The Village of Egg Harbor’s Plan Commission has asked the owners of Shipwrecked Brew Pub to tweak its expansion plans again.
The owners have proposed adding a beer garden with 92 additional seats on the property that was previously home to Christine’s Casuals. The proposal has garnered substantial opposition from neighboring business owners who say the plan will add to an already serious parking shortage in the village core. The Shipwrecked plan would reduce the number of parking spaces for the restaurant to seven spots for 362 total seats. The village requires one parking spot for every four seats, and one for every four employees, for a total of 97.
Shipwrecked’s plan counts six shared parking spaces at its Fat Louie’s property across the street, and it plans to meet the requirement for the other 84 spaces by paying the village’s Fee in Lieu of Parking (FILOP) of $50 per space.
Before issuing a ruling on Shipwrecked’s new expansion plan (a previous plan was rejected in March), the commission asked the owners to rework the plan to see how many spaces it could add on the parcel.
Joe Smith, Shipwrecked’s general manager, said in an interview that the focus on parking is misguided. He said that although he would love to have more parking available on-site, it’s not the best use of prime downtown real estate.
“I think we’ve got adequate on-street parking in town,” he said. “People in a tourist community expect to walk. I expect to park and walk. I think it’s more of a walking problem than a parking problem.”
Smith was a village trustee and plan commission chair when the FILOP ordinance was adopted. Originally the plan commission recommended a $250-per-space fee, but the board of trustees reduced it to $50 per space. Commissioner Jon Kolb has argued that the ordinance was not intended to provide parking on the scale of the Shipwrecked proposal, but rather, to help businesses that needed a small number of spaces when their property was too small to build them.
Smith said he couldn’t speak to the full intent of the ordinance, but he admitted that “I don’t think it was something that we considered, the degree to which it would be utilized was anticipated.”
Previous to the issuance of the FILOP ordinance, the village allowed businesses to count all on-street parking within 500 feet of its address toward its parking needs. That rule allowed One Barrel Brewing Co. to create a brewery and patio with more than 344 seats, but with just 26 parking spaces.
“When the village got rid of counting spaces within 500 feet of your property, people said, ‘You’re double counting,’” Smith said. “But you should double count. People aren’t just eating – they’re shopping, they’re visiting the park, they’re going to other places all while they’re parked once. I don’t think adding 92 seats is going to attract 92 more people who weren’t going to come to the village already.”
Smith noted that when the village expanded the public beach and marina, it didn’t provide adequate parking for those projects.
“Why is Shipwrecked being villainized for not adding parking when two major village projects haven’t added parking?” he asked. “The village hasn’t taken any serious steps toward adding public parking facilities anywhere.”
But as Smith and Shipwrecked’s owners argue for making Egg Harbor a park-and-walk community, it has also fought the village’s efforts to expand pedestrian connections near the business. Shipwrecked sued the village to try to prevent it from taking a sliver of property along County G to connect the public sidewalk to the trail that takes visitors to the public beach.
Smith said Shipwrecked’s argument was that the sidewalk should have been completed on the opposite side of the street, with pedestrians forced to cross over Highway G beyond the Shipwrecked property.
“Back in 2016, the plan had the sidewalk on the Chocolate Chicken side of the road,” he said. “For that plan to work, it would not have required any right-of-way acquisitions. They revamped the plan to put it on the other side.”
The village won that lawsuit to acquire the property and completed the sidewalk extension this spring.