The History Of South Seaside Park Attempts At Leaving Berkeley

Photo by Chris Lundy

  BERKELEY – A large group of South Seaside Park residents took Berkeley Township to court because they wanted to leave Berkeley Township.

  In 1975.

  While this same thing is happening right now, it’s a case of history repeating itself.

  According to a New York Times article dated Dec. 7, 1975 (on page 111), 80 percent of the community’s voters signed petitions to leave Berkeley and join Seaside Park.

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  “The South, Seaside Park Taxpayers Association, having been denied the right to secede by the Berkeley Township Committee, has filed a suit in Superior Court in which it seeks to overturn the Berkeley decision and thus be free to join Seaside Park.”

  Back then, the issues included children being bused to Bayville and police being “too far away patrolling Pelican Island.” If that sounds familiar, it should. The residents still think Bayville is too far away to do business. However, their children would still go to Central Regional in Bayville because Seaside Park also sends their kids there.

Photo by Chris Lundy

  The modern movement has grown from similar factors, exacerbated by issues like the revaluation of the town years ago that made some shore properties pay more in taxes.

  Berkeley’s attorney in the 1970s, Thomas Muccifori, contended that if SSP left, it would mean a $19 million loss in ratables that would impact the township’s ability to borrow money.

  The township’s feasibility study said that it would raise taxes by 23 cents per $100 of assessed valuation and increase sewer rates by $10 a year.

  The attorney also argued that it would impact the racial make-up of the town, since a largely white area would be leaving a racially mixed township. Also, he argued the decision was made by the year-round residents without say from summer residents.

  In the 1970s, SSP had been represented by attorney William Miller, who had also represented West Point Island to successfully secede from Dover Township (now Toms River). West Point Island and Westmount Shores both left Dover Township and joined Lavallette.

  In that article, he told the NYT “The secession will mean a large loss of ratables at first, but Berkeley Township has so much room for development that we think it can make up for this loss in the not-too-distant future.” He said it would cut costs for Berkeley for the amount of services.

Photo by Chris Lundy

  The same arguments were made by Superior Court Judge Marlene Lynch-Ford when she decided that Berkeley should let SSP de-annex, or secede, in 2022.

  The 1970s secession was led by Don Whiteman, the father of the Don Whiteman that is leading the charge today. The elder Whiteman said “We want local representation, we want a voice in government, and we want our kids to stop riding two hours each day to school. To Berkeley Township, we are secondclass citizens here.”

  The junior Whiteman told The Berkeley Times in 2022 that the major reason it didn’t go through back then was because of a change in leadership in the borough of Seaside Park. The mayor and council had agreed to take SSP under their wing. But after an election, the new mayor and council put it to a vote among the residents of Seaside Park, where it was narrowly defeated. The original attempt lasted from 1974 to 1982.