Re: Dispute regarding ground rents for condo owners. The item below this sentence appeared recently in the Wassup? section of Blogfinger.net:
Condominium associations lose their suit regarding ground rents. The two condo units are on Ocean Pathway. The ruling allows the Camp Meeting to change ground rent charges according to the sale price of the unit.
Here are links to two of our three Blogfinger February, 2017 posts about this subject. This court ruling can have major implications regarding the condo market in OG. The lawyer for the condo owners has recommended an appeal.
I am Gorton Wood and I live at 40 Ocean Pathway; I am one of the litigants in the ground rent lawsuit.
In 2007 when I purchased my 1,090 square foot condo (two bedrooms and one bath,) I was given a ground rent spreadsheet schedule by OGCMA. It was titled “New Condo/Townhouse Ground Rent.” It covered a period of 12 years. The first three years I paid 1% of the sale price of my condo or $475.00 per year. The second three years it went to 1.5% of my sales price or $712.50 per year. The third three years it went to 2% of my sales price or $950.00 per year. The final three years it grew to 2.5% of my sales price or 1,187.50 per year. Then beginning year 13 and going on forever [hold your hat], it was going to be tied to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) which could be 3%, 4%, 5% annually, who knows. I could end up having to pay an annual ground rent of $3,000 or more annually.
On two occasions I went to the OGCMA and demanded to have someone explain who cooked this up (Jack Green—I learned from another source) and when did they cook this up? No one would speak to me. Then in 2014 I wrote out my ground rent check and sent a message to the OGCMA saying that when they gave me a meeting I would bring my check. They never responded. In 2015 I did they same thing and again they refused to grant me a meeting. Then I received a letter from their law firm in Freehold saying if I did not pay immediately, they would prosecute me.
I am willing to go to any length, even alone, to have this situation corrected. I don’t believe any of the owners, myself included, expect to not pay ground rent, but for God’s sake make it fair. I actually wrote the OGCMA and their law firm a letter saying I was confident I could get every owner at 40 Ocean Pathway and 30 Ocean Pathway to agree to $200.00 a year. They wrote back basically telling me to take a hike.
Ocean Grove, NJ, April 10, 2017
The writer is a resident of a condominium at #40 Ocean Pathway.
The Whitfield Hotel in 2015. The front of the lot is on Surf Avenue facing north (60.5 feet wide). The back is on Bath Avenue, facing south (60.5 feet). The side is 103 feet long on Beach Avenue facing the ocean. This property, #20 Surf Avenue in OG, is zoned for one lot (Block 113, Lot 10.)
Not only are there now 4 foundations on that one lot site, but those lots would have to be undersized. 30 x 60 is the minimum lot size requirement for Ocean Grove. The size of the rectangular Whitfield site is 103 feet long, and four regulation lots would need a minimum of 120 feet along each side. But the Whitfield lots would have to fit into 103 feet, and they are, by definition, undersized.
Everyone we have spoken to, including Township officials, residents who live near the Whitfield, and concerned Grovers tell us that the Whitfield site will become 4 detached single family homes, and almost everyone seems delighted. But should they be?
The excavation has begun, and we now know that there are four foundations. And a source tell us that the developer has been officially “approved” for placing 4 homes at that site. But who allowed work to begin without a 4 lot subdivision being blessed by the Neptune Township Planning Board?
We asked around and learned, mostly from people in the know, that Bernard Haney, the long-standing Tax Assessor in Neptune Township, who also wears a second hat, that of Land Use Administrator, was responsible for that decision.
Here is how the procedure should work. First the developer orders a survey map of the property. The survey map shows the exact size of the lot, and the map is used to prepare a site plan/subdivision.
This is a plan which shows where the buildings will be “sited” on the subdivided property pursuant to the zoning and the subdivision ordinance. The site plan is part of an application for development and is to be filed with the Township Building Department.
The site plan is then prepared and signed by a licensed professional who in this case would clearly show on the cover page that the applicant wants to subdivide the property into 4 undersized (nonconforming) lots.
However, the problem is that there is no type of variance or procedure that would permit a conforming lot to be subdivided into any nonconforming lots.
The application should have been referred to the Planning Board for a public hearing, but that referral was never made. We checked with the Planning Board secretary who verified that she was not instructed to schedule a hearing on the Planning Board agenda.
