MARGATE — The dream of a boardwalk that does not stop at the Ventnor-Margate border became one step closer to reality Friday after Margate’s town leaders relented and said they would allow residents of this affluent Shore town to vote on the question.
At least year-round residents.
But Glenn Klotz, who has headed the effort to rebuild a boardwalk not seen in this town since the Hurricane of 1944, in part as an effort to fix the problems associated with a dune-building project forced on Margate by former Gov. Chris Christie, says he’s hoping a poll can eventually be taken of summer residents as well.
For now, though, the request of the pro-boardwalk people of Margate has “thankfully been answered,” he said, and a nonbinding referendum on a Margate boardwalk on the November ballot. The action was unexpected, he said.
“From our point of view, we are now one step closer to a boardwalk returning to Margate on the beach,” Klotz wrote late Thursday night after the City Commissioners all agreed to allow a referendum. “It’s up to the voters in Margate now to take it to the next step.”
The Margate Boardwalk Committee collected 614 signatures last summer asking for a referendum. The committee also collected signatures on a second petition to place an initiative on the books asking for that referendum.
At a meeting Thursday, the message finally yielded a response from the City Commission, which has been reluctant to advance the massive project and had recently been touting improvements to Margate’s bayside walkways.
“I’m sure we’ve all talked to a lot of people, some in favor some against,” Mayor Mike Becker said, according to audio posted by Downbeach Buzz. “My suggestion would be that we put it out for on referendum and let’s see what the people’s wishes are. I think it’s too big of an issue to not do that.”
Commissioner John Amodeo said the city would get the city’s engineer to estimate costs and the tax impact of building a boardwalk. All three commissioners agreed. The price has previously been estimated to be between $16 and $24 million.
Klotz, whose late father was the legendary Red Klotz of Washington Generals and JCC pickup basketball fame, has said the boardwalk would be “a silver lining,” to help residents move past the damage they say the state and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers did to the town’s beaches with its massive dune and beach widening project.
That project led to flooding and access issues, and Klotz and others believe a boardwalk would improve the appearance and walkability of the town’s beaches, and give the residents an amenity long missing from the town, which borders Ventnor.
Ventnor rebuilt its mile-and-a-half boardwalk after both the 1944 and 1962 storms. It connects with Atlantic City’s four-mile Boardwalk, which has seen recent improvements along its north end. Adding another mile or so of boardwalk to the Longport border is a dream shared by bicyclists and walkers, though not necessarily beachfront property owners in Margate.
Klotz said the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection would ultimately have to be brought in to the process. “We never said it was going to be easy, but allowing the voters to say where they stand on this issue is a good place to start,” he said.
The news was greeted with excitement as word spread on social media. “Great news, thank you!” said one Facebook poster. “We all know you have to walk before you can run (on the boardwalk!)”
Added another, referring to Lucy the Elephant’s approaching debut as an airbnb, “Just think ... one day soon you’ll be able to take a walk on the boards and sleep in Lucy ! A perfect day in Margate.”