MIDDLETOWN, NJ - The Middletown Township committee hosted a special “mobile town hall” meeting on July 15th at the Tonya Keller Community Center located in Middletown’s Ideal Beach section; during which local neighborhood residents spoke about some of the area’s quality-of-life issues, such as the lack of parking in the area.
Mayor Anthony Perry said the idea behind these “mobile town hall” events is to help local residents feel more connected to the township by bringing the meetings to where they live. As reported earlier, this “mobile town hall” meeting is one of two such meetings scheduled for this summer, with the second one to take place at the Luftman Towers in Lincroft on Aug 19th.
The meeting began with the Mayor presenting a multi-color, beach-themed, painted poster with the phrase “Ideal Beach” written across to members of the Ideal Beach Community Association (also called the ICBA), a neighborhood group that advocates for the needs and interests of the Ideal Beach community.
“This is a true postcard where people from the Ideal Beach Community Association and the Ideal Beach community can gather and really show their pride in this part of the town,” the Mayor said. “In my time in the Township Committee, I have had the loveliest relationship with the Ideal Beach Community Association.”
The presentation was followed by township committee comments, which began with Committeeman Kevin Settembrino who thanked Ideal Beach residents for hosting the committee meeting in their neighborhood.
“Whenever we can bring a meeting to everyone, we’re happy to do it,” Settembrino said.
Committeewoman Patricia Snell then talked about an event she recently attended that was hosted jointly by a group of youths and senior citizens featuring games, arts & crafts, and other amenities.
“It was a real delight to watch the interaction going on between the two groups,” she said. “It was a really lovely time.”
Snell then honored a girl scout named Gabriella, who along with members of her troop, spent about a year building a barn and a garden with produce such as eggplant, peppers, and other products with the idea of distributing these goods to local families in need.
“I congratulate her for what she’s done,” Snell said. “We’re really proud of her.”
Committeeman Rick Hibell then mentioned three properties that were recently redeveloped in Middletown with new businesses, which included a new Chase Bank, a medical office for children, and a Tractor Supply store.
“It is just something that excites me when we’re able to redevelop sites that are in bad shape or that we can’t find a use for, and then we’re able to actually get good businesses in there,” Hibell said. “This is big for Middletown. We’re hoping for more to come.”
Mayor Perry said he came up with the idea of a “mobile town hall” program one day and proposed it to his staff members, whom he found helpful in setting up the program.
“This is, from what I’m told, the first time this has ever happened before,” Mayor Perry said. “I think this is something we can replicate year after year.”
Mayor Perry then as an aside mentioned that his younger brother has recently become a Marine. “He’s a better man than I will ever be,” Perry said.
Committeeman and Deputy Mayor Anthony Fiore was absent from the meeting.
Following the Committee comments, several Ideal Beach residents voiced their thoughts on the neighborhood’s quality of life issues.
Theresa Smith was one such resident – and she discussed the difficulties residents often face in finding parking spots, as most resident parking is street-side, and most of that is often used by outside visitors.
Smith also complimented the Township Committee for the boardwalk installation on Ideal Beach that took place about two years ago.
“You guys did such a beautiful job restoring that beach and I would like to see it stay that way,” Smith said.
Another resident, Jean Burkhard, talked about how many outside summer beach visitors would often park in front of her lawn “People don’t care about leaving garbage there,” Burkhard said.
Burkhard then added that a possible solution would be to either require permits for outside visitor parking or granting residents priority in street-side parking.
Another resident, Tina Frye, asked Township Administrator Anthony Mercantante about a dredging project going on at the Port Monmouth Beach, near Ideal Beach; regarding her concerns on its potential impact on local environment.
“The stench is horrendous, the sand is black & looks oily, and the water is disgusting,” Frye said.
Mercantante explained that dredging projects usually have these effects in the beginning, but also said that these issues subside after such projects are completed – so the foul odors, oily sand, etc. will solve themselves in the coming days and weeks.
When Frye then asked why these projects aren’t done in the early spring rather than the summer months, Mercantante said the NJ DEP regulations include seasonal restrictions on dredging projects that restrict when they can be done in order to protect the natural ecosystem of the dredged areas.
Sandra Vasquez, President of the ICBA, then briefly talked about her organization, saying that it’s a neighborhood association that meets every three months at the Tonya Keller Recreation Center to provide a forum for Ideal Beach residents to discuss ideas on how to make the neighborhood better.
Vasquez also said that the ICBA puts together a packet based on these ideas each year to present it to the township committee and local township department heads, and many of the ideas in these packets are often implemented each year, giving as an example the installation of additional stop signs in Ideal Beach.
“We try to put together a packet that represents the needs of this community to try and make it better,” Vasquez said.
For more information on Ideal Beach:
Ideal Beach is located on the Bayside Parkway
North Middletown, NJ 07718