Environmental groups appeal Seaside development plan
The proposed land swap in Seaside Heights that would permit expansion of Casino Pier faces a court challenge filed by two environmental advocacy groups.
The American Littoral Society (ALS) and the New Jersey Conservation Foundation are appealing the lifting of Green Acres regulations, approved by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the State House Commission, alleging rule violations.
Casino Pier, decimated during Superstorm Sandy in 2012, is the site where the now-iconic rollercoaster tumbled into the surf by the force of wind and waves.
Under the proposal, Casino Pier would rebuild on land instead of over water, occupying about one and one-third acres north of its present site. The borough would receive the pier's historic carousel, parking facilities and off-site wetlands.
Municipal officials cite the project's economic advantages. In the filing in state Appellate Court, litigants claim that the beach tract is worth millions of dollars, while the 67 undevelopable acres are valued at $4,100 per acre, or roughly $274,000.
They contend that the beach tract is about twice the size of the parking lot, and that operators of the amusement center sought to phase out the carousel in light of dwindling ridership and high maintenance.
They base their appeal on the Green Acres land-diversion stipulation for "replacement with property of similar usefulness, recreational value, economic value and natural resource value."
In prepared remarks, ALS Executive Director Tim Dillingham said, "The Green Acres program is intended to preserve such natural resources and recreational opportunities for everyone, not to place them into the hands of private developers."
Sought for comment Monday, Borough Administrator Chris Vaz said that the borough had neither been notified, nor had accessed the pertinent documents.
The groups are represented by attorney Andrew J. Provence and by Aaron Kleinbaum, Executive Director of the Eastern Environmental Law Center, both based in Newark.