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Archive for the ‘Ocean Grove issues’ Category

A perfect potential Ocean Groovy Airbnb rental–all the charm of our special town. Blogfinger photo. ©  (This is not actually an Airbnb rental; just an illustration)

By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger

In a recent “just wondering” segment, we began to consider the facts surrounding the new rental phenomenon where people in town can turn their homes into impromptu hotels, making fast money by renting living spaces for short visits—even just one night, but usually defined as less than 30 days.

Or course, there have been rentals, especially summertime, in Ocean Grove, going back to the town’s founding when there was a huge religious tourism industry along with many rooming houses and hotels.

But now, all over the world, homeowners are accepting tenants who connect with others on the Internet—Airbnb has an app.

According to one Grover*, this has become a problem because these Airbnbers ride into town and expect hotel amenities.  They don’t know our rules and customs and they bring parties with them.

But, regarding the rules of the road, Neptune Township has control, and I have spoken to Code Enforcement this morning.

The fact is that Airbnb rentals in Ocean Grove are  no different than any other short term rentals in town.

You may not rent a room.  You may rent an apartment or a house, but with each rental, a CI  (Certificate of Inspection) is required.  If you are doing rapid turnovers, such as one night at at a time, you must renew the CI with each rental.

—-*Airbnb on Blogfinger August 10 post

JOE WILLIAMS imagining a rental in quaint OG:

 

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These Grovers are winners. OG taxpayers should fight to be winners also. Paul Goldfinger ©  OG lifeguards who won their tournament. c.2014.  Click image to enlarge.

By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger

At the present time, there are no details that would describe exactly what such a permit plan might look like in this town, so what we are actually polling about has to do with a concept not a specific parking plan.

Debating specific features of a plan now is a waste of time and a distraction. The Township is trying to cut this off by saying that specifics and a referendum are needed but they don’t really want anything to happen.   They don’t want us to understand the real substance of the situation.

A vote “yes” sends a message to Neptune Township that we, the tax paying homeowners in Ocean Grove, deserve your attention and special consideration when it comes to limited public resources such as parking on the streets of Ocean Grove.

We have a Township government which collects a substantial amount of tax money from each homeowner every quarter. A significant number of parking spaces in town are occupied by non-residents on average. It becomes even more crowded by outsiders when the circus is in town. But those visitors pay nothing. So the homeowners must be given special recognition in terms of Township policies.

The Neptune government has made it clear that they have no interest in looking out for the homeowners/residents of this town. They don’t care about the Master Plan, the lifestyles of residents, the history of this “historic district,” the parking anguish of residents, or pretty much about anything that we care about.

For purposes of discussion we should remember that renters are residents, but homeowners pay the taxes. Ideally, actual residents, including renters and homeowners, should benefit from a new system because they are more important than tourists. But if push comes to shove, taxpayers should be top dogs. But renters have no chance at any benefits if they vote “no.”

The Committee plays up to other parts of town, such as Midtown—to the people whose votes will re-elect them time and time again. The only segment of OG citizenry which the Township favors is the Camp Meeting Association, and most of their trustees do not live in the Grove, and how much of their property is tax exempt?    And they don’t even pay taxes on the land which they say they own.  We do!

When we consider the behavior of Neptune Township governance, forget what they say at public meetings. Instead study what they do. For them actions (ie inactions) do speak louder than words.

So this parking permit question really represents the idea that our elected officials should give the taxpayers an edge when it comes to policy. Until now , they have done whatever they please, including ignoring the parking issue and ignoring OG taxpayers/residents.

It is not unreasonable for homeowners to want a new precedent where the Township does give an edge to tax payers. There is nothing untoward about their making life easier for taxpayers/residents in this town, because we put up money to keep the Township going.  No tourist gives NT   money.

It’s time for the Neptune government to respond to this principal, and the demand for permit parking is the tangible symbol of a change which is long overdue.

So this Blogfinger poll represents a message to our non-representative elected officials who will begin to hear about this principle through our vote. That is why all homeowners and residents should vote “yes.”

This is really about telling them that attention must be paid to us. If you choose “no” then you tell them that their dismissive behavior towards us is OK.

As a bonus, hopefully we will see them recognize their obligation to us and come up with a plan that will show some favoritism to tax payers. And the only way that we can be identified by those indifferent  officials who sit up on that dais is by the issuance of permits.

Let’s not argue now about how many permits, who gets them, etc. Let’s get an advantage in the marketplace of ideas in our town.

