Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Pretty Little Gardens and more construction

More new houses going up in Strathmere. The first two above are on East Willard, and the third is on East Whittier.

Below are images snapped during Memorial Day Weekend of some of the Strathmere mobile homes with their pretty little mobile gardens and landscaping. (click on images for larger views)

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Cape May County coffee table book in the works

I was recently contacted by Pediment Publishing. They are working with the Press of Atlantic City to put together a coffee-table book on Cape May County. The book is going to be a follow up to their previous collaboration on the book Atlantic County Through Our Eyes

They are going to choose some of the photos from my website to represent Strathmere, and they are looking for more images depicting life throughout Cape May County from the 1800s through today. They are still looking for more images from inland Cape May County and are specifically trying to track down images from Woodbine to the north and Villas in the south.

They will be spending a week in Cape May County (June 14 - 21 scanning images and gathering information, on-site at several museums and libraries. They are currently working with The Press of Atlantic City and several other historical organizations in Cape May County.

So, if you have photos that you think represent life in Cape May County, whether it's historical buildings, locations, events or people of note, from past to present, please contact me at

Strathmere story in 5/17 Upper Township Gazette

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Upper says Strathmere secession bid baffling

Upper says Strathmere secession bid baffling
From The Press of Atlantic City

By MICHAEL MILLER Staff Writer, (609) 463-6712
Published: Tuesday, May 15, 2007

UPPER TOWNSHIP — Township officials on Monday said they were surprised and a little baffled about a move by some Strathmere residents to split from this rural township.
A group formerly known as the Strathmere Taxpayers Association is pursuing de-annexation from the township. Because average property values are much higher in Strathmere than the rest of the 64-square-mile township, island residents pay substantially higher property taxes to the Board of Education and Cape May County than their mainland counterparts.
The township has no local purpose tax.
“Island versus mainland, that's not the attitude I have,” Committeeman Jay Newman said. “Strathmere is part of Upper Township.”
Newman said he vehemently disagreed with Strathmere resident Randy Roash's public assertion that merging with another barrier island would improve public safety and emergency management on the island.

“I was kind of disappointed with that quote,” Newman said. “We've done the best we can with everything.”
To begin the process, at least 60 percent of Strathmere residents would have to sign a petition asking the township to de-annex, according to the state Department of Community Affairs.
Then, Upper Township and the town that Strathmere would join — presumably Sea Isle City, although that has not been determined — would have to give consent.
One aspect of the split would be somewhat easier: how to apportion the township's bonded debt, since Upper Township has none. It pays everything in cash. Township officials on Monday made it clear they would not part company with Strathmere willingly. “I was hoping this could be worked out amicably. I still think it can be,” Mayor Richard Palombo said.
All five committee members live on the mainland. Few Strathmere residents run for public office and fewer still win election. Roash, who serves on the Board of Education, is an exception.
Committee members Frank Conrad and Barbara Camp, the former township clerk, said she has not perceived any rift between residents in Strathmere and the rest of the township. Committee members conceded that many Strathmere residents were hugely dissatisfied with the last revaluation that saw assessments on the island more than quadruple in some cases.
Strathmere's efforts to secede face tall odds without support from the governing body. Similar efforts in Cape May County have failed after costly and prolonged court battles. The most recent example is Avalon Manor and its failed bid to split from Middle Township.
This is not the first time residents in the tiny hamlet of Strathmere have given warnings about secession. But it could be the first time they follow through with them.
During the public meeting Monday, Committeeman Curtis Corson Jr. made a Revolutionary War quip about “a tea party in Strathmere.”

But if Strathmere residents have their way, Upper Township could be in for a civil war.

Strathmere citizens group votes to sever link with Upper

Strathmere citizens group votes to sever link with Upper
From The Press of Atlantic City

By JOHN MARTINS Staff Writer, (856) 794-5114
Published: Monday, May 14, 2007

UPPER TOWNSHIP — A citizens group from this sprawling township's seaside village of Strathmere announced Saturday that it will be taking steps to sever the small community of about 200 people from its parent and join another nearby municipality.
Members of the Strathmere Taxpayers Association, which formed in early 2006 to contest a revaluation of property assessments, voted unanimously to refocus the group's energy toward what it is calling “de-annexation.” According to group spokesman and school board member Randy Roash, the idea to split from its mainland neighbor is an old one.

“The (revaluation) gave it some momentum, but it's something that's been discussed for about two decades,” he said.
Upper Township Mayor Richard Palombo said the township will do whatever it takes to keep Strathmere under its stewardship.
“We have been fair and equitable to Strathmere,” he said, “and we'll take fair measures to make sure that Strathmere stays a part of Upper Township.”

The township-wide property revaluation, which concluded about 18 months ago, was first reflected in local property-tax bills received in January 2006. The increase, Roash said, was as high as 800 percent for some properties.
The tax hike has caused some residents to no longer be able to afford their homes, and Roash said that a number of Strathmere's senior citizens have been forced to put their homes up for sale.