Approved subdivisions are recorded on the tax map under the supervision of the Township Engineer. As such, the Township Engineer should have been asked to review the plan and prepare a written report for the Planning Board. The Neptune Engineer said she received no such request.
We learned that after the subdivision approval, the approved plan was sent to the Building Department to issue permits for the 4 single family houses, or, at least, for the foundation work which is now in progress.
It appears that the current 2014 tax map, which clearly shows one existing lot at the Whitfield site, not four, was ignored. That lot would ordinarily require a subdivision if more than one single family house is proposed.
We were told that Mr. Haney decided that after the demolition, the current empty lot would automatically revert to an 1879 tax map which showed 4 lots and to declare that the 2017 post demolition lot was already subdivided into 4 lots.
This maneuver by the Township appears to be a technique to allow 4 single family houses to be built on a lot where only 3 can be permitted.
Even if this method of circumventing the usual approach to subdivisions turns out to be acceptable, the application still should have been referred to the Planning Board.
Do you suppose that this is a well traveled highway in Ocean Grove? Have we now lost that loving feeling in our town, or did it disappear a long time ago?
What are we to do with the totally ineffective Home Groaners? They have a meeting, drag a crowd of Grovers away from their warm beds, and find out that the Groaners accomplished next to nothing.
The first order of business was the Parking Committee report. It seems that the Township accepted none of their recommendations. In particular there will be no parking permits for residents, no parking meters on Ocean Avenue, and no park-and-ride trolley. Conclusion: A big zero for the Groaners.
Second order of business: Converting the Laingdon Hotel into a rehab facility? Well, the Groaner’s president, a lawyer, announced that she knows nothing about zoning law and that her board was considering spending $5,000.00 for another lawyer to represent the group at the Zoning Board meeting. She even admitted that she knows nothing about brain surgery either, so the Groaners should be disqualified from discussing zoning or performing lobotomies in the future.
Luckily, the Sprout application was withdrawn and saved the group $5,000.00 The Groaners must have a lot of dough, because they recently wasted $7,000.00 for a lawyer to look at a false alarm—ground rents. (i.e. no weapons of tax destruction were found.)
Oh, and why was the Sprout application withdrawn? The Groaners have no idea. Conclusion: Everyone should have stayed home in bed.
The third order of business: The meeting agenda promised that the HPC would come to discuss the “HPC War” because the Township wants to dilute the HPC historic guidelines, and this is a subject that could impact Ocean Grove’s future.
But golly, the HPC representatives instead reviewed what everyone already knows about (HPC history 101 minus the Greek Temple ) and ignored what everyone wanted to hear about—i.e. the “HPC War.”
Therefore we regrettably must report that the HPC laid an egg at the meeting and continues to deny the public information about this critical situation.
The Blogfinger correspondent concludes that “The Home Groaners Association knows nothing and does nothing.”
And that, ladies and germs, in the words of Laurel and Hardy*, “Is a fine kettle of fish.”
For our musical enjoyment we offer a suggested theme song for the HGA when the current board resigns and is replaced by a group of Grovers who will actually accomplish something for the town.
We have just received this announcement from the OGHOA:
“On Wednesday, February 1, the Neptune Township Zoning Board of Appeal will meet to consider the application by Sprout Health Group, LLC for a use variance to convert the Laingdon Hotel, at 8 Ocean Avenue, from a hotel open to the public to a hotel open only to clients of Sprout that utilize its addiction counseling services center in Eatontown.
“Members of the public may question the applicant, and interested residents may present testimony in person, or through an attorney, in favor of or against the application.”
Editor’s note: We can’t even rely on the OGHOA to get the facts straight in a simple announcement. The meeting will be held at the Neptune Township Zoning Board of Adjustment.
Why doesn’t that maladjusted HOA get on their soapbox and take a leadership position condemning this rehab fiasco?
By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger. (Originally posted in November 2015 and now minimally edited for this New Year’s Day edition of Blogfinger. The original question posited in the headline is still valid.)
There are multiple factions in the small town of Ocean Grove (pop 3,700,) and these organized groups are largely isolated from each other. Woven into the fabric are homeowners and renters who live here but do not belong to any organizations, thus becoming, by default, a faction of their own.
According to social scientist Steve Valk, whose family has lived here for several generations, it would be important for these factions to find ways to appreciate and cooperate with each other. For example he cites the religious groups and the secular groups which ought to find common ground for the benefit of the town. One example of such cooperation is the recent interaction, since Sandy, between Ocean Grove United (OGU) and the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association (CMA); however we have recently seen how tenuous that relationship is when we recall the clash about Sunday sermons this past summer.
