BURLEIGH – Sen. Robert Andrzecjzak, along with Assemblymen R. Bruce Land and Matthew Milam (all D-1st) provided a legislative update to the Cape May County Chamber of Commerce at The Shore Club July 18. The meeting was sponsored by Ørsted, a Danish wind-farm firm which was granted an award to build the state’s first offshore wind farm.
“Offshore wind is something that we are very passionate about here in New Jersey,” said Andrzecjzak. He said there were still a few things that needed to be worked out, like with the fishing industry.
When it comes to South Jersey, he said, “We thrive on our tourism industry. We thrive on our fishing industry. Our beaches are very important to us. Our fishing industry is very important to us. Without them, life would be much harder in Cape May County, so moving forward I thank you (Ørsted) for having that conversation with our fishing industry.
“We need to have these conversations to make sure that everybody is comfortable moving forward. When you talk about comfort levels, it tends to slow things down a little bit, but we want to do it the right way and make sure our industries are safe, especially here in Cape May County,” he continued.
Representatives of Ørsted were present. One representative said the offshore wind farm would be located approximately 15 miles off the coast, largely Atlantic City and Cape May County.
The project will power clean, reliable energy to over half a million homes in the state, she said, and would be operational by the year 2024. The construction project will create more than 3,000 direct jobs over three to four years, she continued.
The representative said Ørsted has been working closely with the fishing community for more than two years, with 500-plus individual meetings since the inception of the project. The company is also working with local universities, including Rutgers, Stockton, and Rowan universities, on research and development opportunities, as well as student projects, internships, “and really creating a new industry here in South Jersey,” she continued.
On the shore-rental tax, Andrzecjzak said legislators were able to get a bill to protect homeowners from the short-term rental tax through the Legislature, and it’s on the governor’s desk.
Shore rentals were lumped in with the Airbnb tax, which was not the intent of the legislation, said Andrzecjzak, “They recognized that and said that was a mistake, so we spent the entire year working on trying to repeal that.”
Direct rentals took a hit this summer, he said, but “hopefully … we’ll be able to salvage a little bit of that and by the end of summer we should be thriving and doing great again.”
Shore Protection Act
A resolution was put in on the Shore Protection Act, but was unable to get through the Legislature during this budget session, said Andrzecjzak. “We do have legislation that will make the shore protection funding from $25 million to $50 million.”
He stressed the importance of beaches to the tourism industry. “We need to make sure that we protect our coastline. We need to make sure that we continue to grow our beaches, and make sure that we are protecting ourselves and our economy here in South Jersey, so we’re going to keep pushing and fighting for that,” said Andrzecjzak.
Exit 20 Interchange
A chamber member asked about the full interchange on Garden State Parkway’s Exit 20, and how to get it going. “I’ve taken that challenge,” said Andrzecjzak. He said he’s made multiple requests to the state Department of Transportation (NJDOT).
“Right now, we’re in the process of trying to have another study done, which I know they refused to do in the past due to the environment right there, that it just wasn’t an option.
“Quite frankly, the environment has changed quite a bit in the last 20 years, so hopefully we’re able to get at least the study approved, whether or not we can actually move forward with that project, but dealing with NJDOT is not the easiest thing in the world to do,” he continued.
“Along with the Exit 20 interchange, we’ve also been working on signage for Exit 20,” he added, as well as signage for Atlantic Cape Community College.
Ban on Single-use Plastics
Chamber President Vicki Clark asked if there was a new effort at the state level to ban single-use plastics. Andrzecjzak said it’s being addressed on the local level, and “it’s a lot easier said than done.”
He cited industries that would be affected, including the fishing industry, which rely on single-use plastics. “If the state was going to move forward, we need to figure out a way to protect those industries,” he said.
Andrzecjzak said that several communities along the Jersey Shore have implemented bans on single-use plastics, “and I absolutely get it, especially with living right on the ocean. There absolutely is a need for those communities, but I think right now it’s mainly focused on those communities, and not necessarily on the state,” he continued.
Andrzecjzak cited biodegradable hemp plastic as an alternative to single-use plastic bags.
Hemp is a crop that can be grown in New Jersey, he said, since it was approved on the state and federal levels. “We are ahead of the curve,” he said. “We were able to get confirmation from the feds that if we implement regulation and get it approved by them, that we can move forward with our hemp program.
“Hemp is an amazing crop,” he continued. “You can do so much with it.”