Monthly Archives: November 2013

Exploding the Lies, Continued: Cindea Supports Vorbach?

Editor’s Note: This post is one of a continuing series that addresses the flood of lies and misconceptions that were used in the 2013 local election.

Republican councilwoman Patricia Cindea campaigned heavily for Democrat Tom Vorbach, but this doesn’t necessarily mean she has any strong  belief in his ability. In fact, when Mr. Vorbach joined with then-Councilman John Brennan to circulate a petition designed to break certain signed contracts with Borough employees, Mrs. Cindea said in an e-mail that “Tom Vorbach is actually stupid enough to put his name on the petition.” At the time, employees who could have been impacted by the petition and employees in a protected class who were guaranteed certain raises by State law were threatening to sue if their rights were violated.

But then, campaigning for someone you feel is stupid is part of the strategy: people perceived as stupid, lazy, too busy, too uneducated, or too disinterested are seen as excellent candidates for office because they are seen as being pliable and easily led into voting the way their patron or supporter votes. This is part of the “I got you elected, now I will tell you how to vote” culture. Fortunately, many of these people wake up and see they were misled. The citizens can only hope that Mr. Vorbach realizes that the Councilwoman only wants his vote to support her in getting her own way.

patty saying vorbach is stupid

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Councilwoman Walks Out, Causing Meeting to Be Cancelled for Lack of Quorum

This evening’s Council meeting was abruptly cancelled when Councilwoman Patricia Cindea walked out prior to the start of the meeting, leaving the Council without a quorum.

Four of the six Council members or 3 members and the Mayor must be present in order for a meeting to proceed. Councilman Rich Diver had notified the Council President, Sara King. That he would not be in attendance at this evening’s meeting. Council President King was to preside over the meeting in the absence of Mayor Macccanico. Councilman Thomas Vorbach had not notified anyone of his whereabouts, but Councilman Chris Tienken noted that Mr. Vorbach was away for the upcoming holidays.

The meeting was advertised to start at 8 PM, but could not begin without a quorum. Councilwoman Cindea arrived shortly after 8 and took her seat on the dais. After looking around, she gathered up her paperwork and other belongs and left without a word to anyone, including the Clerk who is responsible for keeping track of attendance. Council members, the Clerk, and the Borough Attorney waited along with many residents who had come to attend the meeting. Finally, the Clerk went to check on the Councilwoman and reported back that she had left the Borough Hall.

This unprofessional behavior cost the Borough money, both in the Attorney’s fees and also the time of the Borough Engineer, who was scheduled to make a presentation. These professionals bill the Borough for their time spent in attending meetings.

Council President King announced that the meeting could not be held and said that a special meeting would have to be scheduled in order to take care of Borough business. The Borough cannot pay any of its bills without the Council’s approval and may now also be jeopardized with late fees. Heightsonline will post the date and time of special meeting when it is scheduled.

Tax-Related Resources: Tax Maps Regulations and Standards and the Assessor’s Handbook

 

Two very valuable sources of information for the property owner are the State of New Jersey Tax Maps Regulations and Standards and the Handbook for New Jersey Assessors. If you are preparing to appeal your taxes and cannot afford to hire an appraiser to prepare the appeal for you, these resources can help to guide you. They contain a wealth of information about how property is taxed, including the specifics for how easements and other encumbrances are supposed to be reported on municipal tax maps. Heightsonline will continue citing snippets from these volumes but thought, in the interest of taxpayer education, the general public might like to peruse these:

The State of New Jersey Tax Maps Regulations and Standards (also called the Assessor’s Blue Book). Click this link for a .pdf file: taxmapbluebook08

The Handbook for New Jersey Assessors. Click this link for a .pdf file: assessorshandbook

Borough Tax Maps: State Tidelands Claims

In previous posts, heightsonline reported the errors on the Borough’s Tax Maps that could be costing some resident excess property tax. Today, we look at a truly egregious problem — some residents who live around Black Creek and Wreck Pond may have on their property something called a “State Tidelands Claim Line.” The tidelands claim line stretches from the edge of the water to the point on land FORMERLY or presently flowed by the high tide. All this land is State-owned. Unfortunately, this means that since the land is not identified on the local tax maps, some residents are paying tax on State-owned land.