The CMA ran the town from 1869 to 1980—-111 years. Neptune Township treated OG as a sort of gated community. The CMA made the rules and imposed blue laws until the N.J. Supreme Court put a stop to that in 1980 when Neptune took over active governance in the Grove (although they were technically the governing body almost since the town’s founding.) Since 1980, the CMA has continued its mission and it has largely kept out of the way of Neptune Township.
But we now see the CMA and the Township working together on the North End Redevelopment Project, but suspicious elements have been revealed, and that project does not seem to be designed primarily with the town’s best interest at heart.
As for the Neptune Township governance, you have seen the results of our recent poll which shows that 80% of respondents mistrust the Neptune Township Committee. Interestingly, over the years, there were times when the citizens rose up against Neptune control resulting in law suits and even a failed referendum to allow the Grove to become a separate town which it did for one year in 1925.
The other organizations here also tend to have their own agendas and to be run like private clubs. Such groups include the Homeowners Association, the Historical Society, Ocean Grove United, and the Chamber of Commerce. They don’t work together very much for the good of the town. They are busy with their own activities. For example, the Chamber of Commerce runs big events to try and drum up business for the merchants. But what do they do for the benefit of those who live here? We asked them to take over sponsorship of the Town-wide Yard Sale, but they refused. When we introduced a new idea for the town—the Blogfinger Film Festival—a benefit for the boardwalk—-only a few of the members would be sponsors for the program, and hardly any attended the event.
When we think of factions in town, we can see the visible ones, but how about the invisible ones such as families that have lived here for generations and are part of networks that act in concert with each other, with the CMA, and with the Township governance, especially where land use, zoning, and parking are concerned. Let’s call that “the network of special interests.”
For them the town of Ocean Grove seems like a gift that keeps on giving. This network never speaks publicly, shows its face, or identifies itself, but what it does and has done will impact all of us and will determine what the town will be in the future. We have seen the results of favoritism for those special interests in the Greek Temple and Mary’s Place. The North End Redevelopment Project is a good example to keep an eye on. Who will be the winners, and who will be the losers?
Because of indifference by the public, organizations, and special interests, Ocean Grove may become an at-risk town which could end up a failed historic place without focus and character, such as is seen in other shore towns—unless the public pays attention and the organizations here begin to work together for the overall benefit of the town and not just on their narrow pet projects, like the Homeowners Association which is currently circulating a simple minded parking survey while ignoring the improprieties and illegalities around town regarding land use issues. The HOA has teamed up with the Neptune Committee ever since 2008 when it supported 165 residential units, mostly condos, at the North End.
In 2002, a professor* at Monmouth University published an academic paper about OG history, emphasizing the powerful way that the activist HOA of 25-30 years ago fought for the town and saved its life. Below is a quote** from that research about that era.
Contrast the conclusion below with the current HOA which now is failing Ocean Grove through impotence, inaction, and lack of focus towards the issues which currently threaten our town the most.
The Home Groaners need to step up and save the town once again, but this version appears to so far be hopeless in that regard.
** 2002: “The HOA has maintained or reconstructed the carefully planned infrastructure of the founders, and even as Ocean Grove is being reborn as a contemporary tourist site, the HOA has worked with the CMA to preserve its sacred foundations. Just like the CMA, the HOA has been outstanding in its ability to secure what it wants and what it believes the community needs. Property values have risen, the community is again a safe place, tourism has been revived, an enormous amount of social capital has been generated, and the Victorian charm of the town has been restored.”
By Karen Schmelzkopf* in the Journal of Historical Geography, 2002
As noted in our recent posts, the Township Committee wants to pass an ordinance to make major changes in the HPC Guidelines. They placed the proposal on the December 12 agenda giving the HPC and others only a few days to consider the matter.
The document is long and detailed, and it was not marked in a way that would readily reveal the changes. At the meeting, the 1st reading was tabled to a later date to allow proper assessment of the document, but a few OG groups did get to review it, and their response was resoundingly negative, saying that the new guidelines would threaten historic preservation in the Grove.
During the public portion of the meeting, some individuals spoke for the allotted 5 minutes. The one voice that really needed to be heard was that of Deborah Osepchuk, the long-time Chairperson of the HPC. She read a prepared personal statement, but she was cut off when her 5 minutes were up.
