HANKINS ISLAND – An abandoned house that sits alone on an island in Barnegat Bay continues to deteriorate. The windows are missing, the bulkhead has fallen into disrepair, and a one-time inground pool has popped out and sits on the eastern side of the house.
It appears that birds have taken over the once-luxurious home whose grounds at one time had a helicopter pad.
The house on Hankins Island, or Middle Sedge Island, is near Chadwick Beach Island and can be seen from parts of the barrier island and from waterfront areas of Brick, but it is only accessible by boat.
The island is named after Charles Hankins, a boat builder from Lavallette who built all the lifeguard boats along the Jersey Shore. Two of his boats are on permanent display at the Mystic Seaport Museum in Connecticut.
Sometime in the late 1960s, Hankins bought the 14.5 acres on Middle Sedge Island, and he also purchased the most westerly residential lot on the mainland where he could park his car. His boat was there so he would leave his car and motor to the island on weekends with his wife, Anna Ohlau Hankins.
The couple used the home for years until they sold the two-story colonial, which was moved off the island by barge.
A new home was built in 1991 and was owned by Dell Construction. According to public records, Anthony and Joann Dellechiaie purchased the property for about $1.6 million in May 1999 from Joseph and Wallis McDermott of Montville, NJ.
Records show that the Dellechiaies sold the property to Zero Barnegat Bay LLC for $100 in January 2005. Foreclosure documents were filed in 2012.
Then Sandy hit. Hankins Island sat in the crosshairs of the superstorm, and the house and grounds sustained severe damage.
Toms River Township Engineer Bob Chankalian said there have been two visits by Code Enforcement to Hankins Island after the department got a pair of complaints from boaters.
Code Enforcement operates on a complaints-basis, the engineer said.
“Obviously, nobody is driving by in a car, but in 2020 there was a report by a boater of construction being open,” Chankalian said in a recent phone call. “It was boarded up and we had no trespassing signs posted in late 2020.”
A second complaint about graffiti was filed in July of 2021. The owner had it painted over.
Asked if the owner has been fined, Chankalian said they have not.
“Both times they did what they needed to do – they boarded it up, they posted the no trespassing signs, and after the graffiti they went out and painted it,” he said.
“People go over there all the time. No one’s paying attention to the signs, but the owners have done their best to secure it, and they’ve done everything we’ve asked,” the engineer said.
The cost to demolish the house would be astronomical, Chankalian said.
“Just to bring barges in and to bring workers over there, the cost for the town to do that, and then, I would imagine, back charge tax lien the property…it would take years to get the money back,” he said.
Township documents show that the land value of Hankins Island is $850,000 and improvements are valued at $40,000 for a total of $890,000. Annual taxes are $24,243.89.
Toms River tax assessor Bill Laird it appears that in 2005, when the owner transferred the property to the same entity for $100, it was a “give away” and it was put into an LLC.
“There are various reasons to form an LLC,” he said in a recent phone call. “It can be for tax purposes and it can reduce liability because it separates you…they can’t go after your personal property.”
Laird said there are no permits out for the property since 1992, and township records describe the property as “vacant, dilapidated, poor exterior and poor interior.”
“It’s in bad shape, but it’s a unique property for someone who has the appetite for something like this,” the tax assessor said.