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Posts Tagged ‘Ocean Grove Home Owners Association’

Blogfinger Editorial Board:

According to our source for HOA meeting gobbledygook, Bonny Graham at the Coaster, the Groaners are taking credit for being “overwhelmingly in favor of issuing parking permits.”

But the fact is , as indicated in our post link below, they put the idea forward one year ago and then gave up without a fight when the township breathed some hot air on them and said, “No.”  They folded  like a cheap umbrella.

We all know what happened next: The Groaners Parkng Committee ceased to function as they jumped into the Wesley muck with both feet supporting  the Township Parking Task Force in placing 18 new diagonals spaces on Central Avenue. And now, as of yesterday, more diagonal spaces were placed on Main Avenue in a residential area extending from Firemen’s Park west to the gates.  What happened to that group which “overwhelmingly” voted in favor of parking permits?

But now the Groaners feel pressure from all the Blogfinger posts about permits and they can smell a bandwagon they can jump on.  Their parking leader, Joyce Klein, told the incredulous audience on Saturday that “this will only happen if the OGHOA members attend the Township Committee meetings, speak up, and advocate for the issuance of parking  permits.”

So her idea of leadership is to drop the ball in the members’ laps and go hide under the bed.

Here is a link to our recent post about the HOA’s effort to get parking permits—–one year ago.  You will find nothing about “overwhelming support” for permits.  That must be fake news. But if it’s real, then why didn’t they fight for what everyone wants?

BF article about the HOA and parking permits

And in April 2017, at the HOA meeting, when the report from the parking committee was presented, this is what the HOA minutes said, “Parking report:  Joyce Klein reported that the Neptune Council will have a second  and final reading of the ordinance allowing for the potential addition of about 18 angle parking spots.” 

In other words, there was no mention of their “overwhelming support” of permit parking.

The other topic of interest is the fate of the new HPC guidelines which we had been told threaten historic preservation in the Grove, according to the HPC leadership.  But at this Groaners’ meeting we learned that the situation is worse.  Osepchuk said, “The revised guidelines were dramatically changed” from the current set of regulations, as they allow for satellite dishes and solar panels.  She said that “homeowners spoke up, and the Township committee tabled the guidelines.”

Is this good news, or is the HPC just waiting powerlessly for the next shoe to drop?    It appears that the Groaners have once again failed to resolve a problem.

For those of you HOA members who support your leadership, ask yourself what your organization has actually accomplished in the areas of: Wesley Lake pollution,  rapacious developers, parking problems, high property taxes,  home owners with tax assessment issues, violations of State Land Use Laws, threats to Lake Avenue, threats to the integrity of Wesley Lake, climbing ground rents for some Grovers, uninhibitated condo conversions without parking, etc.

 

ROY ORBISON says “ding a linga linga  linga linga linga, “–mamamamamamama—-a tribute to gobbledygook wherever it’s found.  Sing along.

 

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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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Jack Bredin offers his opinion at an OGHOA meeting in June, 2010.© Blogfinger photo.

Jack Bredin offers his opinion at an OGHOA meeting in June, 2010.© Blogfinger photo.

To the Editor:

As a new Ocean Grove Home Owners Association (OGHOA) member who attended my first meeting on Saturday, March 26, I decided to check its website today for the meeting minutes. They were posted and I was surprised to read that neither President Ann Horan nor Vice President Barbara Burns had been there (I’d arrived a few minutes late and hadn’t heard all the names of the people running the meeting). According to the minutes, the President and Vice President were “away on vacation,” so “Secretary Richard Williams opened the meeting…”.

While I was at the website, I decided to read the OGHOA bylaws. I found a couple of things that made me wonder why the March 26 meeting was held at all.

Under Article 3, “Meetings,” the bylaws state:

  1. General membership meetings shall be held on the 4th Saturday of every month except when the 4th Saturday is on a holiday weekend, at which time an alternate date will be scheduled.

