Barnegat Fine-Tuning Proposed Nuisance Ordinance

Aug 15, 2018

Property owners could be paying hundreds of dollars in fines if their properties are declared to be a nuisance, according to an ordinance proposed by the Barnegat Township Committee. Officials postponed adopting the “Excessive Consumption of Municipal Services” ordinance at the Aug. 7 meeting, as they wanted to fine-tune some of the wording. It will be up for adoption again at the meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 4, at 10 a.m.

The ordinance targets properties that are subject to frequent calls to police as well as other authorities. Property owners would not start feeling any financial effects until they accrue beyond a certain number of “qualifying  calls” prescribed in the measure.

“Qualifying calls” cover numerous offenses, including disorderly conduct, excessive noise, damage to property, possession of dangerous animals, possession and distribution of a controlled dangerous substance, public urination, criminal activity, prostitution and health code violations.

For example, residential properties of one through four dwelling units would be declared a nuisance if they received more than five qualifying calls over a 60-day period. For multi-family dwelling and hotel/motel uses, the limit is 10 qualifying calls for those with five to 40 dwelling units.

For properties with 41 to 80 units, the limit is 20. The limit for those with 81 to 200 units and more than 200 units is 30 and 40 calls, respectively.

Convenience, grocery, liquor or retail stores have a limit of 10 calls. For restaurants, bars and entertainment establishments, the number is 30.

According to the ordinance, homeowners would be fined only after an officer issues a complaint and summons to a resident, homeowner or business owner and a “nuisance” hearing is held about the property. After a hearing, the property could be placed on probationary nuisance status for 12 months. During that time, a user-fee of $300 per call to the municipal government or police would be imposed. They could also be assessed with a $100 administrative fee.

“To hold me responsible over and above everything I try to do to keep my properties good and keep good tenants, over an action I have no control over, I think is really wrong,” said Jim Rostron of Lakewood, who owns three rental homes in town. “I really object to anyone saying ‘we’re going to charge you’ if something happens that’s not in my control.”

Deputy Mayor Alfonso Cirulli said officials will continue to review the measure.

“We want to be fair to everyone,” he said. “If the homeowner should be a victim of domestic violence, we want to make sure this ordinance does not penalize them.”

He added, “The main purpose of this ordinance is to go after the real trouble spots, places that give us trouble, where there is drug dealing and other illegal activities going on.”

— Eric Englund

ericenglund@thesandpaper.net

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