North Wildwood Mayor Patrick Rosenello recently insinuated that the NJ Department of Environmental Protection only issued violations to his town because he criticized Governor Murphy’s reopening of the shore economy. Last month, The City of North Wildwood was issued two violations from DEP for unauthorized construction and destruction of dunes. The notices required the City of North Wildwood to stop development activities that were being conducted without required DEP permits.
“The Mayor of North Wildwood is trying to justify the unjustifiable. The City was illegally destroying dunes and building along the beach for years. Instead of admitting that what they did was wrong and working with DEP, Mayor Rosenello is making up excuses. In the past few months alone they destroyed at least 8 acres of vegetated dunes. Coastal marshes and vegetated dunes are one of the best ways to protect people’s homes from flooding, sea-level rise, and storm surges,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “Mayor Rosenello seems to think that this is political revenge, but a lot of people have been complaining about the City destroying dunes for awhile. The Sierra Club and others sent emails and called DEP to alert them of this issue for months before DEP acted.”
Since at least March of this year, the City of North Wildwood has removed more than 8 acres of mature, densely vegetated dunes containing freshwater wetlands and critical wildlife habitat without legally required permits and approvals from DEP. They have also installed an oceanfront bulkhead without required permits or DEP engineering reviews that ensure public safety and environmental protection. The City also constructed multiple buildings at the Seaport Pier boardwalk entertainment complex and extended sewer service without DEP review or approval.
“No matter what excuses Mayor Rosenello comes up with, it is critical that DEP is holding North Wildwood accountable because of the potential impacts of their actions. Dunes help hold our beaches in place. They dissipate the energy from waves, which protects the beach, the boardwalk, and the properties behind them. We saw firsthand that areas with dunes in place did a lot better during Hurricane Sandy than those without. This is also foolish because by destroying the dunes they are opening areas up for more damage and flood impacts, which could impact people’s flood insurance,” said Tittel. “The City also built a restaurant and a bulkhead without DEP permits, which violates important environmental protections like CAFRA, Coastal Zone Management Rules, and the Water Pollution Control Act.”
BG Capital and the City of North Wildwood are working with the DEP to find a solution. Any completed work that does not receive DEP approval will have to be restored to its natural state, which includes “the removal of all structures on the main Seaport Pier, including the approximately 23,136 square foot restaurant and bar building w/ bathrooms, a concert stage, a tiki bar, and additional storage building” according to the DEP’s second violation.
“DEP is doing their job and holding North Wildwood accountable for violating important coastal protections. What they did shows a flagrant disregard for the environment and public safety. This enforcement should act as a deterrent. We also need to integrate climate change into every rule and regulation while changing flood maps to mitigate disaster. Restoring dunes, natural systems, and moving buildings back from harm’s way should be the priorities right now,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “Nature is planning for us with flood after flood. The state needs to update outdated rules and use holistic solutions to sea-level rise and climate change to protect our coast for generations to come.”