March 26 was the day before Easter Sunday, so the fourth Saturday of March 2016 clearly fell on a “holiday weekend.” According to the OGHOA’s own bylaws, a general membership meeting should not have been held that day.

 

I also read under Article 5, “Duties”:

  1. The President shall preside at all meetings.
  1. The Vice-President shall assume all duties of the President in his or her absence and shall assist in every way.

Probably because it was a holiday weekend, neither the President nor the Vice President was there to preside at the meeting. If the President “shall” preside at “all” meetings, and the Vice President “shall assume all duties of the President in his or her absence,” what happens if neither of them is present? Does anyone else have the authority to preside over a general membership meeting of the OGHOA? The bylaws suggest that only the President and Vice President have this authority.

It appears that the March 26 general membership meeting should have been rescheduled, both because the date fell on a holiday weekend and because neither the President nor the Vice President was there to preside.

At the February meeting, Jack Bredin put forth an important motion, proposing that the OGHOA take the position that the State’s Residential Site Improvement Standards (RSIS) be enforced throughout Ocean Grove, with an exemption for single-family homes only.

I’m not certain when it was decided that a vote on Jack’s motion would be held at the March meeting, but in the month between meetings, did no one on the OGHOA Board realize that holding the meeting on a holiday weekend, and when neither the President nor Vice President could be present, would be in violation of the organization’s bylaws?

To see how often both the President and Vice President miss a membership meeting, I reviewed all the minutes posted at the site (they’re posted back to March 2015); March 26, 2016 was the only time this happened. I also checked the meeting dates and the only one held on a holiday weekend was the meeting on March 26.

Is an OGHOA membership vote legitimate and binding when it takes place at a meeting that itself violated OGHOA bylaws?

— FRAN HOPKINS

Ocean Grove, NJ and Cedar Grove, NJ, April 6, 2016

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OG civil war canon is aimed towards AP. Let's turn it around to symbolize the betrayal by Ann Horan and her HOA gang of nine. Paul Goldfinger photo. ©

OG civil war canon is aimed towards AP. Let’s turn it around to symbolize the betrayal by Ann Horan and her HOA gang of nine. Paul Goldfinger photo. ©

Editor’s note:   Some of you may have missed this piece when we posted it last month on Christmas Eve. It is about how the Home Groaners Association has taken the side of developers regarding RSIS. 

Moving this piece to the top is needed because the OGHOA is about to present a “forum” on this subject.  But they should not be moderating this forum because their main purpose is to defend their anti-Ocean Grove position regarding this topic. 

If the forum is ever held, keep in mind that an unbiased presentation is not possible under the auspices of this group who would back the conversion of old rooming houses and hotels into condos, and if you think that there are no more such buildings in town, here is one at 17 Embury Ave.  that so far has slipped under their radar.  I passed it today quite by accident.  Jan 21, 2016.  Ocean Grove, NJ

The Seacrest Manor is on Heck Avenue at Embury-a choice location. Blogfinger photo Jan 21, 2016

The Seacrest Manor is for sale at 17 Embury Ave. —-a choice location. Paul Goldfinger photo Jan 21, 2016  I told my wife never to put me into a place with the word “manor” in its name.

The below post was originally published on Dec. 24, 2015:

In a memo to its members the OGHOA President Ann Horan declared “The HOA supports the township’s effort to secure a Special Area Standard for Ocean Grove.”

In her long note, full of head-spinning irrelevances, Horan tries to create fear and confusion by discussing standards that have nothing to do with our current situation including sanitary sewers, yellow striped boxes, parking stalls , etc.  She says that enforcing the RSIS rules in OG would be “a disaster.” This outrageous and fearsome  characterization is based on absolutely nothing.

The truth is that the special area under discussion is only about off-street parking and street widths. The latter is not even an issue, because our street widths are pretty well set.

