Point Pleasant Beach wants to confiscate problem hotel from owner
The owner of a longtime Point Pleasant Beach hotel is fighting the Borough Council's attempt to take the business and property by eminent domain and replace it with a parking lot.
The ordinance scheduled to be introduced at Tuesday's meeting would authorize the acquisition of the land at Baltimore and Arnold avenues, where the Amethyst Beach Hotel stands.
A specific reason was not explained in the ordinance except that a municipality may acquire land "as it may deem advisable."
The borough's appraiser has attempted to meet with owner Bob Fernicola, who asked to delay until April.
Mayor Paul Kanitra declined to comment on the matter, citing potential litigation, and suggested that questions about alleged criminal activities at the hotel be referred to the police chief.
Point Pleasant Beach police Chief Joseph Michigan told Townsquare Media News the hotel has a reputation for attracting a criminal element but does not know the impetus for the eminent domain.
"The eminent domain is based on them wanting it for parking but certainly the hotel has had some interactions with us law enforcement officers for a lot of years now," he said, adding that they're not the only hotel or hotel the borough has problems with.
"We certainly have our share of problems there in the off season," Michigan said, mostly from transient people who stay there for a month or two between Labor Day and Memorial Day.
"They bring with them their problems with their their addictions, their drugs and alcohol. We certainly have [domestic violence] there, disorderly conduct," Michigan said.
Michigan said the owners are not always cooperative with officers.
"If it's serving his best interests, he wants to put the image out that he cooperates with us. When it doesn't serve his interests, I'll let you draw your own conclusions," Michigan said.
The hotel has been in business for 70 years and is determined to stay in business.
"We are pushing forward regardless of attempts to replace this with a parking lot. We are pushing forward," the hotel wrote on its Facebook page, and said it is planning on building a new hotel on the property and renovating its existing facility.
His daughter, Amber Fernicola, created an online petition to get support for the hotel and called it "outrageous and wrong" to do this during the coronavirus pandemic. She said the ordinance was retribution for problems created by homeless residents that the hotel was forced to accept.
"We do not force people out of their businesses and homes during times like these let alone at all," the petition says. "Property rights are a sacred right provided to us by our founding fathers and the constitution. It appears Point Pleasant Beach fabricated the taking for a public purpose as punishment and retribution for difficulties faced by the property owners during the lockdown last spring."
She said the hotel was forced to take in "homeless persons without compensation" who created "turmoil" for the owners.
Bob Fernicola did not immediately return a message on Tuesday afternoon from Townsquare Media News.