BERKELEY – Public testimony was taken, but no decision was made, in reference to whether South Seaside Park should leave Berkeley Township.
South Seaside Park residents have often argued that they are paying an inordinate amount of taxes and said that they don’t receive as many services as people on the mainland.
For years, the Planning Board has hosted a lengthy hearing over whether the section of the township should be allowed to de-annex, or secede, from Berkeley Township. The issue had been brought up by the South Seaside Park Homeowners and Voters Association. Years of testimony have been heard already. Now, finally, it was time for comments from the public.
South Seaside Park (SSP) resident Jim Fulcomer argued for secession for a number of reasons. Berkeley Township Council meetings are at 6 p.m. on Mondays, and some budget hearings are held at times like 10 a.m., making it very difficult for working people from that area to partake in the business of running the town.
Additionally, he showed pictures of such things like signs that were in disrepair when the hearings began four years ago that were the same or worse now.
If the township would just allow the area to leave, it would save money in defending against de-annexation efforts that would likely happen for years from now, he said.
Sam Cammarato, who lives on the shore area, but in mainland Berkeley, was concerned with financial hardships if SSP left. Cammarato, who lives in the Glen Cove area, had started a taxpayers association not too long ago after the town was revaluated.
He said that SSP residents’ amenities are not less than the mainland, but are just different. They have the beaches, that the township maintains at considerable cost. Those beaches are more convenient to the SSP residents than the mainland. And the influx of police with the summer crowd, shows that township employees are active over there.
When living in Berkeley, one shares the values of living in Berkeley, namely low taxes and a responsive government and police department, he said.
The average income level in Berkeley will go down if they leave, making the town less desirable to live in, he said.
“It will be a substantial financial hardship,” he said, for mainland residents. He estimated that he would pay $1,100 more a year in taxes if SSP left.
While SSP residents complain that they have a small voice in Berkeley business, the same could be said of a mainland neighborhood like Holly Park compared to the large senior population, he said.
Sharon Resniak has owned a SSP property for 22 years. There are serious drainage issues in her neighborhood that she says are not attended to by town.
“We’ve only seen an added presence of police since the de-annexation hearings began,” she said.
Lisa Musci talked about an incident in 2013, when two people tried to break into a family’s house in SSP while the owners were home. Within minutes, Seaside Park Police were there, and handled the call, and were done by the time Berkeley Police arrived.
Carol Luciano said she recently moved to South Seaside Park. She didn’t know until the title search was performed that she was actually moving to Berkeley Township. She thought she was moving to Seaside Park. She complained about the length of time it takes to get to town hall, at least 40 minutes.
Another SSP resident, Mary Ann Meneghin, said there was a letter sent out with a tax bill advertising senior bus trips. They leave from clubhouses, but there are none in SSP.
One South Seaside Park resident, John Budish, talked about how he was against de-annexation. He’s lived in the area for 74 years, full time since 1999. The attorney for South Seaside Park association, Joseph Michelini, cross-examined him, though, about how Budish, in a previous meeting, was seen speaking with Planning Board member Brian Gingrich. Budish said they grew up together in another town. Budish is a neighbor of Planning Board alternate Richard Callahan, and Michelini argued that since they have a sign on the border of their property that’s against the de-annexation, that Callahan is against it.
Don Merker, also of SSP, stated that SSP has a beach culture and would be more suited to join other beach towns.
“I don’t admire the elected officials the job they have to do,” he said. Everyone has special needs and there are only so many pieces of the pie.
Public testimony is scheduled to continue at the Oct. 4 meeting. This will be followed by additional testimony by professionals before a vote is held.