Here is just one snippet from the SLH tax map showing blocks and lots where known tidelands claim lines exist ON THE SOUTH SIDE OF BLACK CREEK (click on the map to see an enlargement):

black creek state tidelands

Block 39, Lot number 72 is the only lot known to NOT have a Tidelands Claim Line, by virtue of the fact that the property owner purchased the claim from the State. It cost the property owner $51,000 to purchase the strip of shoreline along Black Creek. What is the tax value of that purchase and how much of a reduction would others property owners be granted if the tidelands claim line on their lots was being properly reported?

From the New Jersey Assessor’s Blue Book, there is the explanation of how this information should be correctly recorded:

tidelands clause from assessor blue book

The Borough’s tax maps CLEARLY do not contain this information. Both Councilwoman Patricia Cindea and former Mayor Fran Enright were notified as early as 2009 that there was inaccurate and missing information that could be costing the taxpayer’s too much money and yet they did nothing.

If you or someone you know owns land in a flood area, land with riparian buffers, land that in any way touches a waterway, or contains any other easement or encumbrance, please attend the Monday, November 25 meeting and say that you want this looked into.

Notice, too, the one lot touching the railroad tracks with a railroad easement clearly marked. We will look at railroad easements in an upcoming post.

Borough Tax Maps: Flood Hazard Area, Floodway, Flood Fringe Lands

As a follow up to an earlier post on the incorrect state of the Borough’s tax maps, this post looks at the information around Flood Hazard Areas, since many neighborhoods in SLH are affected by flooding.

As per Section 608.03 of the Handbook for New Jersey Assessor’s (underline added):

 608.03 Information on Tax Maps.

Tax maps are used primarily by the municipal assessor and should contain information necessary for his purposes. A tax map is drawn to scale and shows the outlines and dimensions of every parcel in the taxing district. A key map shows the blocks and identifies the detail sheets for block information. The unique parcel identifier for each plot must be the same as the parcel identifier on the Assessment List. Other data, including but not limited to, street names, public utilities, easements, flood plains, riparian grants and leases, exemptions, bodies of water and railroad rights of way are shown on tax maps.

REFERENCES: N.J.A.C. 18:23A et seq.

 In regards to specifically Flood Hazard Ares, Floodways, or Flood Fringe Lands, the Handbook goes on to say that:

 610.04 Assessment of Floodway or Flood Fringe Lands.

Assessors are required to consider the impact of regulations issued under the Flood Hazard Areas law in establishing full value of lands situated in floodway or flood fringe areas.

REFERENCES: N.J.S.A. 58:16A-61

 Excerpts from the NJ Administrative Code, reproduced in the State of New Jersey Tax Maps, Regulations and Standards manual, include this information:

 18:23A-1.29 Flood hazards

(a) Where applicable, the tax map must show boundaries of flood hazard areas with dashed lines, as indicated except that alternatively, such boundaries may be shown by the current Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM), so that New Jersey is consistent with the national standard, which requires the use of the FIRM maps. (b) Additional information, such as acreage and/or dimensions should indicate flood hazard limits (See Standards, Pages S2l and S22).

Amendedby R.2007d.99,effectiveJune4, 2007. See: 38 NJ.R. 3753(a),39NJ.R. 2271(a). Rewrote(a); and in (b), substituted”S21 and S22″for “71 and 72”.

 18:23A-1.30 Miscellaneous assessments

Where applicable the tax map must indicate areas of coastal wetlands, encroachments, solar rights, etc., in the same manner as indicated for flood hazard areas with dashed lines (See Standards, Pages S21 and S22). Amended by R.2007 d.99, effective June 4, 2007.

See: 38 N.J.R. 3753(a), 39 N.J.R. 2271(a). Substituted “must” for “shall” and “S21 and 822” for “71 and 72”.

 The State of New Jersey Tax Maps Regulations and Standards manual defines exactly how these encumbered areas are to be defined on the maps:

 assessors blue book indicating map lines

 

In reviewing just one area of the Borough of Spring Lake Heights’s tax maps where there is a known Flood Hazard Area, can any of our readers see where the F.H.A. is marked, as required? No?

flood area map southern end of town

Both Councilwoman Patricia Cindea and former Mayor Fran Enright were told this issue existed, yet neither one chose to do anything about it. Consequently, property owners could be paying the incorrect amount of tax.

If your house is in a known Flood Hazard Area, you need to attend the November 25th Council meeting and let the Council know you may be paying too much tax for your property.