Not only is the HOA betraying historic Ocean Grove by this announcement, but they doubled down by sending a letter to the SIAB in Trenton explaining why it is essential that the new standard be adopted “in order to prevent a bad situation from becoming worse.”

The explanations by Horan in these two documents are outrageous and plain wrong. She can’t even get the date of last week’s meeting correct.

The people of Ocean Grove need to insist that the HOA do the right thing before we are inundated by more condominiums, townhouses, conversions to apartments, big buildings like Mary’s Place, etc.

Blogfinger has explained our position already to our readers pointing out that granting the requested exemption will open the doors to developers. We want the RSIS regulations to be retained for all structures in town except  for single family homes.  Horan doesn’t seem to understand what we are talking about.

The Editor’s note below regarding the position advocated by myself, Jack Bredin and Kevin Chambers sums up our views, which are opposite that of the HOA:

Editor’s Note:  Here is the “hook” regarding the RSIS rules.  If someone wants to put up a condo building with the RSIS standards in place, then it will be impossible for them to comply, because they would have to put the parking on their lot or lots. Since that would be impossible in most situations, then a single family house or an empty lot is the only option. 

Single family houses should get the exemption from the State because if someone wants to put up a single family house, there will be no room for the required driveway and parking. So the exemption for them would create a single family Victorian house with no driveway or garage, a situation that is not only historic but is very Grovey.  —-Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger

 

We know that this subject is a bit hard to understand, but here is another practical example, different from above, taken from the perspective of what the HOA and the Township are advocating:

Suppose the HOA/Township viewpoint is accepted by the SIAB, and the exemption is granted for every project in town. The next time a developer buys a derelict old inn, razes it, and proposes condos, they will be permitted to do so without having to supply any parking.

So all the people who live in that condo building will be looking for on-street parking along with their friends, party-goers, and relatives, resulting in reduced parking for residents and increased congestion for that neighborhood.  Every new multi-residential structure that is permitted will negatively impact our lifestyles and endanger our historic designations and and our town’s character.

It is as simple as that, so don’t be mesmerized by Ann Horan’s unbelievably disloyal and destructive position on behalf of the HOA as she stands shoulder to shoulder with the Neptune Township Committee, supporting their phony rationale for requesting the Special Area Parking Standards.

STUFFY SHMITT.  This song is about good ideas…something the Home Groaners  should find out about

 

 

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Mary's Place under construction on Main Avenue in Ocean Grove.  June, 2015 photo by Blogfinger.net ©

Mary’s Place under construction on Main Avenue in Ocean Grove. June, 2015 photo by Blogfinger.net ©

To the Editor:

Re: Issues surrounding Mary’s Place construction.

Paul, You bring up Mary’s Place, and it reminds us that the noise and the disruption in and around that project continue at a pace.

One of our neighbors raised questions at a meeting during the approval process and she was roundly criticized for daring to question a project with such good hopes and intentions. All she wanted was information and she was made out to be a hard-hearted person. Her point was simply that no neighbors had been notified about the project and the impact that it might have on neighbors adjacent to the site, and how parking would be impacted.

Not even the courtesy of an approach to their soon-to-be neighbors informing them of a time-line or anything else regarding this project. Not a word. Not a letter asking us for our forbearance. Nothing. All we had were rumors to contend with.

Summer time is here and parking, as usual is a challenge, but the cones and trucks manage to take up spaces that could be used by Grovers and guests. The noise during the day is constant. In the meanwhile, one neighbor who recently had surgery and is recuperating, has had to endure the constancy of this construction project. The summer will come and go and noise will persist.

Paul, you have raised important questions in the NERP and should be commended for insisting on transparency and clarity in such efforts.

We thank you for raising these critical questions.

