By Lauren Wanko
It’s the signature Toms River Mayor Tom Kelaher has been waiting for.
“It’s a happy day. This is a culmination of a year’s effort,” he said.
The mayor’s year-long effort to get all the oceanfront easements signed. This afternoon, beach development owner John McDonough finally signed the easement required for the Army Corps Beach Replenishment Project. It’s significant because McDonough owns a lot of land.
McDonough owns three beach developments in Toms River. About 1,700 homeowners lease the beach from him.
“Really my primary concern was that we were gonna turn back over to the government, they were gonna build a dune and disappear,” said McDonough. “Who was gonna take care of our beaches?”
About six months ago, McDonough, township officials and the Department of Environmental Protection began meeting to work out a compromise. McDonough says he wanted his own properties to continue maintaining and cleaning their beaches.
“Those were all things we weren’t gonna be able to do, but with the compromise with the DEP they’ll now permit us to do those things,” McDonough said.
One other property owner within the beach community also signed an easement today. Now the township needs only five more signed easements and the mayor’s optimistic he’ll get those signatures.
“Some other property owners in his area were probably watching to see what he did,” Kelaher said.
Today there were lots of smiles and handshakes between McDonough and Kelaher, but the relationship wasn’t always warm and fuzzy. The mayor publicly called out McDonough in May for not signing the easement.
“I was so dedicated and I had some pressure on me. You have to understand to get all this work done he was one of the biggest property owners on the beach that was within the boundaries of Toms River,” said Kelaher.
But there are no hard feelings.
“He was just doing what he thinks is right. I don’t begrudge anyone for that,” McDonough said.
Ocean Beach residents like John LeGrand are happy with McDonough’s decision.
“I think it’s a good idea. I think it is time for some movement in that general area,” said LeGrand.
“I think the dunes are necessary and I think it’s a good thing that we are having the dunes,” said Arlene Berlamino.
“The dunes have got to be built. It’s a time bomb waiting to happen and I’m glad that he finally signed. I hope everybody else signs,” said John Odell.
The mayor hopes the Army Corps Beach Replenishment work will begin in September.