Riverfront business owner worried about redevelopment
Asbury Park Press (NJ), 2014-08-21
Aug. 21 -- SOUTH TOMS RIVER -- Monica Miller says she has big plans for Miller Yacht Sales and the Cedar Cove Marina . But she wants to do it her way.
"I am the only one who can make decisions here," Miller said, sitting in the yacht sales office off Route 166 , known as Atlantic City Boulevard in the borough. "Nobody can decide for me. This is my business."
Miller, whose late husband, Donald, died in 2012, said she became upset when she read a recent Asbury Park Press article about South Toms River's sweeping plans to redevelop the Route 166 corridor between Beachwood and Toms River . The riverfront section of this small borough was recently declared an area in need of redevelopment by the Borough Council .
Redeveloping the area could increase the borough's commercial ratable base and help stabilize property taxes, Mayor Joseph M. Champagne has said.
The borough particularly would like to see Miller Yacht Sales and the marina property cleaned up and perhaps developed into a new marina or a waterfront restaurant, according to Borough Administrator/Clerk Joseph Kostecki . Kostecki has said that the borough could use eminent domain to take properties whose owners are unwilling to upgrade.
"We certainly don't want to take their property. We just want the place cleaned up," Kostecki said of Miller Yacht Sales, located on the water at Route 166 near Crabbe Road .
Kostecki's words rankled Miller, who said she has been working hard to clean up the property. The yacht sales building and a nearby garage already were in poor shape before the structures were flooded with river water during superstorm Sandy. The marina is closed for business but she hopes to reopen it.
She said now that the borough has declared the area a redevelopment zone, she will pick up the pace of her cleanup.
"I'm in the process of cleaning up," she said. "I am just going to have to go at a different pace." She wants to paint and restore the buildings where her husband worked for more than 40 years. Miller's specialty was building trawler yachts, pleasure boats that resemble fishing trawlers.
His wife said he built more than 3,600 of them. In addition to the South Toms River property, the Millers' holdings include Seaport Marina in Egg Harbor and another marina in Maryland that Monica Miller has put up for sale. He also previously owned the Trader's Cove Marina in Brick , which is now a marina and park operated by the township.
Miller said she also owns several nearby parcels of land, including the pieces along Route 166 -- where Tronix, a car audio and security business, MTE, a car accessories business, and a sign store are located. She also owns three businesses in a nearby strip shopping center on the highway, including Vinny's Pizza.
The owners of Bakin' Bagels, who operate three local bagel and doughnut shops, soon will open a store in one of Miller's strip mall properties, she said.
Miller said that she hopes to take advantage of tax breaks that will be available to businesses within the redevelopment corridor. Businesses that choose to upgrade would be exempt from taxes on the improvements for five years, Kostecki has said.
Earlier this year, South Toms River completed removal of the last of 115 boats that were in the water near the Miller Yacht Sale's property.
The Miller properties had fallen into "significant disrepair and decay," according to Robert Tarver , a local lawyer who represented the borough in negotiations with Donald and Monica Miller . Some people were living on their boats, even though the marina is not zoned for residential use and there are no proper sanitary facilities, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection .
The DEP said some boats were leaking oil and fuel into the river, and those were removed after booms were placed around them to capture the contaminants.
The borough started to pressure the Millers to clean it up in 2012, and eventually an agreement was reached where the majority of the boats were removed from the property at no cost to the borough, according to Tarver. Monica Miller said she and her husband paid about $200,000 to have the boats removed.
She said her husband had allowed people to live in the boats for years, a practice she claims she discouraged.
"He was too nice. People took advantage," she said.
Two other boats, a yacht and a steel tugboat that had been at the marina north of Crabbe Road since the 1980s, were destroyed by Allied Recycling of Mount Holly in the spring. The cost was expected to be $11,750 , according to Kostecki, who said the contractor has agreed to take a pay cut in exchange for the scrap metal. The DEP is paying for 75 percent of the costs, Kostecki said.
Kostecki said Red Bank -based Maser Consulting is scheduled to complete a report detailing plans for the entire redevelopment area within the next two weeks. Those plans will be presented to the borough's Land Use Board for approval and then will go before the town council, he said.
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