As a courtesy to our SHPOA Members, we’re bringing you a summary of each Stone Harbor Work Session and Council Meeting. Intended as summaries, these intentionally don’t have a lot of details and are not a substitute for the official Borough minutes.
Public Safety Committee
Police Chief Tom Schutta – In 2023, officers made 36 motor vehicle stops, responded to 13 summons, 2 motorists were assisted, responded to 4 animal complaints, found 14 open doors/windows, and responded to 3 noise complaints.
The final two recruits should graduate the academy by April 2024.
Beach Patrol Captain Sandy Bosacco is reviewing the lifeguard’s materials, equipment, and facilities to check their condition.
Rec and Tourism Committee
Recreation Director Shannon MacPherson reported that bids for summer 2024 programming are due at the end of the month. The department is scheduling CPR training to get Borough staff certified. The mayors’ wellness employee challenge kicked off last week and is expanding to community members in partnership with Cape Regional.
Programs will be held on the first Tuesday of the month from February until May. Crafty Chef will be hosting a Valentines Day kids’ event on a Saturday, registration will be on the website. The county Open Space Grant to rehab the 97th Street playground is due March 1st.
Tourism Director Jenny Olson said the Borough received a special event application from an Avalon condo association for their annual owners’ meeting, which the Borough has hosted for several years. There is a committee meeting with fire/police/public works to move the Independence Day fireworks back to a barge off 80th Street in response to a request from the community.
96th Street Construction
Council asked for an update on the road upgrades to the 200 block of 96th Street. Information on the construction and its effects on local businesses will be on the website and notices were sent to property owners and the Chamber of Commerce. A separate email will go to all registered businesses as well.
The water main replacement will begin Feb 1st (The plan is to site it where there are old train tracks so those can be removed at the same time.) This will take three weeks or so. Separately, two Department of Transportation grants to reconstruct the street will be put out for bids on a separate contract. Ideally, that will be scheduled for mid-March to May 1st. The Borough will require contractors to conduct work during the day and open the road overnight, work vehicles would be parked elsewhere, and the sidewalks should all remain open. Councilmembers emphasized that it is important to communicate the timeline with residents.
Natural Resources Committee
The Bird Sanctuary committee met January 9th to review their budget, elect leadership and welcome new members, many of whom live near the Sanctuary. Pumphouse construction is progressing. Some of the native gardens were dug up, replanted elsewhere, and will be returned when construction is finished. Work on elimination of invasive plants is progressing with labor help from the Department of Corrections.
Clean Shores program – Beach update – After the first storm, the dunes remained strong. Recently, there was minor erosion to the Point access road that was quickly rebuilt. A survey of the back bay is scheduled for January but it may be rescheduled for snow. The Borough should receive that data quickly. The beach survey is already delayed but the committee is working to get it scheduled soon.
A sand scraping pilot is beginning that will scrape one foot between 80 and 83 rd Streets. They will measure before, during and after the scraping and, if successful, this could lead to using Stone Harbor sand for beach replenishment, which could save money.
The committee also reported on pruning shade trees and the Go Green committee has new members after the January reorg meeting. The Go Green fair will be scheduled for 2024.
Discussion of the preliminary budget
This was a review of operating budgets, highlighting notable increases/decreases from the prior year. Operating budgets do not include salaries and next month’s review will include capital projects and revenue.
Finance – the big change is that postage costs are up and payroll costs are up because there are more employees.
Police – the cost of the subscription to the ParkMobile system has increased.
Emergency management – the big increase is CodeRED for IPAWS (Integrated Public Alert & Warning System)
Department of Public Works – budget is lower because beach fill isn’t scheduled for this year It is budgeted for 2026.
Building and grounds – there was an increase in service agreements and building repairs.
Animal control – there was a slight decrease due to a change in how the County allocates shelter costs.
Beach Tags – there was an increase for beach badges because the costs of printing them went up and the Borough ordered slightly more, based on anticipated demand. The Borough ran out of seasonal badges in 2023. The cost increase was a few years ago and they sold fewer badges. Last year sales rebounded a bit and the CFO often sees that pattern after an increase in cost.
The appropriations cap issue that has been plaguing the Borough will not have an impact this year. The Chief Financial Officer is not ready to predict the tax rate.
Presentation on parking options (Administrator Manny Parada)
Following complaints about difficulty using the current parking system that relies on the ParkMobile software and cell phone use, Parada presented on the Borough’s revenue and costs for parking in the Stone Harbor downtown business district and the potential cost for installing kiosks to inform Council’s discussion on whether to buy kiosks or make any changes to the parking system.
History – In 2022, Stone Harbor investigated their parking kiosk system which often failed, was outdated, needing a major investment to upgrade. Council discussed options and the $400,000 needed at the time to upgrade kiosks and decided the cost was prohibitive. In November 2022, the ParkMobile app option was introduced to Council, favorably received, and eventually approved.
The Borough incurs some costs to present a vibrant downtown area, including investing “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in flowers, lights, trees, banners etc., which the Borough leaderships says sets Stone Harbor apart from other beach front communities.
Why charge for parking? Parada explained that a paid parking system is primarily to help with turnover in the downtown area; businesses like it so that there are potential new customers coming in.
Employee parking: There is also the question of where employees can park without taking a prime spots from potential customers.
