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Posts Tagged ‘Ocean Grove Historic Preservation Commission’

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By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger

One month ago we began reporting on the efforts of Neptune Township to change the  guidelines that the HPC uses to protect Ocean Grove’s historic designations.

At the Township meeting,  Dec 12, 2016, where those new guidelines were presented, members of the HPC expressed serious concern when they went to the microphone to protest.  But those comments were unofficial, and Deborah Osepchuk, the chairperson of the Commission, promised to review all the changes and to present an official HPC response.

 On Dec. 13, we posted an article about the meeting and we said, “The HPC itself made no formal announcement about their opinions, but it is our understanding that they are not pleased with the changes.  Don’t they have an obligation to inform the OG public about their concerns?”   Later that day, the HPC voted to draft a statement speaking out against the guidelines.

The Neptune Twp. web site says this about the HPC:     “The current members of the HPC are dedicated to the goal of sharing information about the benefits of preserving Ocean Grove’s heritage and to ‘Recapture the Spirit of Ocean Grove, with all residents.”

At Blogfinger we wrote a series of articles on this subject, calling it “The HPC War” and  we sympathized with the HPC.   We asked Ms. Osepchuk  to send us the official HPC response for our readers to see. She said she would.

The next day she did an about-face and said that she would not provide BF with the requested information  on advice from the HPC  attorney .  The legal reason given was unbelievable, and we posted a piece on 12/16 on the subject of the “silent treatment” offered by the HPC.

We urge our viewers to re-read that post (linked below)  and to especially read the comments:

 https://blogfinger.net/2016/12/16/hpc-muzzled-no-more-public-statements-to-the-media/

Ms. Osepchuk said that she was not allowed to communicate with the media, but if you look at the Coaster on-line, you will find an in-depth interview with the HPC dated Dec. 14, 2016.  The HPC had indeed made up its mind . The Coaster reported that: “HPC Chairperson Deborah Osepchuk said the Commission was ‘absolutely against the changes.’”

So what we have here is duplicity on the part of the HPC. *

We contacted the Chairperson again a few days ago and inquired if there was any progress regarding the guidelines issue.  She said that there was none and she didn’t mention that there was an official HPC position and that the matter had been discussed with the Home Owners Association and with the Coaster.   This is deceit by omission.

She also didn’t tell us that the HPC would present their official position regarding “the HPC War” to the HOA meeting next week.   Instead she said, “We’ll be talking preservation and the importance of guidelines at that meeting.”

It looks like the lawyer for the HPC advised them to specifically ignore Blogfinger,  but that it was perfectly OK to give out the information to the Coaster and to the HOA.  Is that possible?  Maybe that lawyer should comment here about what seems to be atrocious legal advice to the HPC to selectively ignore a request for information from a member of the press.

 The HPC is an arm of the Neptune Township government and its denial of our request appears to be a violation of the Freedom of Information Act and a rude stiff-arm to the only media source totally devoted to Ocean Grove and totally based in the Grove.

Why would the HPC deny Blogfinger news that belongs to the people of Ocean Grove?  We can speculate, but the bottom line is that 50 people at the HOA meeting will hear the news next week, but we get an average of 5,000 to 7,000 views per week and higher on Blogfinger. 

 The only explanation is  fear—they don’t want to expose their opinions to the scrutiny of the BF  viewers,  because we allow you-the-people to challenge them in our comments section.

This is disgraceful, and it puts the HPC in an alliance  with the untrustworthy HOA and with the Coaster—a publication that could care less about our town.  I used to admire the HPC, but no more. Blogfinger will watch them with suspicion.  There’s something fishy going on over there.

*Dictionary.com     Duplicity is deceitfulness in speech or conduct, as by speaking or acting in two different ways to different people concerning the same matter; double-dealing.

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26 Lake Ave. This beautiful historic home restoration was monitored and approved by the HPC using its guidelines. It won a Beersheba Award in 2012/. Blogfinger photo ©

26 Lake Ave. This beautiful historic home restoration was monitored and approved by the HPC using its guidelines. It won a Beersheba Award in 2012. Blogfinger photo ©

 By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfnger

A large crowd, mostly from Ocean Grove, assembled  on Monday night, December 12, at the Neptune Municipal Building for the regular session of the 5-person Township Committee.

The crowd was there because of an  item on the agenda: the rewriting of the Historic Preservation Guidelines.  But it quickly became apparent that ordinance #16-45 would be tabled.  The motion was made by Committeeman Nick Williams.  The crowd was not pleased. 

The Historic Guidelines are implemented by the HPC (Historic Preservation Commission) whose 7 members (and 2 alternates) are appointed by the mayor of Neptune Township.

