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Is Tourism That Good For Residents?

Let me start off by saying that I’ve never been one of those Bennies go home guys.  As long as our guests don’t make a lot of noise or throw up on our yards, I have no problem with them coming here and I would never do anything to discourage them from visiting.  I probably would even write them fewer tickets.

But do we really need them?  Should we need them?

We are given two reasons why it’s very important to attract tourists; badge sales and the patronage of local businesses.  (Another unspoken one is that we write them a lot of tickets.)

I’m always a little perplexed at all the chest-thumping and wild cheering when good badge sales numbers are reported at the city council meetings.  It’s not Belmar’s money.  We are forbidden by state law from using it for expenses that are not directly related to the operation of the beach.  Good badge sales do not, and by law can not, lower property taxes.  We were sued for that in 1987 and we lost.  In his decision Judge Alvin Yale Milberg said the following:

“It is clear that the statute directs it’s “reasonable fee” standard to the municipality, however, this fee must be reasonable in relation to the municipality’s expenses incurred as a result of the beachfront.  This is not to say that Belmar can “fantasize” that it is an inland community and allocate any additional costs above and beyond it’s imaginary expenses as an inland community.

Belmar, as a beachfront municipality,  benefits overall from the shore attraction.  This is an added benefit, or in some cases, a burden to the municipality that comes with the territory.”

Now I know that in this state it’s more important to be friends with the governor than to follow the law and do right by the people (think AshBritt), but he’s not going to be governor forever and there’s already some (misguided) rumblings coming from various quarters calling for making the beaches “free”.  The greater advantage we try to leverage from beach revenues, the more pressure there will be for a state or county takeover.

A lot of extra money was spent this spring on getting the boardwalk ready on time.  There was a big bonus paid for rushing the project.  There was lots of no-bid work done.  Then in the name of promoting the beach we spent, among other things, $100,000 to subsidize the temporary restaurants on the boardwalk, and even $6000 for free beach balls.  So we spent all this money to get people to come, but now we need them to come because we spent so much money.  Maybe we should have spent less money and then we wouldn’t have needed so many people to come.  Honestly, I don’t really like when it’s so crowded on the beach that we can’t even find a place to sit.

But, you say, these crowds help support our local businesses.  And yes, that’s true.  But it is not the town’s responsibility to provide our businesses with customers.  That’s their job.  I’m a free market guy but I’m not pro-business.  I’m just not anti-business.  The government should do as little as possible to disturb businesses but it should not be trying to help them either, particularly when in order to help them it must use money taken from taxpayers or beach badge buyers.  If businesses want to come here and pay taxes that’s fine but it makes no sense to subsidize them just because they pay taxes.  In many situations the subsidies end up being greater than any tax revenue realized.  We don’t need to attract businesses that need to be supported in any way other than our voluntary patronage.

And about those tickets.  I hate tickets.  They’re mean.  And people who get tickets tend not to want to come again.  I would cut the parking fines by 50% and smoking on the beach fines by 100%.  And not because I necessarily want these folks to return to Belmar.  I just don’t think we should be mean.



One Comment

  1. Tom Burke wrote:

    I agree with most of what is presented here, but wish to add several things. Many of the tourists we go out of our way to attract bring no business to the town directly (remember beach badges to to beach revenue). They in fact cost us…..they are allowed to bring their own food and coolers to the beach, and we pay for the pick up….they litter the streets, especially 10th avenue on their trek from the train station to the beach. Many spend not one dime in our town, and we give them a discount beach fee for taking the train down from New York or North Jersey.
    There are other groups who also only bring themselves and a certain amount of noise and litter with them while spending little if any money to support our business’s. A term was developed a few years ago that describes these people as “Low end Tourists”…..they bring with themselves some “traveling noise” which affects the quality of life of those of us how live here.
    I too am not against tourists, but I want Belmar to be a family destination, not a place to go and sow our wild oats and raise heck.
    If we are really concerned at helping our business’s in town we need to take a really good look at who we are attracting to our community. Fewer but a better quality of visitors with family values and self pride are those we especially want to come to Belmar. More is not always better even if the commercials say it is. Belmar, “Community First- Destination Second” a moto Dave and I both endorse for our great town of Belmar.

    Sunday, June 2, 2013 at 9:33 am | Permalink

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