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Brigantine Paddle Club: Redevelopment Outside the Box

"Thinking outside the box."

It's a cliché that's probably overused, but it also is precisely what the Brigantine Paddle Club, in Atlantic County, New Jersey represents. Not only did development of the Brigantine Paddle Club project represent innovation and imagination in the field of local redevelopment, it also demonstrated the value of having a legal team –in this case Nehmad Davis & Goldstein, PC—that possesses the requisite depth of experience, skill and knowledge in the several disciplines that such a unique project might encounter in its journey from concept to fruition.

The Brigantine Paddle Club is a private club that offers it members high-end amenities including a swimming pool, restaurant and alcoholic beverage service. The Club's location in the City of Brigantine is shared with Brigantine Marina on the back bays just north of Atlantic City. The views of those bays, the Atlantic City skyline to the south and the nearby Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge to the North at sunset from the Club's pool deck are nothing short of stunning.Nothing about it suggests "redevelopment project," but that is exactly what it is.

Redevelopment in New Jersey often is thought of in terms of warehouses, strip malls or acres of "townhouse style" residential units. In fact, the Local Redevelopment and Housing Law, N.J.S.A. 40A:12A-1, et. seq., does not mandate that a redevelopment project take any particular form. It requires only that a redevelopment project be consistent with, and designed to effectuate, the redevelopment goals that are articulated in the redevelopment plan that pertains to the project site. Thus, the form of the projects permitted by redevelopment plans largely are constrained by the imagination and vision of the governing bodies that adopt the plans and the developers who seek to implement a permitted project. The Brigantine Paddle Club is the product of cooperative, innovative and creative thinking amongst local government and private enterprise.

Scarborough Properties has been developing real estate throughout New Jersey for generations. In early 2020 Sean Scarborough saw a dilapidated marina in Brigantine, New Jersey. Rather than a traditional marina with a bait and tackle shop, he envisioned a marina and a club at which members could relax poolside with a cocktail and enjoy a good meal. There were, of course, a few obstacles to overcome. First and foremost, the COVID-19 pandemic was causing social and economic upheaval.Businesses and even government operations were closed to the public. Whatever was held by the future was more uncertain than ever. Secondly, the property on which the marina was located was not zoned for a club with a club liquor license. Third, the Brigantine Paddle Club did not exist and even upon formation it would not qualify for a club liquor license under New Jersey's alcoholic beverage licensing statutes and administrative regulations which often date to the era immediately following the repeal of prohibition in 1933 when the 21st Amendment to the United State Constitution was adopted. Undeterred, Scarborough plowed ahead with the plan.In doing so he needed to convince Brigantine's governing body as to the plan's viability. He also required a team of engineers, planners, architects and attorneys with the requisite expertise to help overcome the diverse regulatory obstacles to be faced.

As to the attorneys, Scarborough enlisted the assistance of Nehmad Davis & Goldstein, PC of Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey whose efforts on behalf of the private entity Brigantine Marina & Paddle Club, LLC, and the newly formed non-profit corporation Brigantine Paddle Club, were led by its managing partner, Eric S. Goldstein, Esq.

As far as the local governing body was concerned, Scarborough was able to persuade Brigantine's Mayor and City Council that his vision for the Brigantine Paddle Club could be accomplished through use of the development tools afforded municipalities by the Local Redevelopment and Housing Law. The statutes required the governing body to move ahead with a formal investigation of the project area in order to determine whether the criteria necessary to designate that location as an "area in need of rehabilitation" or as an "area in need of redevelopment" existed.City Council's decision to undertake that investigation likely was made easier by the fact that no public financial support for the project of any type whatsoever was requested; no redevelopment area bonds, no short-term tax abatement, no long-term tax exemption.The only money at risk was Scarborough's private investment in the project.