CONCERNED NEIGHBOR

Ocean Grove, NJ, July 9, 2015

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OGHOA logo

Candidates meeting of the OGHOA on October 27, 2012.  PG photo

Candidates meeting of the OGHOA on October 27, 2012. PG photo

By Paul Goldfinger, Editor

In a recent letter, President Ann Horan of the Ocean Grove Home Owners Association encouraged nonmembers to join.  She pointed out  that the group has become very active in a number of important areas including derelict housing, emergency management, North End redevelopment and Sandy recovery.  The dues are only $10.00 per year. You can go to the web site for more information:  OGHOA web link

The OGHOA has been  revitalized by a number of new officers and members.  Pres. Horan and her activist team have formed committees to stay on top of important issues.  The organization has begun  to flex its muscles in town, such as their submission of a North End proposal as seen through the eyes of homeowners.  The OGHOA has potential clout by virtue of its large membership.  It has been difficult to get the exact numbers, but each home gets one vote, even though there may be more than one member in a home.  A conservative estimate is that they have over 500 members at this time.  The exact count is unclear because they  sometimes count the members who are not up-to-date on dues.

But regardless of the precise count, they could have even more influence if they were to  increase the membership.  Ideally every homeowner should belong to this advocacy group, and that could mean a membership of well over 1,000. Don’t forget how powerful they were in the ’80’s and ’90’s when they had their largest historic membership and when their political reach extended to Trenton.  You can read about that era in the Blogfinger timeline. *

The HOA meets on the 4th Saturday of each month in the Community Room.  They get about 60 Grovers at their meetings which are open to the public, but they will have to  change the venue if they want to get better attendance.  At the meetings, the policy has been to have a  guest speaker go on first,  leaving the business for the end.  It is the business component that tends to produce discussion about issues that concern the members, and sometimes people walk out just as those  debates begin.  Maybe they should skip the opening act and get on to the main course, or just reverse the order.

The HOA has a new web site which is still a work in progress in terms of content.   The President’s report, which was recently issued, is still not posted on their site. Because the members who come to meetings are relatively few, the group needs to work harder at disseminating their information including the workings of their board , which used to behave like a secret society.   There is an email list which you can join at their web site.

It seems clear that we are going to hear a great deal of constructive outrage and productive ideas coming out of the “new and improved” OGHOA v. 2.0.  That is good news for the Grove.

* NOTE: This excerpt from the BF Historic Timeline focuses on the part of our history where the Ocean Grove Home Owners Association, on steroids, made things happen to save the town of Ocean Grove:    timeline link

“By the 1980’s, the town is characterized by an overall “decrepitude,” including deterioration of buildings, declining tourism, crime, and a growing poor elderly population. (2)  Deinstitutionalized mental patients are housed in empty old hotels and rooming houses in Ocean Grove. The town becomes a “psychiatric ghetto” (NY Times, October 1988), and, by the 1980’s, 10% of the town’s population are mental cases who are not receiving appropriate services and are sometimes abused by landlords. The prognosis for Ocean Grove is dire.

“During this period, the Ocean Grove Homeowner’s Association (OGHOA) develops as a political and activist force that successfully begins the process of converting the town from decay to renaissance. (2f)

“1990’s:  OGHOA, led by Mr. Herb Herbst, Fran Paladino and others, fight for fair treatment in the allotment of the mentally ill around the state. The process is complex and difficult, but the numbers of “deinstitutionalized” in OG drops considerably.  The group also saw to the closing of many substandard boarding and rooming houses. The HOA presents Neptune with a “master plan” to protect the historic nature of OG and to rezone for the promotion of single family houses. OGHOA promotes secular tourism while working with CMA to increase religious tourism.  New people come into town to buy homes and invest in businesses.”

PAUL McCARTNEY:

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As planks are removed from the damaged boardwalk, they are saved in piles for possible reuse. Photo by Mary Walton

As planks are removed from the damaged boardwalk, they are being saved and evaluated for possible reuse. Photo by Mary Walton

By Mary Walton

The Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association estimates that it will cost roughly $3 million to restore the boardwalk and pier damaged by Hurricane Sandy, interim administrator Ralph delCampo said Tuesday.

