Rent-Leveling, Property Nuisance Ordinances Reworked in Barnegat

Sep 05, 2018

Two ordinances scheduled for adoption at the Tuesday morning Barnegat Township Committee meeting were instead reintroduced with various revisions.

The first is the “Excessive Consumption of Municipal Services,” or nuisance ordinance, which targets properties that are subject to frequent calls to police. 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 and distribution of a controlled dangerous substance, public urination, criminal activity and prostitution, among other violations.

“We’re modifying the ordinance so that it will include just police calls, not our other township departments and agencies,” said Deputy Mayor Alfonso Cirulli. “We also want to make sure that if the caller to police is a victim of domestic violence, that they don’t get charged for a qualifying call.”

For example, residential properties of one through four dwelling units would be declared a nuisance if they received more than five qualifying police responses 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.

Cirulli said that the main purpose of this ordinance is to go after locations where there is drug dealing and other illegal activities going on.

“There’s war on drugs all over our country and in Barnegat,” he said. “We’re going to drive out all drug dealers. We don’t want our town to slide down and fall into an abyss. When people move to Barnegat, we want to make sure that they are enjoying a safe community.”

The second ordinance changes operating procedures with the rent leveling board, whose function is to enforce the rent-leveling ordinance. In a quasi-judicial setting, the group often hears landlords’ requests for raising rents or handles disputes between tenant and landlord. The five-member group consists of one landlord and one tenant representative from the two mobile home communities: Pinewood Estates and Brighton at Barnegat. A fifth member was a nonvoting homeowner from the community at large.

However, the revised ordinance will change the at-large member to voting status. The job will go to John Murrin, a former mayor of Pompton Lakes.

Township Committeeman Albert Bille had noted that under the original proposed ordinance, matters before the board would have often ended in 2-2 ties, resulting in a mediator to be brought in, with both landlord and tenant sharing the cost of the mediator.

Lori Greenberg, an attorney representing Hometown America, owners of Brighton at Barnegat, had objected to the ordinance last month. Greenberg suggested that the township allow for her client and the Brighton tenants to work out a lease agreement.

“Otherwise, there will be a lot of litigation, and the only people making money will be the attorneys,” she said at the time.”

Michelle Woodruff, president of the Manufactured Home Owners Association of Brighton, said the new ordinance is a “fair solution.”

“Mediation wasn’t going to work,” she said. “Instead of (vote) ties, now there probably will be decisions. And if the landlords aren’t pleased with a decision, they can appeal it (in Superior Court) in Toms River.”

Both ordinances will be up for public hearing at the next meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 2 at 6:30 p.m.

— Eric Englund

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.