I will tell you about how I feel regarding the number of permits later, after the Township takes a real first step, encouraged by our vote in the poll.  There is room for negotiation if only they will pay meaningful attention to us. The referendum is useless and is just subterfuge for them to move on and leave us no where.

From the soundtrack of the film Chef.  It’s about finding an idea and running with  it.

“Stop your messing around (ah-ah-ah)
Better think of your future (ah-ah-ah)
Time you straighten right out (ah-ah-ah)
Creating problems in town (ah-ah-ah)”

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Ocean Grove beach. Sunday, July 2, 2017, 3:45 pm. Blogfinger photo. ©

TO THE EDITOR:

Individuals in charge of opening the OG  beach (primarily on Sundays) need to be given some type of plan as to what to do or how to approach the Bradley Beach goers who pay for the Bradley Beach side but then walk over and set up on Ocean Grove.    I have witnessed this happen on several occasions.

I was just there yesterday and it was ridiculous, the poor kid who was on duty at the time and making sure he opened up at 12:30  was being attacked for not saying or doing anything to the people sneaking over, meantime all the individuals who paid to get in and were patiently waiting for 12:30  had to stand by and watch others set up and take up space we paid for.

Some of the Ocean Grove payers actually walked over and paid the fee to Bradley beach and stated they wouldn’t come back to Ocean Grove.  Those are customers OG is losing out on. A plan needs to be put in place to avoid this from happening again.

FRUSTRATED AT THE BEACH

July, 2017

JESSICA MOLASKEY:  Guess where she is.

 

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Some Grovers are investing huge sums to create authentic Victorian restorations like this gorgeous newly redone Main Avenue showplace, but that alone does not define us.  Paul Goldfinger photo May 2, 2017.

 

Another ambitious Victorian restoration. Note the original siding being brought back to life at great expense . Blogfinger photo © Ocean Grove at  Main Avenue.

Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger

In 2017, Ocean Grove is a small town without a clear sense of identity.  It has a local government that treats us like an appendage to be milked, but otherwise there is no love emanating from Neptune Township. We may be part of Neptune officially, but we are clearly NOT part of Neptune in our hearts.  Most towns have a continuous thread of history that has resulted in a strong sense of identity, but not Ocean Grove.

Citizens say that they “love” the town, but the definition of that love remains undefined.   They just like being here.  Is the Grove  just a collection of old houses interspersed in another cozy shore town?   Or  maybe it is the perception of the town as a place with an unusual and special  culture that attracts people to live here?  Many  like the urban feel, the friendly neighborhoods, the comfortable  sidewalks for walking, the porch culture, and the magic of summer evenings on the boards or fun at the beach.  And for some it is the closest nicest shore town to NYC.

Those who say they “love the town”  often have little knowledge of the town’s history as a religious enclave.  They have no interest in it as a historic place recognized by State and Federal historic registries.  So, to what extent is OG an authentic and serious historic district—a very special place for that reason?

A related question is whether this town was conceived as a tourist attraction?  The answer to that is an emphatic no.  Sure, in the late 1800’s, religious tourists came here in droves, mostly by train, and that identity persists to a much lesser extent today,  but it is no longer central to life in Ocean Grove.

Thirty years ago, the town was not a tourist place to have a burger, buy a T shirt, take a tour, go to a massive craft show on the Pathway, or close down Main Avenue to sell Thai food or sell shlocky art or display old British cars .   Instead the downtown had a serious grocery/butcher shop, several doctor’s offices, a video store,a flower shop, a cafeteria, a newsstand, a drug store, a barber shop,  a fishing club, a town pool, and a few fire houses.  In other words it was a town that was largely for the residents. So many towns at the shore are not for tourists, for example Atlantic Highlands, Avon-by-the Sea,  Spring Lake, Deal, Avalon, and Allenhurst.

But now Ocean Grove has become  a mish-mash—a combination of all of the above; but for those who actually  live here  (year round or part-time), or want to live here, we need to define our situation more clearly: what is the heart and soul of this town?  Or maybe those attributes don’t even exist.

Elected officials do not really represent the Grove’s citizens.  The Neptunite governing operation is like a secret foreign occupying power that has undercover agents and contacts who live among us, but has underlying agendas based upon self interest.

A local government is supposed to represent the people and try to make their lives better, but our situation  now is the opposite.