We thank her for providing Blogfinger with her complete remarks. We cannot print the entire speech, as it is quite long for us, but we will quote most parts of it, skipping only some of the most technical details:
“In the spring of 2015, Randy Bishop announced at a Township Committee meeting that the HPC Guidelines were going to be revised and submitted to the Township Committee by Sept 1, 2015.
“A sub-committee within the HPC was formed, working through the summer and after review by the entire board, submitted our draft of the revised guidelines to the Township Clerk by Sept. 1, 2015.
“This was the last we heard of them. I sent emails, as did our attorney, asking for information and updates on the guidelines. We received no reply.
“Last Friday, Dec.9, 2016, at 3:35 pm, I received an email stating that the revised guidelines were not the guidelines we had submitted. I respectfully request that ‘prepared by the Historic Preservation Commission’ be removed from the cover page, and the names of those people responsible for this document be listed instead.
“There is much to be concerned about in this draft, but let me first focus on what I feel is the most damaging to the historic district.
The applicability of said design guidelines shall only be applicable to any portion of the structure that fronts on the street. Side and rear facades that do not front on the street shall not be subject to the guidelines.
The Commissioner described one change where “the word ‘avoid’ used in the original draft in regards to inappropriate architectural elements has been replaced with the word ‘discouraged’ a total of 37 times.
Also the words “historically inappropriate” have been eliminated. The term “where practicable” has taken its place.
She says, “All of this translates into guidelines that regulate and protect nothing.”
In addition Commissioner Osepchuk notes that a number of provisions in the original have been eliminated including the section on “Historic Flare, a unique and rare example of urban planning—- the key reason for our historic designation.”
(Editor’s note: This is where Ms. Osepchuk had to stop speaking at the meeting, but we continue below:)
“Hot tubs, solar panels, satellite dishes, retaining walls, sheds, roof top construction, chain link fencing, auxiliary structures, etc., are no longer restricted unless they are on the ‘regulated frontage’ of the structure. Then they are merely ‘discouraged.’
“Add to all this, the fact that now homeowners will need to have signed and sealed architectural plans in order to make an application. The HPC has never required this of homeowners.
“Why the sweeping changes? What will they accomplish? Who is responsible or them?
‘The objectives of Ocean Grove District Architectural Guidelines are to preserve the historic architectural integrity, craftsmanship, and heritage of the nationally Designated Historic District and encourage architectural solutions which will “Recapture the Spirit of Ocean Grove.’
“The document dated Oct. 2016 does not accomplish this, its stated purpose. Instead it works at destroying the historic district.
“Property values in Ocean Grove continue to rise. People are renovating, building new and making improvements to their homes in increasing numbers. As of today the HPC has reviewed and approved 249 applications.
“What is the attraction of Ocean Grove? It’s certainly not the parking or the fact that we pay high taxes on land that we don’t even own or that we live on lots that in any other part of Neptune would be considered undersized. Our homes need constant maintenance, since most of them are over 100 years old and we live with the constant threat of fire fueled by the town’s density.
“It is because Ocean Grove looks and feels like no place else…for now.”
Also, this matter is on the agenda for the Dec. 14 Planning Board meeting which Blogfinger will attend.
And, On December 13, 2016, the HPC voted to draft a statement speaking out against the guidelines. Stay tuned.
In the recent Bloginger post about #58-60 Main Avenue (The Pizza Building,) it was suggested that if someone opposed the proposed variances that they should attend the public hearing on Dec. 14 at the Planning Board where this matter would be heard. You could voice your opinion during the public portion, but you will only get 5 minutes.
About 10 years ago, I attended a Board of Adjustment meeting to oppose a variance. My experience speaks to the obstacles that sometimes are placed in the path of well-meaning citizens trying to voice their objections to public policy changes. The details of that experience are included in order to appreciate the sort of issues that affect our lives at the various Boards in Neptune Township.
I was there to object to an application requesting a use variance to subdivide a conforming 30’ x 60’ lot into two (2) narrow 15’x60’ illegal, non-conforming, under-sized lots within 200’ of my house.
The applicant’s professional planner did not introduce any testimony to support granting a use variance.
He just made a “conclusionary statement” that if the variance were approved, it would advance the intent and purpose of the Master Plan and the Zoning Ordinance,” in his professional opinion.
His professional opinion was nonsense.
