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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

This weekend I spent some time reflecting on why I am so passionate about protecting waterfront open space. I thought about bike rides on the Henry Hudson Trail with my family, kayak trips on Sandy Hook Bay with my fishing buddies, and walks in the harbor with my wife. I realized that I live in Atlantic Highlands largely because of the water—the beach, the ferry, the fishing, the views—and that access to the water is the lynchpin to my ability to enjoy it.

As a community we have a rare opportunity to preserve a nice chunk of land on the water—the McConnell property. As Mark Twain said, “buy land, they aren’t making it anymore.” That’s why this year I will be a single-issue voter in the local elections on November 5th.

When it comes to open space and waterfront protection, four excellent candidates are running for Borough Council. I respect all of them for putting themselves “out there.” Running for public office takes a lot of courage and I wish them all the best in this election. I look forward to working with them all in the coming years.

For Mayor, Loretta Gluckstein is challenging incumbent Randi Le Grice, and I strongly support Lorretta because she shares my view that the McConnell property should be preserved as open space. I hope you will get behind her too.

I do not take this decision lightly. I like Randi and I admire her commitment to public service. I’m a registered Democrat and I’m deeply disturbed by the state of the nation’s political discourse and environmental policy. However, saving our local waterfront is not a partisan issue—and on that, I think, we can all agree.

Loretta has publicly committed to preserving the McConnell property for public use and Mayor Le Grice has failed to take any steps to secure this property for the community. In fact, quite the opposite. At every turn, Randi has dismissed efforts to acquire the land, embracing instead the myth of new “ratables.” The math just does not add up. For every dollar in new residential tax revenue, municipalities spend $1.16 on services.1 If it were otherwise, the state of New Jersey, with all of its residential density, would have the lowest property taxes in the country! The smart economic decision is to create a new waterfront park for recreational use. It will enhance local property values and drive new investments in our community. It will ultimately improve the quality of our lives.

To my Democratic friends who are annoyed with me, all I can say is: policy matters. If for some reason you can’t bear to vote for a Republican, then skip the mayoral race.

We have a brief window to seal this waterfront deal and leadership from the Borough is essential. Despite the mis-guided decision of the planning board to subdivide the McConnell property, the developer has expressed willingness to work with the Atlantic Highlands community--and public funding is readily available to acquire the land. The Naval Weapons Station Earle’s REPI program2, the County Municipal Open Space Fund3, and the Atlantic Highlands Open Space Fund, are three of numerous available funding sources that could be deployed for this purpose.

New leadership in the Mayor’s office will help to pull these pieces together, and that’s why it is important to elect Loretta in November.

This is an “off-off year” election (no state senate, congressional, or presidential elections) so turnout is expected to be quite low. Supporters of open space have the opportunity to be the most influential voice in this year’s municipal election. If you share my conviction about the need to support waterfront open space, I encourage you to vote on November 5th.

Thank you, and please be in touch if you have any feedback.

 

All the best,

 

Benson Chiles

Atlantic Highlands, NJ


1 https://anjec.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/OpenSpaceGoodInvestment2014.pdf

2 https://www.repi.mil/

3 https://www.monmouthcountyparks.com/page.aspx?Id=2593