The Camp Meeting Association ran the town for over 140 years.  During that time, until 1980, they had reason to believe that the unique religious culture which prevailed till then, as odd as it was in America, would last  forever.  They certainly did not envision the town becoming a historic site.  They had no problem letting many of the early houses deteriorate. And it is unclear if stores during those years sold T shirts, surf boards, jewelry or pizza.

But when OG was handed over to Neptune Township in 1980, and with the CMA giving up governance and most blue laws,  it was like a child who lost his parents and was given to someone for foster care—for money.

The town, which was becoming quite diverse by 1980, was without a clear sense of who or what it was, and today, what is its character and purpose?

The result is a place with a variety of power centers, all self interested,  and largely propelled by an active real-estate market;  and all without the will to find a framework, common identity, and direction for the town as a whole  So the town of Ocean Grove, lacking leadership and a sense of community,  is adrift and thus what goes on here is helter-skelter and out of focus.  That is why no progress is made in solidifying the town as a real place with its own sense of being.  If it weren’t for the homeowners who have brought to life historic homes that had been on life-support, this would be a pretty disheveled and much less desirable place.

The vision of an authentic historic town, defined by its historic designations, is currently fraudulent because most citizens don’t give a rat’s tail about its history. Even the “Historic Preservation Commission” has gone dark and has seemingly slipped into the shadows, never to be trusted again.  It is rare to find a historical event here such as re-enactments, poetry readings, vintage music concerts, classical street musicians, jazz, and educational programs about the town’s history for those who actually live here.  Instead we shut down Main Avenue for car shows and we crowd the town with huge numbers of strangers (ie tourists)  to have giant retail events of no value to the town itself while the residents struggle to find a parking place and to share our streets with the free parkers heading to Asbury.

The Ocean Grove Homeowners Association has no idea what it should be doing, and its leadership has no idea what its mandate is. It is not only essentially worthless in terms of bringing this town together and forward, but it has actually become a force working against the people—a subversive presence.

Jack Bredin is correct that the only workable solution is to become our own town again  (it actually happened for one year in 1925, but the church vs state  dilemma caused it to collapse on itself.) Perhaps it is possible once again, but not in a place where the citizens are apathetic and don’t seem to care about a vision for the town.

So  Ocean Grove, despite some wonderful attributes, is poorly defined, and the citizens are seemingly satisfied to ride the waves, sleep on the beach and enjoy being here, much like so many other Jersey Shore towns, although many of those towns actually have their acts together and know who they are or what they want to be.

Bradley Beach , our neighbor to the south, which lacks the history that we have, knows what it is.   Go there to experience a true Jersey Shore town.  Forget the architecture, just view it as a fine place to enjoy the shore.   Take a deep breath and smell the ocean.  Go on Main Street on a summer night and have some Thai food or terrific Italian delicacies.  Sit outside at a real  coffee shop and watch the young people walking by or heading towards the boardwalk.  Bradley Beach has a heart and soul which goes all the way back to its founding. It knows what is, and that’s a good thing.

And here’s a song for the kids in town, especially teen agers who breathe life into our town no longer  known as “Ocean Grave:”

THE CRESTS:

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“Low Tide at Wesley Lake”  Blogfinger photo.©

Water  near the retaining wall by Founders’ Park in OG. Blogfinger  (Stephen Goldfinger)  photo. 12/7/16 © Click it and then take a deep breath. Is it any wonder that not a single bird was in sight?

Wesley Lake, west end. March 28, 2017. Paul Goldfinger photo © Click to enlarge. Photograph from the muckrakers at Blogfinger–Paul Goldfinger.© March, 2017.

By Jack Bredin, researcher and reporter for Blogfinger.net  and Paul Goldfinger, Editor@Blogfinger.net

Blogfinger has posted a variety of articles about Wesley Lake pollution. Today we feature yet another piece on that subject which contains some new elements which we have not addressed before.

Q:  The Lenape Indians used Wesley Lake as a source of food.  Now the Lake is reserved for recreation and conservation—-or is it?

A:  According to the Neptune township Tax Map (effective Jan. 1, 2015) Wesley Lake is now a municipal facility to be used to treat dirty street-water runoff. The Lake’s name has been changed to ” Wesley Detention/Retention  Basin” under the supervision of the Departments of Public Works.

Q: Who is responsible for this?