The cost for the pier alone is estimated at $500,000 to $750,000. In addition, the insurance policy which covers the damaged roof of the Great Auditorium, now under repair, has a $100,000 deductible.

DelCampo emphasized that the estimates are preliminary, given many questions about how to proceed. “We want to enhance the kind of construction,” he said. “We do not simply want to replace the boardwalk. What did we learn from other towns?”

One thing they learned is not to follow the example of Spring Lake, he said. After last year’s Hurricane Irene demolished the boardwalk there, the town rebuilt it in nearly identical fashion, only to lose it to Sandy.

In fact, planks in the heavily damaged section of the Ocean Grove boardwalk between the south side of the pavilion and the beach office were recently replaced at a cost approaching $300,000. “All of that money just went to the ocean,” delCampo said. That section, known as the Middle Beach, now must be completely rebuilt.

In probing why the pavilion itself and the boardwalk north of Seaview Avenue survived almost intact, initial credit went to the dunes. No one is discounting their importance, but, in addition, the Camp Meeting discovered that a hidden bulwark of massive boulders and rubble lies beneath them. “We believe that’s what saved the boardwalk and dunes,” delCampo said.

Dale Whilden, president of the board of trustees, who joined delCampo in a conference call with Blogfinger, said the boulder wall was built in 1953 following a major storm. Post Sandy, he discovered drawings and documentation in his files. “I had forgotten,” he said. “A couple of trustees remembered it vaguely.”

Under discussion now is extending that bulwark south in tandem with new dunes. DelCampo said the Camp Meeting is working with consulting engineer Peter Avakian and with local contractors in designing a plan. At present, the Middle Beach boardwalk is being systematically dismantled and inspected for structural integrity, a process that will take about three months. “We will remove joists and planks and even some of the pilings and save them to be reused,” delCampo said.

At the same time, he said. the Camp Meeting has hired a consultant “to help us work through applications.” Topping the list of potential funders is the Federal Emergency Management Agency. FEMA will pay 75 percent of the cost of approved projects and up to 100 percent under certain circumstances. Gov. Christie has asked for the higher amount.

The Camp Meeting is also seeking private contributions from people in the community. delCampo said he was intrigued by Belmar’s “Buy a Board” campaign, which allows contributors to pay from $25 to $5,000 for individual planks, with their name and board level displayed at beach entrances.

The topic of private donations came up at meetings the Camp Meeting held last week with representatives of the Ocean Grove Home Owners Association and with Ocean Grove United. Both groups praised the meetings as positive but expressed reservations about a glossy fund-raising flyer titled “Let’s Rebuild” mailed to Ocean Grovers in late November. It stipulated that checks should be made payable to OGCMA “with ‘Now & Forever’ in the memo line.”

Home Owners president Ann Horan said her understanding is that the Camp Meeting’s “Now & Forever” fund is money that “they could take and use it for whatever they want. We think they should make it more specific.”

OGU raised a similer objection. The organization has a history of friction with the Camp Meeting, most recently over the speaking engagement of actor Kirk Cameron last summer for a Sunday worship service after Cameron had made anti-gay remarks in a television interview. Last week’s meeting between OGU and the Camp Meeting fulfilled a Camp Meeting pledge to improve communication between the two groups.

The flyer was a major topic at the meeting. “People are not comfortable giving to a general fund,” said OGU co-chair Harriet Bernstein. “They would certainly be willing to give to an earmarked fund with some accountability.” She and co-chair Luisa Paster told the Camp Meeting officials, “Everyone wants to help, but they want it dedicated to the replenishment of the beach and the boardwalk.”

Bernstein and Paster suggested that the Camp Meeting consider holding a fundraiser and also forming a coalition of community organizations to drum up financial support for rebuilding.

