By Neil Schulman
Oceanport — The majority of residents who answered a survey say that they would like the next borough hall to be built in Oceanport Plaza. However, officials still have some concerns.
Last month, Oceanport held a town hall meeting to discuss where to build its new Borough Hall. The one at Monmouth Boulevard was structurally damaged by Superstorm Sandy, and that site becomes inaccessible when it floods, so officials have been looking at alternative builds.
At last month’s meeting, Oceanport reviewed several locations, including a site on Fort Monmouth, the existing Oceanport Plaza (sometimes called the Teicher properties), and at Maria Gatta Park.
“More than 50 percent of the folks that were in attendance, their first choice was at the existing Oceanport Plaza,” Mayor Michael Mahon said at the May 7 Borough Council meeting.
The borough received 92 surveys as a result of the presentation, with 51 saying they preferred putting Borough Hall where the two-story structure in the middle of the shops in the downtown area currently stands. Since then, they’ve received about 20 more surveys from people using the website or stopping by borough offices. The majority of those also favor the plaza.
The second highest vote getter, with 22 votes, was Gatta Park. And most of those recipients chose the plaza as their next preference.
While the location isn’t certain yet, Mahon asked council members for permission to begin negotiations with the Teicher property owners, to see if purchasing it is in fact feasible.
According to the plans, most of the businesses there, such as the bank and convenience store, would remain, with the borough becoming their landlords.
Council members, however, have mixed feelings about the location.
Councilman John Patti said he wasn’t quite ready to object to it, but it’s far from his first choice.
“I’m not in love with the Teicher property,” he said. He believes that parking might be a serious problem, and worries that the structure looks too dilapidated.
“I was really head over heels with the Fort property,” Patti said.
Councilman Joe Irace said that he initially agreed with Patti, but sees advantages, such as a chance to strengthen a tiny business district.
“I was lukewarm in the beginning too,” he said. But he thinks that the location is appealing, allowing Oceanport to centralize.
“I think people want it in the town center,” Irace said.
“If we can get this right, (think) what it can lead to in downtown Oceanport,” Councilman Christopher Paglia agreed.
Some councilmembers were concerned with having enough parking spaces, especially on court days, when many people would come to the lot. That might upset businesses, they said. Others countered that people parked there might use businesses, especially ones which sold goods like coffee.
Mayor Mahon said that his first choice was Gatta Park, as it would be a chance to strengthen the recreation options in Oceanport. However, he thought the Teicher building was still close enough to those fields.