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LLC settles on purchase of Beesleys Point power plant

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Demolition of the former B.L. England power plant in the Beesleys Point section of Upper Township will likely take years, the new owners say. That work could begin next week. The new owners closed on the property Monday for an undisclosed price.

UPPER TOWNSHIP — Demolition at the former B.L. England power plant could begin as early as next week, but don’t expect the very visible cooling tower or smokestack to disappear overnight.

“It’s a two- to three-year process,” said Chad Parks, executive vice president of real estate and development for Beesleys Point Development Group LLC, which closed on the sale of the property from former owners Cape May RC Holdings on Monday.

Parks did not disclose the purchase price.

Cleanup costs for the property have been estimated at about $13 million.

The company reached a deal on the property last year, township officials had announced at the time. On Monday, township attorney Dan Young said the sale had gone to closing that day, citing communication from representatives of both parties.

“The buyers said to me that they immediately intend to start demolishing and intend to redevelop the property,” Young said.

While Parks said it was too early to say much about plans for the property, township officials had previously said the proposal could include a marina and a hotel, along with a restaurant and other development on the sprawling property on the bank of the Great Egg Harbor Bay. The site includes more than 300 acres, including woods and wetlands, along with the looming power plant, cooling tower and smokestack. There is also a now-abandoned golf course at the site and a fishing pier.

With the closing, many more details about the ownership of Beesleys Point Development Group have become available, including the names of the founders, Chris Wilson and Tim Niedzwiecki. Niedzwiecki is the owner of the environmental and demolition firm ERSI in Syracuse, New York.

Wilson is the company president for Beesleys Point Development Group. Information about the LLC filed with the township states he has worked in brownfield recovery projects. He is also listed as the managing partner of ERS investments in Smithtown, New York.

The information filed with the township states that Beesleys Point Development Group will include the community’s desires in plans for the property, which it describes as environmentally distressed.

“We look to reimagine this unique, underutilized location creating a non-traditional development opportunity,” the statement reads. “Our vision allows for this formerly contaminated, abandoned property to be recycled back into the environment, creating a positive economic impact.”

The statement promised to work with the township and to exceed community expectations.

While offering few specifics of the plan after the demolition is completed, the information filed with the township promises the property will be developed sustainably. It also cited the waterfront views of the property.

“Commitment to the environment and green space is unparalleled and does not take a back seat to our waterfront development plan,” the information filed with the township reads.

At the Township Committee meeting on Monday, Committeeman Jay Newman said he wanted to reach out to the new owners about the potential to use the existing facility for training for firefighters and emergency personnel.

“If there’s a possibility of that happening, I’d like to find that out,” he said.

Mayor Curtis Corson said he is pleased that the next step will be taken at the site under his watch. He said his grandfather was mayor when the plant opened in 1961.

Officials said they would want to hold information sessions for the neighbors in the Beesleys Point section of the township and for other residents.

“It’s the biggest project we’ve had in a long time,” he said.

Corson said there will be extensive opportunities for public input on the plans, before Township Committee and when a proposal comes before the Planning Board.

He still expects to have some of the power produced by the proposed Ocean Wind offshore wind farm enter the electrical grid at the site, a possibility that has been under discussion for years.

Some residents have already expressed regret that the tall smokestack will be removed, citing its design to resemble a lighthouse. Corson said he understands, adding the landmark could be seen for miles.

“It’s been a fixture in our community forever. That being said, it’s time to move on. It’s over and done with,” Corson said. “This is a win-win for our community.”

According to Parks, the remediation from the huge pile of coal that fired the plant for decades has already been completed by the former owners, but he said there remains remediation work to be completed at the site.

“There’s a lot of asbestos,” he said.

Parks, based in Syracuse, New York, said there is still a lot of work to do on the plans and at the site.

“We just closed on Monday. We’re still getting our feet under us,” he said.

For more than 60 years, the power generating station has been one of the first things visitors would see in Cape May County when traveling south across the Garden State Parkway bridge.

RC Cape May Holdings LLC purchased the plant in 2007.

The plant had been cited for violations of the Clean Air Act. A plan to switch to natural gas became mired in a series of lawsuits over the pipeline that would have supplied the gas. Eventually, the owners decided to idle the plant instead.

On May 1, 2019, the plant formally closed and an extensive cleanup began. In January 2021, the township officially declared the property an area in need of redevelopment.

The property was assessed at $2.36 million in land and $14.63 million in improvements, for which the company paid the township $313,853 in property taxes in 2018, according to records.

The plant once employed more than 100 people.

While Corson said he did not know the purchase price, he guessed that the investment in the cleanup is probably going to cost more than the amount Beesleys Point Development Group paid for it.

Contact Bill Barlow:

609-272-7290

bbarlow@pressofac.com

Twitter @jerseynews_bill

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