BELMAR — Mayor Matt Doherty is on a mission — to get rid of tents taking up an obnoxious amount of room at the beach.

Saturday, when Doherty  attended a showing of Beauty and the Beast on the beach and saw a moviegoer on the sand with a tent, he took to Twitter to express his reaction: "C'Mon Man!"

"You could sort of make a rational case that it's a good thing to have to get out of the sun for a little while if it's a sunny day on the beach," he said. "But at night? It just seems that there's this odd trend of people not employing common sense and common courtesy to other people that are around them on the beach in Belmar."

Saturday's tent encounter comes as the borough is weighing a ban on tents past a certain size and other large coverings on the beach. Doherty said the problem started in 2015 and, became more prevalent last year. He said he saw an even greater increase in tents this year before the ban discussions started.

Since the discussion began last month, Doherty said, the council has received a lot of feedback on the issue. He said some people want a full ban, some people don't want any ban, and another group is looking for a compromise that will satisfy everyone.

He compared the rules Belmar is considering to those in Avon-by-the-Sea and Point Pleasant Beach, which both have banned large tents "and they do not seem to have any negative reprocussions on people coming to the beach."

"If it's a warm summer day in July or August, whether it's Avon, Point Pleasant Beach, or Belmar, people are coming to the beach," Doherty said. "It's just that removing these tents in both Avon and Point Pleasant has enhanced the experience of the folks that are coming today, with no noticeable downside to the number of people in the town."

There is a public hearing on the ordinance as it stands now, which would be a full ban on the tents, is scheduled for next month, but Doherty said officials are willing to listen to public feedback until then. Either way, he said, no new ordinance would go into effect until the summer of 2018.

"Our issue with the tents isn't the fact that people would like to use them. It's just that they would like to use them on a beach that's extremely crowded," he said. "If you look at other beaches in New Jersey that may be appropriate."

It makes sense for places like Island Beach State Park, where people can not only drive on the beach but also camp, to allow tents, Doherty said.

"There's not as many people that are going to that beach as there are going to places like Belmar or Avon-by-the-Sea or Point Pleasant Beach," he said.

Doherty said if it was up to him this would not be an issue the borough would regulate, saying he has a "knee jerk reaction opposing more government regulation on how people can live their lives."

When he was elected mayor, Doherty said, some of his first steps were eliminating bans on things like sandcastles and ball playing on the beach, which he called "real nonsense stuff."

"We removed those restrictions and allowed people more freedom and liberty to enjoy the beach with their families," he said.

The mayor called it "kind of ridiculous" that the council has to weigh in on this topic at all "but the people who are not being courteous and using common sense are putting us in this position."

The public hearing has been scheduled for Sept. 5 on the ordinance at Borough Hall.

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Contact reporter Adam Hochron at 609-359-5326 or Adam.Hochron@townsquaremedia.com

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