Evidently, two Township Committeemen, Rizzo and Brantley, commissioned these revised guidelines and placed them on the agenda three days before the meeting.  The document was not properly marked up to reveal where the changes were, and interested parties had a difficult time deciphering the new document.  Even Committeemen Brantley  complained that he could not understand it.

This is ostensibly why the item was tabled three days after it suddenly appeared on the agenda.   Do you buy that?

The OGHOA had declared prior to the meeting that the changes would weaken the authority of the HPC to maintain historic construction standards in town. The Historical Society of OG came up with similar concerns, and both groups encouraged Grovers to come to the meeting. 

The HPC itself made no formal announcement about their opinions, but it is our understanding that they are not pleased with the changes.   Don’t they have an obligation to inform the OG public about their concerns?  

One change that emerged prior to the meeting was the idea that the HPC could only regulate the parts of buildings (the façades) that front on a street.  This is a big issue because its implementation could adversely affect the look of the town and perhaps even the chance to keep the historic designations which we have received—-federal and state.  

Many believe that weakening the guidelines will make it easier for developers and investors to introduce more condos and other buildings including non-Victorian private homes which could jeopardize the special character of Ocean Grove.  Without the guidelines we could become another Bradley Beach.

The HPC War is about that vulnerability, and there are concerns regarding the underlying motives behind this attempt to re-write the guidelines.  Committeeman Carol Rizzo asserted at the meeting that the reason for the re-write was  because of two complaints about the cost of HPC compliance.

Well, heck, folks sometimes complain about the HPC rules, but that shouldn’t prompt a re-write.   It is those rules that help keep the town the way we like it.

 What is the real reason for the new guidelines and why was it placed on the agenda in such an abrupt way without proper documentation and opportunity for study?

And, along those lines, we need to know who wrote the new document and why that document says “prepared by the HPC” on the cover when the HPC says it had nothing to do with it? 

This issue has significant potential repercussions, and the Mayor owes the people of Ocean Grove a true explanation.  In our initial article on this we suggested that the weakening of architectural standards is only one component of a conspiracy by Neptune/OG insiders to change Ocean Grove.  There have been plenty of reasons to suspect such a movement.

Last night a number of you went to the microphone for your 5 minutes in the spotlight. How about telling Blogfinger what you said?  Note that all those comments were recorded and can be retrieved whenever the CD is available. We will post your information anonymously if you wish.   Contact us at Blogfinger@verizon.net.

Please use this post for further comments on this topic. 

www.neptunetownship.org/departments/historic-preservation-commission

 

SAM AND DAVE:

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By Charles Layton

The Historic Preservation Commission seems to have persuaded the Neptune Planning Board to include stronger protections for Ocean Grove in its rewrite of the Master Plan.

But the Ocean Grove Home Owners Association remains at odds with the Planning Board over its own issues, and it appears that a fight between the two groups may be in the offing.

The newly-included language proposed by the HPC stresses the importance of Ocean Grove’s architectural heritage, its emphasis on single-family homes, and such defining characteristics of the town plan as the flared setback on avenues near the ocean.

The Planning Board has been working for months on a total rewrite of the Master Plan, a document that lays out basic goals and guidelines for land use and zoning.

Last week, the HPC passed a resolution expressing concern that the board’s proposed rewrite did not do enough to protect the Grove’s historic heritage. But at a public meeting on Wednesday night, the board revealed that it had inserted into its draft much of the language suggested by the HPC.

Also on Wednesday, the Historical Society of Ocean Grove weighed in for the first time with a letter to the Planning Board, in which it agreed with the issues raised by the HPC and also with a broader range of concerns raised by the Home Owners Association.

While acceding to most of what the HPC had asked for, the Planning Board made no concessions to the Home Owners. Members of the Home Owners board who were present at the meeting came away unhappy with that, and also with the Planning Board’s refusal to allow comment from members of the public.

“This is nonsense,” Home Owners trustee Fran Paladino told me after it was made clear that no one would be allowed to voice concerns or raise questions. The three-hour meeting was taken up by a lengthy report to the Planning Board by its consultant Jennifer Beahm, covering the details of the entire 207-page draft of the proposed new Master Plan.

In a letter delivered on Friday, a committee of the Home Owners had expressed fears that this new plan, as written, would be bad for Ocean Grove. (For full details, read the Home Owners letter here.)

There was no indication on Wednesday night that the Planning Board was in any mood to accommodate the Home Owners’ concerns. Neither did the Home Owners trustees show any willingness to back off, and it seems likely that the issue will be raised at the group’s next membership meeting, which is on September 24.