The intent of the Master Plan and Zoning Ordinance is to reduce rather than increase non-conformity, and land can only be subdivided into conforming lots. The minimum lot size in Ocean Grove is 30’x 60’ and not 15’x60.’
However, the planner’s arbitrary opinion went unchallenged by members of the Zoning Board and the Board’s attorney, planner, and their engineer. The file for the application contained no report from the Board’s planner or engineer. There were no objections from the Camp Meeting Association or the Ocean Grove Home Owners Association.
After the conclusion of the applicant’s presentation, and without questions or objections from the Board or their Professionals, the only evidence on the record was in support of an approval of the subdivision by the applicant’s planner as noted above.
The meeting was then open to the public. I was the only member of the public to speak and I would be allowed only five minutes at the microphone.
Pursuant to the N.J. State Rules of Hearing Procedure, I had equal standing with the applicant’s professional planner to present an opposing case with no time limit.
My first question for the planner was: “What use variance are you asking for: D-1, 2,3,4, or 5?
He didn’t know what variance they were asking for.
When the planner turned toward the applicants attorney for help, I took the opportunity to question the Board’s attorney, “What use variance is the Board considering?” He had no answer and turned toward the Zoning Board’s planner. There was a long moment of silence that was broken when the Land Use Administrator loudly announced. “YOUR TIME IS UP!!”
I was only one minute into my presentation. I had asked only one question and got no answer. And so I said, “What?”
She answered, “Sit down! Your time is up!”
I said, “Are you kidding me?”
The Chairwoman said, “We do have a 5 minute limit here.”
I then asked, “Is there another public portion on the meeting agenda where I can address the Board?
The Land Use Administrator answered for the Chairwoman by saying, “No! You just want to further your case, and we won’t let you. NOW! SIT DOWN !”
While all of this was going on, the Mayor and a member of the Ocean Grove Home Owners Assoc. were calling out from the back of the meeting room, “Sit down! Your time is up!”
The Planning and Zoning Board’s 5 minute rule is inconsistent with the Municipal Land Use Law. I reported this to the Township Committee, and they didn’t care.
The 5 minute rule is still in place.
Editor’s Note: There is a history of stifling dissent at Neptune meetings. Old timers describe how discussion on a controversial agenda item would be cancelled for some phony procedural reason when a large number of Grovers would show up. They would reschedule when they knew the public would not come out, such as during a bad storm.
This story is similar to a more recent one (2015) in which we described how Jack was not permitted to finish his 5 minute comment during a Township Committee meeting. Here is a link:
It seems like it’s hard to find quiet in a town that ought to provide a noise-free environment. One Grover told me that the noise problem is so bad that he would consider moving, except his wife doesn’t mind it. Another recent arrival from Manhattan said that Ocean Grove is noisier than the Gramercy Park area. A woman who lives near Wesley Lake (where we filmed the music video) hates the noise from Asbury. Not everyone likes the music.
At the North End near Wesley Lake we have significant loudspeaker noise pollution from Asbury Park in season. Now “the season” merges left and right into spring and fall. Does the Parking Committee understand that the “season” lasts about nine months?
A couple of weeks ago the noise one evening was unusually loud, penetrating the inside of our house. The Asbury noise comes from the Beer Hall, the Stone Pony outdoor venue and the variety of events going on there. The video above, from Saturday, Dec 3, emanated from a live band at the shores of Wesley Lake, on Asbury’s Lake Avenue. It was nonstop and horrible.
And how about the loud drunks from Asbury returning to their cars in the early morning hours waking Grovers from restful sleep? Talk about disturbing the peace!
Then there is construction noise. They are not supposed to begin work before 8 am, but a noisy bucket loader on Main Avenue was making loud beeping sounds at 7 am that interfered with sleep. They are also not supposed to make construction noise all day Sunday.
For anyone who lives near Main Avenue, the traffic noise can get bothersome, but of course there is no way to fix that unless we only allow electric cars here.
But all week long, into the fall, we have weed wackers, lawn mowers, sanding machines and leaf blowers. You can hear the weed wacker in the top video. Such noisy machines are usually used by landscapers and home owners to maintain their properties, but that is allowed by ordinance.
And the Neptune DPW entertains us with garbage pickups very early in the morning as well as their crews maintaining parks around town.
But shouldn’t loud noises of power equipment, at least on Sunday morning, be restricted even if the source is not a construction project?