LONGPORT – Depending on the decision of a Superior Court judge, Seaview Harbor Realignment Committee may have more hoops to jump through before it can secede from Egg Harbor Township and enjoin the Borough of Longport.
At least one Longport resident says, not so fast.
Longport resident Mary Nugent told the Board of Commissioners Wednesday, May 16 that “something is just not clicking right with me on that.”
“Why would we want to take responsibility for millions of gallons of gasoline,” she said, referring to the large boats moored at bayfront homes and in the Seaview Harbor Marina.
Homeowners in Seaview Harbor, a 1960s-era subdivision off Route 152, which is part of Egg Harbor Township, submitted a petition in February 2014 to secede from the township with plans to join Longport where their taxes would be much lower than they currently pay. The isolated neighborhood is separated from the main part of Egg Harbor Township by the City of Somers Point, but is closer to Longport and has a Longport mailing address.
The township hired a special planner and over a two-year period conducted 32 Planning Board meetings to study the impact of the neighborhood’s de-annexation petition. However, in October 2016 the Township Committee determined that the petition did not comply with statutory requirements outlined in New Jersey administrative law.
The Township Committee denied the request and the Seaview Harbor residents later brought their petition to Atlantic County Superior Court, where Assignment Judge Julio Mendez will hear the case in July.
Seaview Harbor includes 92 homes, a restaurant and about 300 boat slips with a combined assessed valuation of about $100 million. Some property owners, including former Egg Harbor Township Mayor James “Sonny” McCullough, who last year sold his Seaview Harbor home, pay as much as $34,000 a year in property taxes. According to the 2018 tax rate in each community, a $1 million home in Longport pays a total of $9,800 in taxes, while a $1 million home in Egg Harbor Township pays $31,400 in taxes.
At a meeting in 2014 when de-annexation was first proposed, Egg Harbor Township Administrator Peter Miller said that if Longport accepted Seaview Harbor, it would immediately receive a bill for $3.5 million, representing Seaview’s share of the township’s outstanding debts.
Although it does not provide regular police patrols, Longport provides “good neighbor mutual aid” to Seaview Harbor, which is located just over the Longport Bridge, including police, fire and emergency medical services, but the telephone call to summon help is routed to Longport Police and Volunteer Fire Department through the Egg Harbor Township Police Dispatch Center. Longport will pay Egg Harbor Township $262,572 this year to provide interlocal dispatch services.
“Why would the people from Seaview be going down that road and expending all these funds unless they thought Longport was receptive to the idea,” Nugent said.
Mayor Nicholas Russo said the Seaview folks are “rolling the dice” on seceding from Egg Harbor Township and enjoining Longport.
“We have gone on record that if that it gets this far, it will go to a referendum,” he said.
De-annexation requires a three-part process for Seaview’s secession bid to be approved, Russo explained.
“First, they have to get approval from the area they want to leave,” Russo said. “They are worth so much money in ratables, Egg Harbor Township is fighting it. They can’t take that loss of ratables.”
Then, they have to get permission from Longport to become part of the borough, and the current commission will not be making that decision, Russo said.
It would have to be decided by the voters in Longport, he said.
And finally, the state must approve it.
“The ratables look good, and that would drop our tax rate even lower,” Russo said.
However, all the properties in Seaview Harbor would need to be re-assessed before any taxes are paid to Longport.
“Not if we have to hire a full-time fire department to address millions of gallons of gasoline in that marina,” Nugent said.
All the negatives and positives would have to be presented to the voters of Longport before they are asked if they will accept the neighborhood as their own in a referendum.
“You have to look at the condition of the roads and infrastructure,” Russo said. “It’s a big decision, and this commission will not make that decision. That will be for the voters.”
Commissioner Dan Lawler said at first he was against the idea, but he would reserve judgement until all the facts are on the table, “and that is so many years away,” he said.
Judge Mendez is scheduled to hear the case 9 a.m. Monday, July 9 at the Atlantic County Courthouse in Atlantic City.