The Camp Meeting also met with board members of the Ocean Grove Chamber of Commerce, but the “Now & Forever” issue did not come up at that meeting, said Chamber president Rich Lepore, owner of Smuggler’s Cove on Main Avenue. “I’ve heard it more from customers,” he said. “They want to give but they don’t quite know how.”

Whilden explained that the press of time was why people were asked to donate to a general fund rather than one earmarked for rebuilding. At the time the fund-raising flyer was sent out, he said, “We were planning an immediate response. We didn’t have a strong idea of where the money ought to go. We wanted flexibility to put donated funds where they needed to be.” He said that if donors specify a preference in the “For” line of their checks, such as “boardwalk” or “pier,” or specify the intended use in a letter, the Camp Meeting is legally obligated to use the money for that purpose.

Meanwhile, delCampo said, the Camp Meeting development committee is meeting Thursday and will be coming up with an alternative “for those who don’t want to give more broadly.” In addition to donations for beachfront damage, he added a plea for funds to help pay for the auditorium repair. “We cannot forget the auditorium. It is a central focus of the community as well,” he said.

 

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Chief Robert Adams, NTPD speaks to the Ocean Grove Home Owners Association. Paul Goldfinger photograph.

By Charles Layton

Neptune Police Chief Robert Adams likes to tell this story about a woman who let her guard down in the fight against crime.

She parked her SUV at an athletic event in Colts Neck. She locked her car doors, which was good. But she left her purse inside the car in plain view – a mistake. When she returned, she found the car window broken and her purse stolen.

And here is the punch line: The woman was Adams’ wife.

Adams told this story on Saturday at the Ocean Grove Home Owners Association meeting. “We all are complacent,” he said, pointing up the moral.

The Home Owners had invited Adams to talk about the recent increase in property theft in Ocean Grove.

He said The Grove is at a particular disadvantage due to the amount of transient bicycle and foot traffic that comes and goes at all hours between Asbury Park and Bradley Beach. This creates a vulnerability that your average suburban community doesn’t have.

Adams tried to reassure the large crowd of listeners that his police officers “always have a significant presence in Ocean Grove” – a larger presence that is apparent, because some of these officers are on foot, on bicycles or in unmarked cars. He also cited statistics showing that the average response time to a call is about three minutes.

He emphasized two points over and over. One was that people need to pick up the phone whenever they see anything suspicious. A citizen shouldn’t worry about inconveniencing the Police Department with a call that doesn’t pan out. “We would rather have a thousand false alarms than miss one real one,” he said. Also, although the 9-1-1 operators typically ask a caller’s name and address, the caller can refuse to give that information, so nobody should feel uncomfortable about calling.

Just as important as calling is to call quickly — immediately. He gave a recent example of an incident of vandalism in Shark River Hills. Witnesses called quickly, police responded, locked down the area and within an hour had caught the criminals. “We’re not super-duper,” he said. “We need a lot of breaks… That’s why calling is critical.”

Adams’ other principle point was that people can eliminate opportunities for crimes. Many tend to forget to secure their possessions. Many of the bicycles stolen in Ocean Grove were left unlocked by their owners. Many of the car break-ins occur because someone left something valuable in plain view.

There were two recent car thefts in Ocean Grove, he said. Both cars were recovered. In one of those cases, the owner had left the keys in the car.

Regarding the recent rash of lawn and porch ornaments stolen in Ocean Grove, Adams said, “We have some active leads we’re working.” Asked about the possible disposal of such stolen goods through flea markets, auctions, Craig’s list and other outlets, he said, “We’re actively pursuing that.”

Asked why the Neptune Police don’t provide more information to the public, as some other towns do, Adams said his department is reevaluating how much information to release. He said he is trying to balance the public’s right to information against the police’s need not to jeopardize investigations.