Net income – In 2023, there were 250,392 parking transactions, 394 tickets written and about 99% of them were paid. This produced $398,000 in revenue. The Borough pays a merchant of record charge to ParkMobile and the customer pays a transaction fee as well. This resulted in $343,000 in net revenue from parking in 2023.
Kiosks – The question to consider would be how many kiosks are needed, which is informed by how far someone will walk to get to one to pay for their parking. Parada based his estimates on a well-known company’s model that is considered robust enough to withstand sea air. He suggests 29 kiosks would be needed. Cost would include the actual kiosks, maintenance, spare parts, transaction fees, software, shrink wrapping for the off-season, and enforcement. This option is a little cheaper than a couple years ago, he said, and estimates $376,762 in indirect costs including court costs, labor costs to have employees on standby to fix broken kiosks, accounting for employees to handle the coins/cash, as well as $213,324 in costs for the kiosks. Totaled, this would be a $587,586 investment. Parada said given that total revenue is lower than that, he does not recommend this as the best business plan.
Parada suggested options for paying for the kiosks which include spreading the cost out via a general-purpose tax or it could be a mercantile tax. One option would be to remove parking fees all together, which could make sense since the technology is not dissimilar from the app so if residents/visitors are struggling with the app then they will likely struggle with a kiosk. Plus, there is a time lag for the kiosk that doesn’t communicate with app police use which could lead to people getting tickets while they are paying for parking and resulting legal challenges/costs.
Proposed Options for Council–
Increase parking fees (Stone Harbor has the lowest parking fees in county at $1 per hour.
Create a parking authority so the borough “gets out of parking business” with a separate entity that handles parking and enforcement).
Eliminate parking fees (it reduces police and court costs; merchants would need to tell their employees where to park. Avalon doesn’t charge parking fees).
Shorten the parking season or day (this reduces variable costs, but fixed costs remain).
Introduce a senior parking sticker (Sea Isle offers a limited number of parking passes, not just for seniors. Parking passes are already available in Stone Harbor for $225. A recent resolution to increase the fee was tabled. The Borough sold over 200, and its existence might not be widely known. It’s limited to certain parking lots.
Council asked questions about these options:
Mayor Judith Davies-Dunhour and Parada pointed out that the Borough has already purchased additional signs with the dates and times of parking which will be installed under all the existing ParkMobile signs. The Mayor asked about the option of painting parking instructions on curbs or asphalt. Parada says this is allowed if federal funds were not used for curbs and streets.
Members also asked: Could the number of kiosks could be reduced? Parada said maybe.
Is the Borough losing money? Parada said there is a profit. It depends on how you allocate special law enforcement officers who help enforce parking. As people get more comfortable with the system, fines would go down along with court costs.
As for senior passes, a councilmember commented that Haddonfield solved its ParkMobile issue that way, though it’s not totally comparable.
This issue will be continued in February.
The Cape May County Herald covered this issue and their story can be found by following this link: https://capemaycountyherald.com/article/stone-harbor-council-hears-presentation-on-parking-options/
There are adjustments to an ordinance that restricted the number of stories in a house to eliminate further challenges to the ordinance. Builders tried to justify having a ground-level story in addition to two habitable stories because that ground-level story was not living space. The ordinance now clarifies that the interior ground-level space is a transition area for elevators and stairs. The space to access a third-floor deck is also a transitional area. Council plans to vote on the adjustment soon.
There is a proposed ordinance covering homes on Linden Lane. Linden Lane is often compared to the courts but has a different size and style of homes. The homes are smaller and would need a variance to be rebuilt today. Five of the homes already have second stories. The board decided to modify the previous lot sizes in the ordinance; changed zoning; and standards were rewritten to fit the limitations of Linden Lane. It would allow two stories, require a five-foot set back and not allow 18-inch bump outs.
Council plans to consider the house construction ordinance soon.
A resident requested copies of the budget slideshow and Parada’s parking presentation, which Council said would be emailed. Questions on either topic should be referred to Administrator Parada.
Rich Fuchs, president of SHPOA, offered to conduct a survey of members around the parking issue.
Council unanimously approved 10 resolutions covering fees for licenses and permits, reimbursements, refunds, the amusement gaming license for Rigi’s arcade, a contract for reconstruction 2nd Ave from 87-75th, a conceptual design for the Open Space Grant (the playground and 96th rec complex improvements), and appointment of a volunteer firefighter, among other business.
To read legislation discussed, please click here: https://stoneharbornj.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/01/01.16.2024-Regular-Meeting-Agenda.pdf
To view a recording, please click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2Z1KQjGutA
NOTE: The Cape May County Herald recently had three articles related to topics covered at this Council Meeting. Topics covered were on the fight against beach erosion, parking options, planned improvements to improve the 97th Street playground. These articles can be found along with others as part of their coverage of Stone Harbor.
As you may know, our friends at the Cape May County Herald are offering SHPOA members only an exclusive discount for Herald subscriptions — 25% OFF with code “SHPOA” — and they are also providing your association advertising space in print and online for us to promote the association and the initiatives important to our members.
To subscribe and use the discount, please click on https://capemaycountyherald.com/subscribe/ and use promo code “SHPOA” at checkout to claim your 25% discount. Only valid for new subscribers.
To read past Stone Harbor Council Meeting summaries, please click here: https://www.stoneharborpoa.org/category/borough-meeting-summaries/
To watch recordings of past meetings, please click here: https://stoneharbornj.org/agendameetings/watch-mayor-and-council-meetings-online/