One of the Home Owners’ chief concerns is a suggestion in the Planning Board’s draft that the Township create a new Land Use Advisory Committee to make decisions as to whether “minor changes that have been found to be di-minimus [sic] in nature can be approved administratively” rather than going to the Zoning Board of Adjustment. The Home Owners committee’s letter said it feared this new bureaucratic layer of authority would “usurp the authority of the existing citizens boards, replacing their judgments with the judgments of various executives of the Township. This would potentially allow for more decisions to be made outside the public’s view, and would be an invitation to more political influence and insider dealing.”

Support for the Home Owners position on this and some other issues appeared to be growing in certain quarters. In its Wednesday letter, the Historical Society made a point of concurring with issues raised by the Home Owners. Gail Shaffer, president of the Historical Society, told me she was especially concerned about the issue of the proposed new advisory committee. Deborah Osepchuk, chairwoman of the HPC, told me she too was concerned about that issue, although she stressed that she was speaking only for herself, not for the HPC, on that matter.

Another major concern of the Home Owners committee is the proposal’s frequent recommendations that various rules on zoning, density limits, the flared setback and other issues important to Ocean Grove be “reviewed,” “redrafted” or “evaluated.” So much “broad language in the Master Plan, urging such sweeping changes, would give present and future administrations too much discretion to make whatever changes they please,” the Home Owners letter said.

The Historical Society’s letter specifically supported the Home Owners on this issue. It spoke of “weakly defined language that urges sweeping changes to the present regulations.”

Osepchuk said she was pleased that the Planning Board had accepted the HPC’s suggestion to put protective language from the old Master Plan into the draft of the new one. “There are marked improvements from what was originally written,” she said, but added that “there is still room for some tweaking.”

One important historical passage from the old Master Plan, which Osepchuk’s commission succeeded in having transplanted into the new one, described Ocean Grove’s physical decline in the 1990s as hotels and rooming houses for summer lodgers gave way to multi-family residences and boarding houses for the indigent. Legal changes since then, prohibiting similar conversions to multi-family residential use, “have limited additional deterioration and facilitated a renaissance of investment in single-family housing, bed and breakfasts and historic hotels,” the restored language says. It continues: “These types of uses are more appropriate to the scale and character of the [historic] district and provide appropriate development that preserves the character of Ocean Grove.” The newly included language also promises “a strong commitment to the protection and preservation of Ocean Grove’s unique town plan, particularly its flared setback, and all properties designated as having architectural and historic significance.”

The HPC considered that language important to protecting Ocean Grove’s status as a National Historic District.

Planning Board Chairman Joseph Shafto said the public would not have a chance to speak before the board until it meets on November 9 for what could be its final consideration of the Master Plan. Between now and November 9, however, anyone who wishes to submit a letter for the board’s consideration may do so, Shafto said.

After the plan is approved, in whatever form, by the Planning Board, the Board and its attorneys would then rewrite the local land use ordinance based on what’s in the new Master Plan. The new ordinance would then be passed into law by the Township Committee.

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By Paul Goldfinger

The Ocean Grove Home Owners Association and the Historic Preservation  Commission are expressing fears that the Township’s proposed new Master Plan will be bad for Ocean Grove.

A committee of the Neptune Planning Board has been working for months on a total rewrite of the Master Plan, a document that lays out basic goals and guidelines for land use and zoning throughout the Township, including The Grove.

On Friday, a committee of the OGHOA delivered a letter to the Planning Board stating a broad range of concerns about the proposed new plan. Also last week, the HPC passed a resolution expressing its own strong concerns.

In its letter, the OGHOA committee said, “Our fear is that so much broad language in the  Master Plan, urging such sweeping changes, would give present and future administrations too much discretion to make whatever changes they might please. … we fear that this draft opens the door to a weakening of existing protections.”

The letter also expressed fears that a new Township Land Use Advisory Committee, proposed as part of the new Master Plan, would “usurp the authority of the existing citizens boards, replacing their judgments with the judgments of various executives of the Township. This would potentially allow for more decisions to be made outside the public’s view, and would be an invitation to more political influence and insider dealing.”

Other language in the proposed new Plan, the HOA committee feared, “could lead to the return of the flophouses in Ocean Grove, which the Home Owners Association has worked so long and hard to eradicate.”

The HPC resolution focused on the Historic Preservation component of the new Master Plan, stating that it “fails to adequately incorporate the defining characteristics of Ocean Grove which contributed to its designation as a National Historic District including the seashore vernacular design, flare area setback, recreational and park configuration and the grid pattern incorporated in the design of Ocean Grove.” The HPC’s resolution, passed by a unanimous vote, “strongly urges” the Planning Board to restore this information.

Representatives of both groups plan to attend a meeting of the Planning Board on Wednesday, September 14, at 7 p.m. on the second floor of the Municipal Building.  The public is invited to this meeting.

NOTE: The posting that follows this one is the full content of the HOA’s letter.   To read the HPC resolution, go to this link:

HPC Resolution to the Planning Board

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