A:  It starts with the Neptune Township Committee along with the Mayor and Council of Asbury Park.   The  two governing bodies are in  charge, so  the buck stops with them, or in this case, the pollution starts and stops with them.    Officials from both towns took an oath  that would include managing the welfare of the Lake for recreational use.  It should be noted that most of the dirty street-water runoff comes from AP.

Q: How did this happen?

A:  It happened when the mayors of both Neptune and AP took their charters and hung them on the developers’ walls.

Q:  Who can correct this plethora of problems involving the Lake’s rehabilitation and restoration?

A: The Wesley Lake Commission. Or can they?  Jack attended a meeting of the Commission on May 16, 2017, and suggested that they should not allow street-water runoff to enter the Lake because that is causing the Lake to be polluted. And the streets are not part of the Lake’s natural watershed.

Discussion:

A member of the Wesley Lake Commission representing Neptune’s DPW  (Dept. of Public Works) said, “The streets are in the ‘watershed area,’  and in New Jersey you are permitted by the Dept. of Environmental Protection to allow street water runoff to drain into a lake.”

But the “watershed area” includes all the land that drains into the lake, and by that definition, it does includes street run-off.  But there is a semantic issue here.  He would be correct if the streets were a part of the Lake’s “natural watershed” and not just “in the watershed area.”    The”natural water-shed area”  is desirable, but dirty street water is not part of that.

So his argument boils down to “let’s keep polluting the Lake illegally.”

You might have noticed the Rainwater Garden near the train station in Asbury Park.  That is an example of a desirable “natural” water-shed area where the rain is purified by the soil and plantings and then the clean water drains into the lake.

And if the name change from Wesley Lake to “Wesley Detention/Retention Basin” had been done legally by Resolution of the Neptune Committee with permission from the New Jersey DEP Green Acres Program,  then the streets would become “the watershed” for a detention/retention basin, but there was no such Resolution or Green Acres permission.  Note that a detention/retention basin is an actual structural facility to clean the water draining into the Lake. So far all we have is a name change on the Neptune Tax Map.  We don’t even have a map that shows the Lake’s water-shed. And we don’t know where A. Park stands on this, but we can guess.

So what’s in a name?–in this case, nothing.

Another member of the Commission said, “The condition of Wesley Lake is the same now as it has been for the last 10,000 years, and the condition of the Lake’s mud is a naturally occurring condition found in every lake.”

We think the dead fish never got the professor’s message.  And, we have to remind the professor, that 10,000 years ago they were first brewing beer in Mesopotamia, but there are no records of what Wesley Lake looked like then.  We barely know about it from records of 1869. We do know that it was much different than it is now—then it was a full blown estuary.

And don’t forget, the water may look or test clear sometimes, but what toxins are trapped in the mud? They don’t test the mud, only the water, and how often do they test the water?

We may be at a crossroads, but we still have the choice of which road to take, before it is too late:

1. “The road to recovery:”  Stopping the dirty street water from entering the Lake would be the first step in the Lake’s road to recovery
2. “The road to “Condo-City:”  This road would be a fantasy by certain factions in Ocean Grove who might see the Lake as a dead-end street where the polluted silt (ie mud)  builds up to a point where dredging and disposing of all that polluted mud becomes economically unfeasible.
And that leads to a scripted conclusion that it would be more cost effective to “cap” the mud, fill in the Lake, and build some modern, up-to-date condominiums.  It could happen!

LEANN RIMES:

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

Blogfinger article Feb. 17, 2017 on ground rents

History of ground rents in OG

 

To the Editor:

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.

GORTON WOOD

Ocean Grove, NJ, April 10, 2017

The writer is a resident of a condominium at #40 Ocean Pathway.

 

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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.)

4 foundations on one lot, seen here from Surf Avenue,  are not permitted.   Photo by Stephen Goldfinger on 3/18/17. Blogfinger staff.©

 

This is a view taken from Beach Avenue showing the separation between foundations. . By Stephen Goldfinger 3/19/17 ©

This is the second installment of “The Case of the Notorious Whitfield Hotel.”

By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger and Jack Bredin, Researcher @Blogfinger

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.

Bernard Haney, Neptune Twp.Tax Assessor and Land Use Administrator. Blogfinger photo  c.2015. Neptune Twp Municipal Bldg. ©

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?

ELVIS:

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What we have here is a fine kettle of fish*"

What we have here is a fine kettle of fish*”

By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger.net

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.

DINAH WASHINGTON:

 

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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?

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xxxx

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

BLOSSOM DEARIE:

 

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