BARNEGAT – The Barnegat Township Committee might be imposing fines on those they believe to be over-utilizing municipal services.
Although tabled until the September 4 meeting, the committee attempted to introduce an ordinance on August 7 that would fine property owners for “excessive consumption of municipal services,” and some were not in favor.
The ordinance aims to curb the overuse of certain municipal services, such as calls to the police, by fining property owners if they exceed their allotted number of calls.
The idea has come out of the township’s realization “that there are properties located in the Township where nuisances exist and other activities occur which have resulted in the excessive consumption of municipal services,” according to the ordinance.
If a property exceeds their designated consumption amount of municipal services, the township can fine them up to $300 for each additional offense. The cost would be directly related to the specific nuisance type.
Although not a resident of Barnegat, Jim Rostron of Lakewood voiced his concerns about the ordinance during the meeting. Rostron explained that he owns three properties in Barnegat Township within Settler’s Landing; one on Lexington, one on Village, and one on Potomac.
As a landlord, Rostron fears that the new regulations will hold him financially accountable for actions out of his hands.
“I try my hardest to put good tenants in my houses…I like to keep my properties nice,” said Rostron. “To hold me responsible over and beyond everything I try to do to keep my properties good and my tenants, for an action that I have no control over, I think is really wrong.”
With properties on Lexington and Potomac, areas known for more crime in the township, Rostron noted that he walks the neighborhood himself to maintain cleanliness and order.
“I am very actively engaged in trying to keep things right and I really object to anybody saying “we’re going to charge you” if something happens that’s not in my control,” he added.
In response to Rostron’s concerns, Mayor Frank Caputo made a motion to table the ordinance until next month’s meeting. Deputy Mayor Al Cirulli seconded the motion, noting that the ordinance needs more work to make the language “more cut and dry.”
The purpose of the amendment is to establish rules and procedures “identifying, and providing for the assessment and timely payment of the cost of excessive consumption of municipal services, associated with these nuisance properties.”
The number of what the township is calling “qualifying calls” is dependent on the type of property. Residential properties of 1 to 4 dwelling units get 5 qualifying calls. For multi-family residences and hotel/motels:
- Five through 40 units: 10 qualifying calls
- 41 through 80 units: 20 qualifying calls
- 81 through 200 units: 30 qualifying calls
- Over 200 dwelling units: 40 qualifying calls
For convenience, grocery, liquor and retail stores: 10 qualifying calls. Restaurants, bars, and entertainment establishments: 30 qualifying calls. All other properties: 10 qualifying calls.
These quantities are determined for a period of 60 days. If a property meets their number of qualifying calls, they are then on “probationary nuisance status” according to the ordinance. Any call thereafter, within a 12-month period, will be accompanied by a fine of $300.
Calls for service can include disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace, littering or excessive noise, property damage, motor vehicle violation on private property, noisy or dangerous animals, controlled substances, criminal activity, and township property codes, among many others.
If the property owner were to leave fines unpaid for 60 days or more from the time a complaint is issued, the township will place a lien against the property, “enforceable and collectible in the same manner as liens for delinquent real property taxes and municipal service charges,” stated the ordinance.
And Barnegat is not the first town to do this. Recently, Jersey Shore Online reported that the Toms River Township Council introduced a similar ordinance that aims to fine property owners who overuse police response. The fine is meant to reimburse the township for excessive police calls in order to reduce the tax burden.
Just as Barnegat has decided, the number of calls allowed depends on the specific residence type.