Upon completion of the requisite study, City Council was satisfied that the project area met the statutory criteria as an area in need of redevelopment and in July 2021 designated it as such whereupon it directed the Brigantine Planning Board to develop a Redevelopment Plan for the area. The Redevelopment Plan indicated that it comprised the plan "for the purpose of facilitating redevelopment of the subject site with a deep-water slip marina, marina services building, private club with club liquor license, and a restaurant and bar for club members." That Plan was presented to City Council which adopted it as the Redevelopment Plan for project site by means of an ordinance as required by the applicable statutes. City Council appointed Brigantine Marina & Paddle Club, LLC as the Redeveloper for a Redevelopment Project consisting the improvements described in the Redevelopment Plan.Scarborough, attorney Goldstein and the rest of the professional team then presented the Project to the Brigantine Planning Board which granted site plan approval.Additional development approvals from the Atlantic County Planning Board and the New Jersey Department of Environment Protection, among others, were required and obtained. The focus then was upon alcoholic beverage licensing for the Brigantine Paddle Club.

As planned, the Club's quarters would be constructed by Brigantine Marina & Paddle Club, LLC and leased to the Brigantine Paddle Club, a NJ nonprofit corporation. The New Jersey Administrative Code, at N.J.A.C. 13:2-8.1, et. seq., sets out the regulations pertaining to the issuance of "Club Licenses." Those regulations include a requirement that the club "have been in active operation in the State of New Jersey for at least three years continuously prior to the submission of its application for a license" and that the club "shall have been in exclusive possession and use of a clubhouse or club quarters for at lease three years immediately prior to the submission of its application for a license."N.J.A.C. 13:2-8.3 and -8.4.As of April 2022, the Brigantine Paddle Club could not meet those requirements. Indeed, the Club itself had only been chartered as of March 2022 and construction of the club premises had yet to commence. As often is the case when dealing with administrative codes, the regulations do allow the Director of the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control ("ABC") to waive those requirements for a club that is an "enfranchised chapter or member club of a national or state order, organization or association" upon a showing of "special cause."N.J.A.C. 13:2-8.5.In the case of the Brigantine Paddle Club, it was formed as a member club under the umbrella of the Cape May Paddle Club, located in the City of Cape May, which had been in existence since 2014. That being the case, in early April 2022 the Brigantine Paddle Club filed its application for a club license for premises yet to be constructed with the Brigantine City Clerk and simultaneously filed a petition for a Special Ruling with the Director, Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control ("ABC") seeking a waiver of the three-year active operation requirement and the three-year possession of club premises requirement, arguing, among other things, that issuance of a club license would allow for the Project to be completed meaning that the conditions which caused the Project area to be an "area in need of redevelopment" no longer would exist.N.J.S.A. 40A:12A-9 .

The Deputies Attorney General at the ABC assigned to the case diligently reviewed the Club's petition with the proverbial fine-tooth comb. Dozens of emails were exchanged and hundreds of pages of supplemental material were submitted. Ultimately, on February 17, 2023 –ten months after the petition was filed-- the Director issued a Special Ruling waiving the requirements of N.J.A.C. 13:2-8.3 and -8.4 thereby paving the way for the Brigantine City Council to issue an alcoholic beverage Club License to the Paddle Club. After a three month background check of the trustees and officers, on the Friday before Memorial Day 2023 the Brigantine City Clerk hand-delivered the Club License to the Club's Executive Director. The alcoholic beverage license licensing effort on behalf of the Brigantine Paddle Club was led by Nehmad Davis & Goldstein attorney William J. Kaufmann, Esq. who has represented both municipalities and private licensees with regard to alcoholic beverage licensing and enforcement matters for 35 years.

Not only did issuance of the club license allow for the service of alcoholic beverages to Club Members, it was the culmination of a more than three year effort on the part of private enterprise and a team of professionals that began in face of utter uncertainty during the early days of the COVID -19 pandemic. Moreover, it represented completion of the Redevelopment Project, of which the Brigantine Paddle Club was a part, meaning that, pursuant to the Local Redevelopment and Housing Law, the project area no longer is considered a "area in need of redevelopment" (N.J.S.A. 40A:12-9) thereby achieving the goal of Brigantine's Mayor and Council as expressed in its Redevelopment Plan.Certainly, the Brigantine Paddle Club represents redevelopment through creative, innovative thinking "outside the box."

Inquires to Eric S. Goldstein may be emailed to: egoldstein@ndglegal.com

Inquiries to William J. Kaufmann may be emailed to: wkaufmann@ndglegal.com

The above discussion is intended to provide general informational information only and should not be relied upon as competent legal advice from experienced attorneys relative to any specific matters.

William J. Kaufmann, Esq.

January 2024

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