Three Years After Sandy Some Mainland Bayside Municipalities Doing Better Than Others

Tuckerton Leads in Percentage of Homes Rebuilt
By PAT JOHNSON | Oct 28, 2015
Photo by: Pat Johnson In many cases, the homes that are going up in the Tuckerton Beach area will be worth more to the town’s tax base in the long run.

In many ways it is difficult to say with any assurance that the area’s mainland bayside communities hit hardest by Superstorm Sandy – Stafford, Tuckerton and Little Egg Harbor – are as far along as they hoped they would be in the recovery process three years later. What we do have are the reports from construction officials and township officials.

In Stafford Township, Business Administrator Jim Moran estimated upwards of 3,800 homes had some damage, including losing under-the-house utilities such as heating ducts, insulation in their crawlspaces, air-conditioning compressors and bulkheads, to those homes that had up to 5 feet in their living quarters.

As of October 2015, the Stafford construction office had issued 680 demolition permits, 479 house-raising permits and 597 permits to build new single-family dwellings. 

“On July 2014, there were 210 vacant or abandoned homes. I could only guess that 30 percent were demo or raised, leaving 147 untouched,” said Moran on Monday.

“As far as the recovery is going, the township is progressing well in the rebuilding effort, but there is still much to be done to restore those areas affected by the storm,” said Moran, who estimated Stafford is about halfway through its rebuilding effort.  “We continue to seek state and federal assistance in the recovery process including but not limited to hazard mitigation, abandon structure demolition, sewer, water and road restoration and the dredging of our lagoons and waterways.”

In Little Egg Harbor Township, Business Administrator Garret Loesch was unable to quantify the stage of rebuilding and provided the following information: “The total number of damaged homes is ambiguous in nature. Some homeowners may have suffered damage, but were not substantially damaged and handled the simple repairs; for example, having a few inches of water and replacing flooring and furniture. Were they damaged? Yes, but nothing I can quantify. We estimated that potentially about 4,100 homes were in the water impact areas.”

Since the storm, the Little Egg Harbor construction office has issued 268 elevation certificates and 482 demolition permits. Loesch said 184 new homes have been constructed.

“Again, determining what homes have been abandoned or have not made any repairs is not easily determined. We still have residents that are just beginning the RREM process of demo and rebuilding. The property may look abandoned, but in reality it is in the rebuilding process.”

During an Oct. 22 municipal meeting, Councilman Ray Gormley estimated the number of substantially damaged homes at 2,000. Mayor Art Midgley said he would be speaking on the third anniversary of Superstorm Sandy and Little Egg Harbor’s recovery on radio station WOBM on Oct. 28 at 7 p.m. and at the Tuckerton United Methodist Church on Saturday, Nov. 7 at 3 p.m. during a program titled “A Future with Hope: Marking the Third Anniversary of Superstorm Sandy.” Other speakers include Committeeman John Kehm, the Rev. Martha McKee of the Church of the Holy Spirit and Tuckerton Seaport Director Paul Hart.

Tuckerton may have seen the most reconstruction since Superstorm Sandy. Construction official Phil Reed estimates that reconstruction in the Tuckerton Beach area is 65 percent completed.

Of the 486 homes damaged there, 160 were substantially damaged, 206 were deemed unsafe for occupancy and 11 homes were completely lost in the storm surge, many winding up in the neighboring lagoons. So far, 60 homes have been demolished and replaced with new housing; 78 homes and one business have been elevated. Thirty-four homes were demolished and remain vacant lots; 28 homes have been abandoned and no construction activity has occurred.

In addition, the borough has embarked on replacing the water and sewer pipes under Parker, Dolphin and Marlin roads and Little Egg Harbor Boulevard and repaving those roads plus a substantial part of Heron Road, all in the Tuckerton Beach area. And a new sewer and water connection that ran under Tuckerton Creek to connect with Little Egg Harbor’s MUA is slated for replacement before the town can empty the water tower for painting inside.

Mayor Sue Marshall has repeatedly asked for and subsequently thanked the residents of the streets for their patience. On Monday she had this to say of Tuckerton’s progress three years after Sandy, “I think we have done very well. There is lots of rebuilding and completed homes and we will keep working to help our residents one house at a time.”

Tuckerton and Little Egg Harbor were part of a New Jersey Future pilot program that provided local recovery planning managers who assisted with short-term recovery and helped the communities get a $2.1 National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant to create shoreline protections. That project is ongoing. They also held a series of meetings with residents to illustrate the need to build for long-term resiliency. The professionals were made available at no cost to the participating towns, through funding from the Merck Foundation and the New Jersey Recovery Fund.

“Over the last two years we’ve learned that the risks people are willing to take are high if it means remaining in their homes and community,” said New Jersey Future Executive Director Peter Kasabach. “We also learned that when presented with a thorough analysis of vulnerability and future risks that reflects the specific characteristics of their community, residents in coastal areas are willing to envision the sometimes considerable changes that will be needed to improve their long-term health and safety.” 

patjohnson@thesandpaper.net

 

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