Here are some statistics provided by Adams, based on records from January 1 to October 22 of this year:

  •    Neptune received 3,689 calls for service from Ocean Grove, including fire and OEM calls in addition to crime calls.
  •     Police made 226 arrests in Ocean Grove.
  •     Police made 502 motor vehicle stops.

SOUNDTRACK:  “I Love a Cop.”    Dora’s “gone berserk,” and here she is singing about it.  This is from the original Broadway cast album of the musical Fiorello:

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Site of the North End project, looking north toward Asbury. Photo by Paul Goldfinger

By Charles Layton and Paul Goldfinger

We recently reported that the Camp Meeting Association hopes to conclude a redevelopment agreement with Neptune Township soon and then, in 2013, to break ground on its North End hotel and condominium project. Before that happens, we hope the Township officials and the citizens of Ocean Grove will give this project a sober, fresh look.

The area in question is the vacant space next to the boardwalk between Spray Avenue and Wesley Lake. The plan, as presently conceived, would allow for a five-story hotel with approximately 80 rooms, plus a condominium complex of more than 70 units, plus a few single-family homes.

If this is built, it will be the most massive construction project in Ocean Grove’s modern history. Its impact on all of us will be substantial, and that impact will begin at the opening gun, with the start of construction.

Try to visualize this. Ocean Grovers are already experiencing two much more modest construction projects — the replacement of the burned-out homes and hotel on Surf and Atlantic Avenues, and the drainage work on Broadway. Both those projects have brought us inconvenience, but they are trifling compared to what the North End will bring.

The North End project will likely disrupt just about all of Ocean Grove. It will mar our landscape with piles of construction materials, heavy equipment, mounds of excavated dirt, trash, traffic congestion and noise – everything that a construction site of that magnitude implies. These disturbances could persist for a very long time. And after all that grief, what will we have to show? Scores of new condominiums which Ocean Grove doesn’t need and which most Ocean Grovers almost certainly won’t like. And that’s before we even consider the impact on parking.

When this plan was hatched about five years ago, the land in question was zoned for single-family homes. The Neptune Township Master Plan explicitly prohibited condos there. The landowner – the Camp Meeting Association — got around that by having the area declared “in need of redevelopment,” a legal designation typically used to rescue blighted areas, slum properties and the like.

Although that designation solved the Camp Meeting’s zoning problem, the trade-off was that it gave the Neptune Township Committee the authority to guide the project, deciding such matters as its size, density, number of housing units, number of hotel rooms, amount of required off-street parking and so forth.

The Township Committee was originally friendly toward most everything the developers wanted to do. When Randy Bishop first became mayor in 2008, he succeeded in reducing the size of what had been proposed. However, Bishop was in a relatively weak position at that time, because some on the Township Committee seemed inclined to allow a truly massive development. On the night the Committee finally approved Bishop’s compromise plan, Bishop said he personally didn’t much like it but that he had been forced “to look for the middle ground.” In other words, it was the best deal he thought he could get.

That was then. Now, the Township Committee’s composition has changed. So, perhaps, has the mood of this community. (At a Home Owners meeting in June, Committeewoman Mary Beth Jahn got a rise from the audience when she spoke of a radical scaling back, including the total elimination of all the proposed condos.) It appears to us that three of the five current Committee members should be willing now to further reduce the size of this project. Those three would be Bishop, Jahn and Eric Houghtaling. As a majority, they have the power.

Leaders of the Ocean Grove Home Owners Association also appear to be of a mind to fight for a better deal. Last year the Home Owners’ standing committee on the North End made a set of very thoughtful suggestions, which the organization’s membership voted to approve.

One suggestion was that the Township should require that the hotel be built first, then the single-family homes, and then, if condos are to be built, they should come last. One fear is that the developer might build the condos first and then decide that, after all, the hotel isn’t feasible. Another fear is that if a large hotel is built, and if it then begins to lose money, the Camp Meeting might be impelled to convert it into yet more condos.

