UPPER TOWNSHIP - The former B.L. England Generating Station has been sold, Mayor Rich Palombo told residents at the Monday meeting of the Township Committee.
"I have some really, especially good news," Palombo said at the start of the meeting. "I'm happy to announce that the B.L. England plant site has been sold."
According to Palombo, the new owners plan to demolish the existing buildings at the site, which include the idle generating station and smokestack where the Great Egg Harbor River widens into a bay, as well as a massive cooling tower.
Plans could include a new hotel and a marina at the site, Palombo said, as well as other development where allowed.
The former power plant was to be one of two landing sites for the electricity to be generated by Ocean Wind, set to be the first in a series of projects to add wind turbines off the coast. The plan is still to bring the electricity into New Jersey's power grid at the site, Palombo said.
Much of the sprawling property is protected wetlands.
Few details were available about the new owners, Beesleys Point Development LLC. Palombo did not identify any of the principals of the corporation but said at least one individual had also been involved in a proposal for an industrial use at the site, which the township sought to head off.
The former owner, RC Cape May Holdings LLC, could not be contacted for this story. The company's published phone number has been disconnected, as has the number for B.L. England.
Palombo said the township was instrumental in brokering the deal.
"The sale is final," he said Tuesday.
He did not provide a total purchase price.
The cleanup costs and the cost for the site, where massive amounts of coal were once stored, and the demolition of the existing buildings were estimated at about $13 million, Palombo said, indicating the new company's takeover of those costs amounted to a significant portion of the total purchase price.
It will be some time before a site plan is finalized for the property, Palombo said. But there are some rough outlines under discussion, he said, including the creation of a marina and retail areas, a restaurant and a hotel.
The hotel could help the local economy, Palombo said, for Upper Township and regionally.
"It could even help our sister city in Ocean City," he said.
Palombo added that if the hotel includes more than 100 rooms, it could be eligible for a license to sell alcohol.
Early this year, the Township Committee declared the site of the former power plant an area in need of redevelopment. The township Planning Board backed the step last year.
"This is a huge development for the township," Palombo said of the sale, citing future ratables.
Since it opened with four diesel generators in 1961, the power generating station has been one of the first things visitors would see in Cape May County when traveling south across the Garden State Parkway bridge.
The plant was an important source of power and jobs in the area but was also the source of tons of emissions, especially after the addition of coal power a year after the plant opened. In 2006, the state Department of Environmental Protection cited the plant for violations of the Clean Air Act.
RC Cape May Holdings LLC purchased the plant in 2007.
A plan to switch to natural gas became mired in a series of lawsuits over the pipeline that would have supplied the gas and would have crossed a section of the Pinelands National Preserve, setting the board up for a lengthy fight between pipeline supporters and environmental groups. Eventually, the owners filed to close the plant.
On May 1, 2019, the plant formally closed and an extensive cleanup began.
Palombo said the new owners would continue to address any outstanding environmental issues as part of the development plan.
The property was assessed at $2.36 million in land and $14.63 million in improvements, for which the company paid the township $313,853.32 in property taxes in 2018, according to records.
The plant once employed more than 100 people.
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