Organizations Take "Ten Point" Motel Plan Island Wide

The "Ten Point Plan For Lodging" was developed and introduced to the Wildwood Crest planning board and elected officials several months ago by a group of concerned motel owners working with the Greater Wildwoods Hotel Motel Association and the Doo Wop Preservation League. The plan provides incentive zoning, design standardsw and incentives to develop the resort's lodging industry in the face of what many consider a gross overbuilding of townhouse condominiums in the resort.

The Ten Point Plan is critical to what has been called Phase 3 of the resort's development—enhanced lodging based on the island's much loved and well known mid-century motel properties that have been disappearing at an alarming rate in the past two years. Owners contend the teardowns will continue until planning and zoning boards give motel owners a practical option that makes motel ownership at least as attractive as motel sale for demolition. The plan must be bold and fully implemented to be effective. The vision of retaining and enhancing the resort and its lodging industry will not be realized if only a minimal plan is adopted. The plan's supporters strongly urge municipalities to establish incentives that exceed the plan as appropriate to meet existing conditions or lodging industry obstacles in a specific city or borough.

The plan developers are now asking the Boardwalk SID, the Wildwood BID, the Greater Wildwood Chamber of Commerce, the Cape May County Chamber of Commerce, and every other community, business and residential organization in the resort to join-in, sponsor and campaign for these incentives. They hope everyone on the island appreciates the importance of joining in Phase 3 to maintain and expand the resort's existing lodging industry.

In a discussion of the Ten Point Plan last month, Greater Wildwoods Hotel Motel Association officers Steve Tecco and Joe Salerno stressed that they and other motel owners want to stay in the lodging business but they must have changes in zoning and new types of building classifications. "Unfortunately, current zoning actually works against motel expansion and modernization just when developers are making extremely attractive offers to buy motel properties for demolition." said Steve Tecco. "We are pleased that the planning board and elected officials are reviewing the issues and looking at the alternatives because these ten points are essential if we are going to have motels."

"We are just asking for the tools, the incentives and zoning, that make it possible to stay in a modern lodging industry," Joe Salerno stressed when speaking in support of the Ten Point Plan. For that reason, the plan provides incentives only for buildings operating as a motel or hotel as defined in Addendum A of the Ten Point Plan.

The Ten Point Plan For Lodging includes:

1. An increase in building heights to allow for added floors to accommodate new or larger motel suites, game rooms, coffee shops and other amenities expected by modern travelers so long as the building continues operating as a motel or hotel as defined in Addendum A. The increase will vary from one municipality to another depending on current heights but a minimum of two additional floors or twenty foot increase are an essential part of the plan.

The building will maintain the current footprint, setback and open design loved by residents and tourists alike to provide the view corridors between buildings that are unique to the Wildwoods and sadly missing in other resorts.

2. The historic one parking place per unit should be permitted for motel rooms up to 800 square feet.

3. Eight-foot wide parking spaces and tandem on-site parking to keep automobiles off public streets as was standard for half a century in the resort to keep automobiles off public streets.

4. Four foot setbacks in the rear of motels that maintain current footprints.

5. Elimination of any "step back" requirements for fronts, sides and rears of upper floors so long as the property maintains that footprint.

6. Permit additional amenities such as gift shops, coffee shops, game rooms and meeting rooms without requiring additional parking.

7. There should be a liberalization of zoning impacting on signage to encourage both attached and freestanding signs. In addition, larger and more active signs such as the recent Commerce Bank sign on Rio Grande Avenue with movement and flashing logs should be encouraged.

8. Mid-century architecture should be adopted under the supervision of a review board of lodging operators and owners established by the municipality.

9. There should be a stated and explicit policy for liberalized incentive zoning with allowances for variances to encourage creativity, such as permitted use of off-premise parking.

10. Establish a new "Mixed Resort Use" category that qualifies for all incentives provided for lodging properties in a motel district so long as renovations and/or expansion retains the pre-conversion room count of units operating as a motel or hotel. Hotel operation is defined in Addendum A. Mixed Resort Use permits combining larger hotel-like condominium units with the motel/hotel units for sale to finance expansion and renovation while still qualifying as a motel for purposes of zoning, increased heights and other motel/hotel incentives. Municipalities may elect to place deed restrictions or other contingencies to assure continued operation of the required number of motel/hotel units per the standards of Addendum A.

If the existing building cannot accommodate the expansion and added floors for mixed resort use, there should be an alternative of demolishing the existing building to reconstruct for mixed resort use utilizing the same footprint, setbacks and mid-century design so long as the replacement building provides at least the pre-demolition hotel or motel room count as defined in Addendum A.

Residents have strongly supported most of the plan at previous municipal planning and zoning meetings. "We have not heard one word of support for demolishing our great motels to build condominiums. We will lose not only the motels, if the current trend continues, but also the restaurants, boardwalk piers and other businesses that depend on tourism," Steve said. "We are demolishing an entire resort when we tear down the motels but we can reverse this trend if the Ten Point Plan is adopted," he said.

The organizations have met with Wildwood Crest planners, the Master Plan consultants and elected officials to discuss the Ten Point Plan. A decision will be made at the October 6, 2005 planning board meeting regarding including these ten essential points in the new master plan M-1 district.

Several of these points have already been adopted by the City of Wildwood in its Land Use Ordinance. The organizations will meet with the planning boards in that city and in North Wildwood in the next few weeks.

"This is a time for historic decisions," said GWHMA executive vice president Joe Salerno. "The Wildwoods By-the-Sea are a much loved national trust of memories for millions. Current zoning encourages destruction of our lodging and the resort."

Addendum A- What is a Motel?

To qualify for motel/hotel incentives and liberalized zoning, a building and its operation must meet all the following qualifications:

1. They shall offer hotel/motel services to the general public;
2. They rent only transient lodging in the form of motel and hotel rooms to the general public without leases for one or more days but not exceeding 120 days;
3. They shall maintain a front desk to serve guests and the public;
4. They shall provide maid service and other room amenities including lines and towers in a manner expected from the traveling public reserving hotel and motel rooms;
5. They shall employ a manger and/or desk staff meeting the requirements of state lodging laws and state swimming pool regulations to provide those services expected at hotels and motels;
6. They shall advertise in appropriate media promoting the property to the general public as a motel or hotel offering motel-like services, and;
7. They shall pay sales and use tax, tourism tax, and tourism fees on revenue generated from the above sales and services.

Buildings that do not operate as a motel or hotel will not be eligible for hotel/motel incentives.