2020 is in the books – and it was a year like no other…
Overshadowing everything was Covid-19, the virus that for us was a worry in January, a deepening concern in February, and a full-blown pandemic in March. The OGHOA stepped back, adopted proper precautions, and then forged ahead full steam with a huge turnout for our first virtual meeting in May. Zoom became the new medium for all subsequent meetings and we took maximum advantage – our meetings and candidate forums have been as varied and effective as ever.
One of the biggest town “crises” in 2020 was also Covid-related – the unexpected immediate sell-out of CMA summer beach badges leaving many Ocean Grovers without badges at the start of the summer. The OGHOA hosted a virtual meeting for the CMA’s President Michael Badger to update attendees on the handling of the shortage, and to the CMA’s credit, additional badges became available and the crisis was resolved.
Progress on two perennial hot-button topics – parking and the North End redevelopment – was slowed by the pandemic, but we diligently stayed on top of both.
The big potential development in parking was to be the CMA-engaged traffic and parking planner Kimley-Horn’s report due in late November. The OGHOA Parking Committee, along with the BPA (Better Parking Alliance) participated in an extensive input session with Kimley-Horn in September and expectations were running high, but delivery of the report was delayed, and as of this writing is still pending.
The year started with Township Planning Board approval of the OGNED (site developer) redevelopment plan, pending satisfactory mandated agency reviews. One review the OGHOA’s hard-working North End Committee aggressively pushed for was Fire Department analysis of fire safety and firetruck access around the perimeter of the site. But the surprise turn of events was that the NJDEP twice rejected as deficient OGNED’s application for CAFRA (Coastal Area Facility Review Act) approval, raising the possibility that the plan’s underground parking would not be permitted. Nonetheless, DEP permitted the application to proceed to a comment period. In December, the OGHOA submitted to the NJDEP a comment letter voicing concern, but not opposition to the plan, over water level tables and climate change effect on potential flooding. The third NJDEP ruling has been deferred, and again, as of this writing, is still pending
In July the OGHOA held its annual elections, and given term limits on then President Barbara Burns, Richard Williams was elected new President. Joyce Klein was voted Vice-President, and both Treasurer George Germann and Secretary Theresa Checki were re-elected. BOT member Nancy Clarke, then serving as a replacement board member, won her first full term and will continue as the Chair of the OGHOA’s Preservation Committee. And subsequently, to fill the BOT seat vacated by Joyce Klein, the Board appointed Ron Goldfaden to serve the remainder of her term.
Because our annual Summer Breakfast was canceled, in the spirit of “replacing” the lost meal the OGHOA created a very successful fund raiser: any person making a donation to the St. Paul’s Food Pantry received a coupon for a meal at the Starving Artist, an Ocean Gove restaurant and long-time friend of the OGHOA.
One big step forward for the convenience of our members was the Fall addition of an online payment process on our website for membership fees and donations. By year’s end, over 70 members had taken advantage of the process, and we are hoping usage of online payment will continue to rise in the coming year, allowing us to save on the high cost of membership postal mailings.
Looking ahead to how the OGHOA could evaluate itself and better serve our members and the community, another big initiative was the OGHOA Survey. Spearheaded by the BOT’s Bob Lamont and member James MacNamara (both professionally involved with survey taking), the survey was designed to gather information about Ocean Grove and perceptions of the OGHOA. Sent to our membership with additional mailing support from the Chamber of Commerce, Historical Society, OG United, BPA, CMA, and local real estate agents, the survey was completed by some 400 people. The results are proving invaluable as we consider growing and improving the OGHOA in the coming year.
Looking ahead into 2021, one hope reigns supreme – the safety and welfare of our entire membership with all receiving as soon as possible Covid vaccinations. The return of live meetings, perhaps by late Summer or early Fall, would signal a return to a degree of normality and a chance for our membership to be joyfully together again in one space.
We will, as always, be vigilant over parking and the North End redevelopment, ensuring that our members learn of breaking news, and will continue in our role as watchdog over local government to be sure important new issues are tackled head-on. Ocean Grove has become a sought-after and premier place to live on the Jersey Shore, and keeping our residents as involved and informed as possible is the OGHOA way of enhancing our community even more.
Richard Williams, President