“Some of them are up against the wall,” Roash said. “The response has been, ‘If you don't like it, then leave,' and we don't buy that.”

Palombo said properties in Strathmere were assessed at a value between $200,000 and $400,000 while the standard price for a vacant lot in the village could sell for more than $800,000.
Palombo said he felt compassion for residents who can no longer afford their homes, but he said the county requires gross discrepancies between assessed and market values to be corrected.
“It just doesn't work that way,” he said.

Under a new name — Citizens for Strathmere and Whale Beach — the group will now focus on collecting signatures for its effort, which Roash said requires at least 60 percent of the population.
Roash was careful Saturday to express that the Strathmere citizens' displeasure is not directed at either the town or any of its officials.
He said Strathmere's property tax woes are the result of a statewide taxing system that he said is broken.
When asked what nearby town Strathmere residents would prefer to join, Roash declined comment.

The village occupies less than 1 square mile at the northern end of Ludlow Island, which is separated from mainland Upper by the approximately 5-mile expanse of Ludlow Bay. The remaining portion of Ludlow Island is occupied by Sea Isle City.

Sea Isle City Mayor Len Desiderio said Saturday that he has not had any conversations with the Strathmere group.
“As far as I'm concerned, they're part of Upper Township,” he said.

For Strathmere residents, who make up less than 2 percent of the entire township's population, the sentiment in regard to the association with Upper is that the relationship has not been entirely equitable.

Roash said residents are concerned about public safety, emergency management and infrastructural issues.
“Our concerns here aren't the most frequently discussed,” he added.

Palombo, however, strongly disagreed. He acknowledged that the village may have been neglected in years past, but the township, he said, has been very responsive to Strathmere's needs since he was elected mayor eight years ago.
“Strathmere is not neglected,” Palombo said, adding that it is one of seven distinct communities that make up the 64-square-mile township. “We've already accrued a half-million dollars to do a beach-replenishment program, we repair the sewer. It's almost to the point that every time you turn around, they want more.”

Aside from financial or municipal concerns, Roash said Strathmere residents have also felt culturally at odds with their mainland neighbors.
“One of the things that comes to mind on a regular basis is cultural compatibility,” he said. “We're a barrier island community. Culturally, our concerns are different from a mainland community.”

Friday, May 11, 2007

See the stars in Strathmere 5/12

The Strathmere approvement Association presents it's 2007 springtime Strathmere Star Party, this Saturday May 12th at 8:45PM on the beach at Randolph. Derrick Pitts, chief astronomer from the Franklin Institute will be the star guide. Learn about the constellations, stories of the stars, spot planets and the North Star. You can bring a blanket, binoculars or telescopes to enjoy the view.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Strathmere Memories - from Maurice J. Woolman

With permission, I'm sharing this email that I recently received -

'I was looking through your website ( this evening. The memories, emotions, and feelings of wonderful times at the beach came to life once again. I fondly remember my parents taking day trips to Whale Beach with my sister and I in tow. Friends of my parents had a home on the beach side of the highway, just north of a motel (I think it was called the Dolphin Motel). I remember walking across the hot sand and going through a break in the dunes to reach the beach. It seemed like it took forever the reach the water. Once, we had the good fortune to stay at my parents’ friends’ house overnight – it was awesome. I remember the water tank mounted to the side of the house, facing east so we could all “rinse off” after playing on the beach (true solar water heating). And I have fond memories of the diner/restaurant in Strathmere, where we had some incredibly enjoyable meals.

In the wee hours of March 6 1962, one of my brothers was born (we lived near Elmer). I can still remember the winds and driving rains at the time but was unaware of the devastation occurring at the beach. The images of that night will be forever stored in my mind. My sister and I did make it to Whale Beach that summer on Labor Day weekend with my father. I can still remember the bulldozers piling up sand from the beach to protect the highway. From just north of Sea Isle City to almost Strathmere, the beach was barren – not one house was left standing. The home of my parents’ friends ended up in the bay. I remember a Catholic Church was the northern-most building on the beach until you were almost in Strathmere. The little motel somehow survived intact, although it was now on the bay side of the highway. They later put a new foundation under it and opened for business. One other thing I remember most about this time is how the water line had moved so close to the highway…it was as if the line have moved 100 yards or more closer to the highway. From the 1998 photos on your website, it would appear the water line has moved even closer to the highway.

I had the opportunity to revisit the area about seven years ago and was amazed at the build up of houses and buildings along the highway. I remember thinking to myself, “had people not learned anything from the 1962 storm”? I now own a home and live in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. As to how I ended up here is a long story, but suffice it to say, those summers at the Jersey shore left a lasting impression on me, and my desire to be near but not on, the ocean. I hope to come back for a visit in the next year or so…nothing can quite compare with the Jersey shore and the wonderful restaurants.'

Maurice J Woolman
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida