The reward for being a bad neighbor: Toms River to buy Surf Club, debris for $8.4 million

ORTLEY BEACH, NJ – In the 8 years since Superstorm Sandy, most of the Shore has been restored.  Debris has been cleaned up, homes and businesses have been rebuilt.  That is, except for the Joey Harrison’s Surf Club.  The owners of the Surf Club have been bad neighbors to the residents of Ortley Beach.  After an initial demolition project, the property was left pretty much as it was after the storm. Concrete footings, a partial structure and a fence warning the public to keep out have remained an eyesore for Ortley Beach.

A few years ago, the owners of the property argued their case to the Township of Toms River that they were paying too much in taxes and filed a property tax appeal.   Now, the town is going to approve the purchase on Tuesday for $8.4 million.   That doesn’t include the cost to demolish the existing structures on the property to make way for a new boardwalk extension Toms River Mayor Mo Hill seeks to build in their place.

The deal is a political one too.  GOP Lawyer Larry Bathgate represents the sellers, the Barcelona family.  Bathgate has been an influential player in Republican politics in New Jersey since the 1980s.  On the other side is the township where Councilwoman Maria Maruca, who has been pushing the sale said she’s good friends with the Barcelona family.

So tonight, the saga of the long-abandoned eyesore ends, as the Barcelonas walk away with $8.8 million, Mo Hill gets to build his boardwalk and Maria Maruca gets a few votes in her 2021 election.  It will be interesting to see the $60,000 press release they come up with.