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Plans for beachfront restaurant to be heard in Avalon
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Plans for beachfront restaurant to be heard in Avalon

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AVALON — A plan for a new, expanded restaurant at the site of one of the two existing businesses on Cape May County’s smallest boardwalk is getting mixed reviews.

While the plan is set to come before the Avalon Planning and Zoning Board on Tuesday, some residents say they’d rather keep the area’s old-school feel alone, while others relish a change and new possibilities.

A revised application for 2800 Boardwalk from TK Holdings, wholly owned by former Philadelphia Flyers star Tim Kerr, calls for a new restaurant with seating on an upstairs deck where there is now a pizza place, an arcade and ice cream shop.

Kerr, a real estate agent in town and founder of the annual Tim Kerr Run fundraiser, did not respond to requests for an interview about the plan, nor did Cory Gilman, an attorney representing him on the application.

According to the plans filed with the city, the restaurant would cover the same footprint of the existing building, set in Avalon’s wide dunes on the ocean side of the Boardwalk. The proposal calls for 130 seats inside, and an additional 168 seats on an open-air rooftop deck. A section of a second floor would be enclosed, as presented in the plans.

The ice cream business would stay, according to the proposal.

The application would require a use variance for the expansion of a non-conforming use, as well as variances for size, setbacks and for the required parking spaces. The plans instead rely on the parking in the municipal lot in front of the building.

The benefits of the project outweigh any detriments and will bring an old building into code compliance, according to the application. It also argues that a new use would mean less noise and intensity of use.

“Finally, the plan will provide a much-improved visual environment to the site and the neighborhood,” it reads.

The proposal has been the subject of extensive discussion on social media and on Facebook pages dedicated to Avalon. One woman wrote that the planned building would be far more appealing than what’s there now.

But there were also plenty of skeptics, who fear a more intense use, with more noise and a taller structure that could block some views.

“Existing structure has a real old-school feel about it — hate to see it replaced by a soulless modernistic cookie-cutter design,” wrote one man about the proposal.

Many comments describe the plans as a bar and restaurant, and there appears to be a bar with 15 seats shown on the plan, listed as “counter seating.” But the owners do not have a liquor license for the restaurant.

Avalon has a half-mile of Boardwalk, with the pizzeria and arcade by far the most prominent structure. There is also the Fishin’ Pier Grille at the south end of the Boardwalk near the Beach Patrol headquarters, a tiny breakfast spot at the entrance to the Avalon Fishing Pier.

The plan will also require state approval under the Coastal Areas Facilities Review Act, better known as CAFRA.

On a recent warm winter weekend, multiple residents and visitors strolled and jogged along the Boardwalk. In the summer, the arcade offers Skee-Ball and other seashore favorites, but there are no T-shirt shops, amusement rides or other Jersey shore boardwalk staples.

For most of the narrow walkway, there are dunes on one side and homes on the other. Avalon recently replaced its skate park at 29th Street with a borough park, with an amphitheater and grassy lawn for concerts and events.

The meeting starts at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Avalon Borough Hall, 3100 Dune Drive, and participants can call in, Avalon’s preferred method for remote meetings instead of Zoom or another video conference platform. Those interested in listening to the meeting or commenting may call 877-510-2588, with the pass code 139 589.

The application is being continued from a December meeting.

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