MARGATE, N.J. — Is Lucy the Elephant moving out of Margate? Being sent down the road to Atlantic City?
"She's still here," said Rich Helfant, executive director of the national historic monument roadside attraction in Margate. "She hasn't packed her bags."
Still, rumors and pachyderm panic have persisted about a possible eviction since Margate said it would consider a proposed hotel zoning overlay on beachfront land along Atlantic Avenue from Cedar Grove Avenue to Coolidge that includes the city property on which the landmark has stood since 1970. (Before that, the 65-foot-high wooden structure built in 1881 was two blocks down the road.)
The zoning change would allow the construction of a boutique hotel, something Margate does not currently have.
But Margate Mayor Mike Becker says in all the discussions about possible plans for the new zoning overlay, the idea of moving Lucy to Atlantic City was never proposed.
"Not once ever did I hear a conversation about moving Lucy," Becker said. "Lucy is Margate."
Becker said the city had removed a discussion about the proposed overlay from the agenda of its planned commissioners meeting Sept. 20, sending the matter back to the Planning Board for review.
Meanwhile, the city and the Save Lucy Committee, which runs the site, have yet to agree on an extension of the 50-year, $1-a-year lease that expires in December 2019. Both sides say the other side is refusing to come to the table.
"Tell Lucy to call me," Becker said.
The land is owned by the city and controlled by the state as restricted open space, which would complicate any commercial development. As for the elephant structure itself, the city owns that, though Helfant said a case could be made that the nonprofit Save Lucy Committee had put in so much of its own money in upkeep that it could make an argument for ownership.
In any case, the city and the Lucy people were in agreement that the rumors of Lucy's eviction were unfounded.
"Moving Lucy is ridiculous," said Helfant. "It would be monumental."
Helfant said he personally would welcome a boutique hotel next to Lucy, where Ventura's Greenhouse bar and restaurant now operates, as long as it did not interfere with sight lines from Atlantic Avenue that he says are protected by Lucy's status on the National Historic Registry. Sight lines from the beach have already been affected by the new dunes built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The last person to propose moving Lucy was Glenn Straub, the eccentric previous owner of the failed Revel casino, now reborn under new ownership as the Ocean Resort Casino.
"Glenn Straub wanted to buy Lucy and helicopter her to Revel," Helfant said.
Lucy is not for sale, he added.