Another proposal by the Home Owners is that the condos should be built in blocks, and that each block of condos should be 75 percent sold before the next block could be started. This, it is argued, would help insure that we don’t end up with empty, partially-built structures, as has happened in Asbury Park.

The Home Owners’ position paper contains quite a few such ideas, intended to reduce adverse impacts on the town and avoid a potentially disastrous outcome. We suggest that everyone read this document.

Before the North End project can proceed, the developers and the Township Committee must negotiate a contract spelling out the details in considerable specificity. During these negotiations, everything is subject to reconsideration. Although the negotiations themselves will be conducted behind closed doors, their product will have to be made public and enacted into law before work can begin. So, eventually, there must be public input. The Home Owners position paper also suggests ways to make things more transparent on an on-going basis, such as having the Township publish on its website regular updates including the text of all reports on environmental impact, traffic impact, water table tests and the like.

We urge the people of Ocean Grove who care about preserving the charm, character and livability of this community to start paying attention to this process now. Attend the monthly Home Owners meetings and ask questions. Keep in touch with your Township Committee members. Be curious.

As Grovers come to understand the implications of this project, we hope they will push with all their might for a better – which is to say, much less massive – redevelopment plan.

NOTE: For an outline of basic facts about the North End plan, go here.  And also here.   To read the Home Owners’ position paper on the North End, go here.

The entire North End Redevelopment Plan is available on the Township’s website, but it is quite hard to find. Go here, then scroll way, way down and click on “Redevelopment Plan-OG North End.”

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John Bennett, the Republican county chairman, has a sidewalk chat before the meeting. Photos by Mary Walton

By Charles Layton

Candidates for county freeholder and one of the candidates for U.S. House of Representatives spoke before the Ocean Grove Home Owners Association on Saturday.

It was the first of two OGHOA candidate forums. The second will be held at the organization’s next meeting, on October 27; that one will feature candidates for Neptune Township Committee. These two forums are the best chances for most Ocean Grovers to get a close-up look at candidates and to ask them questions.

Brian Froelich, Democratic candidate for Congress

Although the incumbent from the fourth congressional district, U.S. Rep. Christopher Smith, could not attend due to a conflict, his Democratic challenger, Brian Froelich, gave a speech of introduction and then took questions from the audience. U.S. Senator Robert Menendez and his Republican opponent, Joe Kyrillos, had been invited, but neither came.

Freeholder candidate Serena DiMaso also did not appear, but the Republican county chairman, John Bennett, came and spoke in her behalf. Bennett was once, as president of the New Jersey State Senate, the highest-ranking GOP officeholder in the state. He lost his Senate seat in 2003.

Following the candidates forum, the HOA conducted several items of business.

  • The president, Ann Horan, reported that there was still no action on negotiations over the North End Redevelopment project. The developers and Neptune Township are expected to begin negotiating the finer details of the plan at some point, but no one knows exactly when. The HOA has a standing committee charged with monitoring all aspects of that controversial project.
  • The members heard a report on another controversial issue, the Broadway drainage project. The most recent news on that is that the Township has cleaned up the trash and debris along the median strip, which had been a sore point with residents. The contractor is expected to resume work this coming week on drainage structures at the Broadway/Beach Avenue intersection. Some of the HOA members complained that, as part of the drainage project, the number of handicapped crosswalks along Broadway has been reduced from nine to four. They were told that the state Department of Environmental Protection had dictated that reduction and the Township’s hands are tied.
  • Horan said she had met recently with Ralph delCampo, the Camp Meeting Association’s interim chief administrator. She said she had suggested that the CMA send a representative to the Home Owners meetings to address members’ concerns, and that delCampo had told her the CMA would consider doing that. (No CMA representative was present at Saturday’s meeting, however.)
  • It was reported that the HOA now has approximately 545 individual members from 390 Ocean Grove households. The organization currently has $6,968 in operating funds and $29,767 in its legal fund.

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