Main Street, new decorative lighting has been installed between 16th and 18th avenues through a state Community Development Block Grant.
While the borough may not have a beach, it does have its namesake Lake Como — a picturesque 34-acre lake that is situated along its southern border with the Spring Lake Borough. Its 2.38-acre shoreline features a gazebo, park benches, three wildlife sanctuaries and a specially designed butterfly garden. It certainly is the place to go when looking for some quiet to calm the summer clamor.
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