In June 2014, Neptune Code Enforcement released a list of 127 vacant properties throughout the Township (13 in the Historic District), and members of the OGHOA pressed the Township Committee to adopt a Vacant Property Registration Ordinance (VPRO). Approximately 100 municipalities in New Jersey have adopted a VPRO, and several nationwide studies have validated this approach as a useful tool in preventing deterioration as well as raising revenue for code enforcement actions.
The Township Committee chose a different approach. In September 2014, the committee adopted an ordinance based on New Jersey’s 2004 Abandoned Properties Rehabilitation Act. A subsequent amendment to the Township’s ordinance incorporated 2014 legislative changes that require foreclosing lienholders, as well as property owners, to comply with the Township’s Vacant and Abandoned Property Ordinance.
However, although the 2004 state law grants municipalities broad powers to acquire and rehabilitate abandoned properties or turn them over to qualified redevelopers, and grants lienholders a faster foreclosure track, the Township’s ordinance left out those provisions. In their place, the owner/lienholder requirements for compliance with the Township’s ordinance are the same as many of the VPROs linked above, minus an escalating registration fee—or a fee of any kind.
Click here for a link to the Township’s Vacant and Abandoned Property Ordinance.
In March 2015, the Township released a list of 67 properties covered by this ordinance (13 in the Historic District), and the OGHOA continued to press for enforcement, and for adoption of a genuine Vacant Property Registration Ordinance—with registration fees. This September, the Township has finally begun to issue summonses to violators of the Township’s ordinance to appear in Municipal Court. In addition, the Township Committee discussed adoption of a Vacant Property Registration amendment to the Township’s current ordinance during two Workshop sessions, and a draft of the amendment is on the September 26th agenda for first reading. A public hearing and vote on the amendment will be held on October 8 (a Thursday). We urge HOA members to attend this meeting.
Progress to eliminate vacant and deteriorating properties in the Historic District is certainly not proceeding as fast as we would wish, but it is proceeding. Persistence pays!
UPDATE ON 80 MAIN STREET – APRIL 9, 2015
The saga of 80 Main Avenue continues. A new attorney representing the owners recently told Judge Wernick in municipal court that the building was in “imminent danger of collapse,” triggering an inspection of the property by William Doolittle, the head of Code and Construction. Mr. Doolittle did not find this assertion to be true, so the Township will be scheduling yet another court date in an effort to make the owners comply with Neptune’s property maintenance ordinance. After March 9, the owners of 80 Main (and many other owners or lienholders of derelict buildings throughout Neptune) also will be required to maintain liability insurance on their properties, post a visible notice on the building that provides contact information for someone responsible for the property, and ensure that the property is secured from unauthorized access. Utility companies will also have the right to gain access to these properties to ensure that service has been disconnected. Failure to comply with these provisions could trigger fines of $2,000.00 a day for each separate violation. The OGHOA hopes this will have an impact on the derelict building problem in our National Historic District, but only time–and continued pressure on the Township–will tell.