Brick Lagoon Assessments Questioned

The lagoon is now navigable after being dredged. (Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

  BRICK – With a new way of assessing waterfront properties to pay for dredging, some residents are concerned that the new costs are not being spread out fairly.

  Brick is in the process of getting a township-wide dredging permit from the NJ Department of Environmental Protection, which means each lagoon neighborhood in need of dredging does not have to apply for their own permit and could use the townwide permit. Nejecho Beach was a pilot project, Business Administrator Joanne Bergin said.

  This came with a cost share and an assessment divided between all the property owners.

  Long-time resident of Lagoon Drive West Harry Appleheimer spoke during the public comment portion of a Township Council meeting about issues regarding the recent dredging of the Nejecho Beach Lagoon, which has an entrance on the Metedeconk River.

  “Anyone on the water is paying double to triple the tax rate of a dry-land lot, and that money does not come back to those property owners in the way of services in any way, shape or form,” he said. “No difference in police, fire, first aid, street cleaning, street paving, snow plowing – no difference.”

Residents are upset that the two properties at the end of the lagoon are being assessed for being on the river instead of being on the lagoon. (Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

  What keeps the property value high, he said, is navigable waterways, which, starting as early as 2000, the waterfront residents have not had, because of a shoal at the lagoon entrance, Appleheimer said. “We had a pond, not a lagoon…none of us upstream had a problem with the depth of the lagoon, it was fine.”

  Appleheimer questioned some of the assessments associated with the recently completed dredging of the Nejecho Beach lagoon. While legal, he said some of the costs aren’t fair.

  For example, the two end properties on the lagoon were not included in the $300,000 assessment, which he said is being divided between 25 property owners instead of the 27 who live on the lagoon.

  He was told by township business administrator Joanne Bergin that the tax assessor had determined the list from which they were working. Appleheimer called the then-tax assessor Michael Kingsbury who said it was his opinion that the two riverfront property owners did not need the lagoon, did not benefit from the dredging and it did not increase the value of their property, so he exempted them from the assessment.

  One of the properties has dockside water, electricity, a spotlight, boat bumpers and cleats on their bulkhead, Appleheimer said. The other property has a double jet ski lift and a docking alcove, he added. The two properties combined have lagoon frontage of about 250 feet, and if they were included in the assessment, they would be responsible for $48,000 of it to be paid over 10 years, which is being paid by the other 25 property owners on the lagoon, he said.

  Appleheimer called the tax assessor’s office in August and spoke to Jim Ryan (Kingsbury retired) who said “he was going to stand on Mr. Kingsbury’s decision, which I found very unfair based on the fact that they are using the lagoon.”

  Also, in the contractor’s itemized contract, the residents were charged $39,420 for placement and grading of 2,190 cubic yards of dredge spoils, which were placed at Windward Beach Park.

  “That’s us, paying to grade the sand on the town beach,” he said. “We’re being charged to grade the sand on your beach.”

  The lagoon-front property owners were told that the township does not pay to improve private property, he said.

  “Well guess what? Private property shouldn’t pay to improve township property…because that park is going to benefit everybody in Bricktown, not the 25 people who are paying the tab right now to plow your sand,” Appleheimer said.

Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn

  Another Lagoon Drive West resident Ed Rilho, said that the two properties that were exempt from the assessment, now have dockable space in 80 per cent of their yards for boats that they didn’t have before.

  “Before, they weren’t able to use their property, now they can…on us,” he said.

  After the meeting, Township Tax Assessor Jim Ryan said that it was correct to not charge the two riverfront homes the dredging assessment.

  “Those properties are being assessed as riverfront,” he said in a phone call. “Their main value is coming from being on the river, so I agree with Mr. Kingsbury,” Ryan said.

  Bergin, the town’s business administrator, noted that the cost could have been higher if they had to transport the dredge spoils far away. Instead, Windward Beach was chosen. This is not a bathing beach, and it is not staffed with lifeguards or badge checkers.