Margate Residents Present Proposals for Building Boardwalk

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An image of people walking along the proposed Margate boardwalk
The proposed boardwalk looking south from the end of Ventnor’s boardwalk (Courtesy of Glen Klotz)

Glen Klotz has a vision of what the proposed boardwalk in Margate, New Jersey, could be for residents and beachgoers — a place for walking, running, bike riding and social meeting, like a town square.

“People in wheelchairs can experience the ocean. It’s wonderful for families and it’s much easier to access the beach from the street,” said Klotz, who is leading a boardwalk movement, launched in March 2018. “The beach is our social center, and a boardwalk makes it more valuable, personally and economically.”

About 1.6 miles long, the new boardwalk would start at the end of Ventnor’s boardwalk and extend south to the border between Margate and Longport, the neighboring borough.

Klotz and the Margate Boardwalk Committee presented a 26-page report at a July 13 public meeting, advocating for a residential, noncommercial boardwalk.

The report outlines three boardwalk proposals, all the same length, with railings and seating benches. The cost estimates are for construction and don’t include maintenance.

First is the “Stripped-Down Boardwalk,” 20 feet wide, with 20 to 35 ramps, including one or two vehicle ramps, and basic LED lighting. There would be no bike path or pavilion. The estimated cost is $14 million.

Second is the “Ventnor-Style Boardwalk,” 20 feet wide, with 30 to 40 ramps, including one or two vehicle ramps, and solar-powered LED lighting. There would be no bike path. There would be three to four pavilions, including water fountains. The estimated cost is $19 million.

The third is “Uniquely Margate,” which is favored by the committee. It would be 27 feet wide, with 30 to 40 ramps, including two or three vehicle ramps, and solar-powered LED lighting. There would be a 7-foot-wide bike path, and three to four pavilions, with restrooms, outside baths and foot showers. The estimated cost is $24 million.

“A boardwalk is considered a public street, and police and EMTs can access the boardwalk to save lives,” said Klotz, the son of the late Red Klotz, owner of the Harlem Globetrotters’ longtime opponents the Washington Generals. “It makes the area more secure, since many residents are not there in the winter.”

Some city officials seem to favor the idea of a proposed boardwalk, but are proceeding with caution.

“When the report is formally submitted to the City Commission, then the three city commissioners would begin a review of the committee’s plans,” Mayor Michael Becker said. “I want to wait and see what the costs and permitting will entail.”

The boardwalk would contribute to the environmental preservation of the beach and its beauty, said Klotz, a retired computer engineer who has lived most of his life in Margate.

There are three sections of Margate’s beachscape, explained Klotz, located between the bulkhead and the ocean. The section behind the dunes is called the dead zone. There also are the dunes, which is a protected area, and the ocean beach section. The boardwalk would be located in the dead zone, between beachfront properties and the dunes.

“People walking on a boardwalk in the dead zone is better than people walking in the area surrounding the dunes,” Klotz said. “The new sand dunes built from 2017 to May 2019 have created enough protection to build a boardwalk, to protect it from a storm surge, the most dangerous part of a storm by the ocean.”

The committee is gathering information and plans to put the proposal on the record at a commission meeting in August. It also is gathering signatures to apply political pressure for a referendum on the boardwalk.

“We are aiming for 500 signatures; we have a few hundred already,” Klotz said. “For the question to appear on the ballot in the November election, two of the three commissioners would need to approve the question for the ballot by sometime in August.”

Around 60% of Margate taxpayers do not reside in Margate year-round, according to Klotz. A great majority are from Philadelphia and its suburbs, as well as Cherry Hill, New Jersey. He and committee members are trying to reach out to all of Margate’s residents, whether voting or nonvoting, if they are paying taxes, through a social media campaign.

But there could be other hurdles.

“$24 million may be too low an estimate for construction,” Margate City Solicitor Scott Abbott said. “We have about $50 million total debt, so for Margate to incur that kind of debt would be tough, and the finances would impact everyone’s taxes.”

The cost to individual homeowners for building the boardwalk would be about $150 in taxes annually, according to the committee’s report.

But there is also the continuing cost of the boardwalk, such as electrical bills, constant maintenance, insurance and trash, and a certain number of lawsuits come every year, Abbott said.

And the boardwalk would need to be built around the sand dunes and the drainage pipes.

The state spent about $40 million so far for the sand dunes and drainage system, so it may be unlikely it will spend more in Margate, Abbott said.

Government agencies, such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, would also need to issue permits and be consulted regarding the boardwalk’s environmental impact.

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