At our March 1, 2019, Fairness in Taxes meeting, we talked about the priorities for our group in the year ahead. We decided the top three concerns are: 1. Housing Authority Taxpayer Bailout- The City plans to have taxpayers bail out the Housing Authority to the tune of at least $20 million. FIT continues to speak out against using taxpayer funds to bail out the mismanaged Housing Authority. See more below.
2. Residential on the Boardwalk- FIT has learned that the City is considering changing current zoning that prohibits residential property within 200 feet of the Boardwalk. This change would open the flood gates to condos lining the Boardwalk, replacing shops and amusement parks. Builders and developers would profit immensely, but the Ocean City Boardwalk that we love would be gone forever. FIT has spoken out against this proposal, is continuing to monitor the situation, and will mobilize to block any move by the City to make this happen. 3.
Klause Property Purchase Part 2- Last fall, FIT successfully blocked the purchase of the Klause property at 1600 Haven Avenue with a petition for a referendum, but recently discovered the City still plans on purchasing the property. If the City decides to purchase the property, FIT will analyze the terms and costs to taxpayers and determine what action to take.
On the Housing Authority initiative, on March 14, Council passed on first reading Ordinance 19-08, allocating $6,650,000 for the OC Housing Authority. These funds will be used for Phase I of the improvement including:
- Construction of 32 new units at the Bay View Manor located at 6th and Bay Avenue. (referred to as the Speitel Manor or Tower)
- Renovation of 40 existing units at the Bay View Manor.
- Demolition of 32 units at Pecks Beach Village North located between 3rd and 5th Street and West and Haven Avenues.
As we have previously said, this work reflects part of the affordable housing settlement between the city and Fair Share Housing. Contingent on receiving significant financial assistance for phase II of the project, total cost of the taxpayer funded bailout of the Housing Authority will be between $17 to $20 million. If financial assistance is not received or is less than anticipated, the total cost to the taxpayers could increase to upwards of $27 million.
I clearly stated FIT’s position to City Council on March 14: “While FIT supports those less fortunate and understands the legal requirement of satisfying the terms and conditions of the settlement with Fair Share Housing, the taxpayer should not be burdened with the settlement costs. Any bonding or financing needed for the Fair Share Housing agreement should be paid for out of the affordable housing trust fund, which is an account funded by developers in Ocean City. According to city officials, about 5.2 million dollars are currently in the fund.”
When questioned at the meeting, the City confirmed that they intended to saddle OC taxpayers with the full $6,650,000 cost of Phase I and that all the money in the COAH fund had already been dedicated to paying for Affordable Housing. Dave Breeden (FIT Vice President) and I requested a meeting with the City to talk about FIT’s position and to get our questions answered, and we are waiting to hear back from them. If we cannot reach an agreement with the City on taxpayer money not being used to fund Ordinance 19-08, we will be ready to go forward with a petition drive for a referendum. Fortunately, it will be much easier and quicker to get signatures, because we already have the list of the signers of our successful referendum in the fall.
If you have not already paid your FIT 2019 membership dues of $20, you can pay them on line at our new website at www.fairnessintaxes.com. You can also mail your checks to: Fairness in Taxes PO Box 565 Ocean City, NJ 08226
Also, please consider a donation to our Legal Defense Fund either online through our website or sent to the address above. (Please make out the check to “FIT Legal Defense Fund” and please make the check separate from the membership check.)
As always, thanks for your help and support,
President of Fairness in Taxes