Borough Tax Maps Contain Errors, Former Council Member Reveals

Dear Taxpayers of Spring Lake Heights:

This evening, Tuesday, November 12, I went before the Borough Council (of which I was once a part) to ask what was to be done about the errors on the Borough’s Tax Maps. These errors have been a known problem for many years, and some residents (not all) may have been paying an unfair share of tax because of it.

In 2008 when I arrived on Council on the heels of the very unpopular 2007 reassessment, I began questioning the hows and whys of taxation. Asking questions in government is NOT welcome, and it became clear immediately that this would be an unpopular move with the Democratic Party. In fact, on the very first occasion that I asked the assessor for information, he looked aghast and said, “Wait a minute — I thought you were one of us!”

One of us, who? I represented the people, I thought, and plowed ahead, even to the point of taking a crash course in real estate appraisal and talking to numerous professionals in the appraisal field. Here is what I discovered about tax maps:

Properties that contain encumbrances or other restrictions are not always noted on the maps and, when they are, are not discounted in the overall assessment. Encumbrances and restrictions include things like: right-of-ways, easements (such as public utility, sewer, drainage), rivers, streams, marshes, wetlands, riparian grants, buffers, Tidelands Claim Lines, and Flood Hazards.

In future posts, I will explain a little about each of these exceptions. What I want our readership to know is this: I reported to Borough officials in 2008, 2009, and 2010 that the tax maps contained errors and NOTHING was ever done about it. So, I came before the Council to make this information part of the permanent record and will do the same, here, for our readership.

I am unsure whose inaction is most unsettling in this: former Mayor H. Frances Enright or Councilwoman Patricia Cindea. After speaking with the director of the NJ State Division of Taxation, I made a full report, complete with documentation, copies of which I shared with former Mayor Enright. She apparently did nothing with them.

In October of 2009, Councilwoman Cindea, then the Chair of the Borough’s Finance Committee, asked each Council member what he or she would like to have budgeted for. I explained the situation about the tax maps and noted that former Mayor Adams had refused to have the map updated, saying no, it was too expensive. Ms. Cindea’s response, shown in the email thread below was that: “well i am saying no too!”

emails about tax map

That’s right, readers. When warned that the tax maps were wrong and something needed to be done to correct the fact that some residents were paying too much tax, Ms. Cindea dismissed it. In fact, at this evening’s meeting, she snickered, smirked, and texted while I was speaking. Her political ally, local gadfly John Lewis, sat in the audience with 5th District Republican Committeeman Ray Rassmussen and smirked back. The self-styled head of the local taxpayers assocation, not interested in hearing that some taxpayers were being incorrectly taxed? That gives you a good indication of what he really is about.

Please watch for subsequent posts explaining more about the issue and about what you can do.

Sincerely yours,

Kathleen Crippen, Managing Editor, heightsonline

Exploding the Lies, Continued: The Elaborate New Football Field for Pop Warner Games

One of the many bogus statements made to frighten people this past campaign season was the statement that: Despite another protest petition and outcry, they are still discussing behind closed doors a plan to cut down 200 trees in Allaire Road Park in order to construct an elaborate new football field for Pop Warner games, a field complete with lights and a public address system. In addition to the destruction of thos trees, north end residents could say goodbye to the quiet enjoyment of their properties.

Here is where this comes from: Following Hurricane Sandy, a group of interested residents led by local coach Bill Thermann gathered every other Saturday morning at the Sea Breeze Deli from 8 AM until 9 AM to discuss expanded use of the Allaire Road Park. In addition to private citizens, the group consisted of varying members from the Borough Council, the Planning Board, the Board of Adjustment, and the Board of Education. The Board of Adjustment’s engineer, Lou LoBosco, volunteered his time to craft a proposed layout that would allow the inclusion of a football field in Allaire Road Park. A copy of the plan acquired by heightsonline does not make any indication of lights or of any public address system.

Residents living to the north of Allaire Road Park objected strongly to the part of the plan that called for clear-cutting the grove of pine trees. The grove was severely damaged by Hurricane Sandy, necessitating the removal of many of the approximately 80-year-old trees. These residents circulated a petition against the cutting of the trees. Councilman Rich Diver was concerned for their quality of life, as well as the impact expanded playing fields would have on both the adjoining apartment dwellers and on the residents of Fairway Mews. Diver suggested that first, a forestry specialist be consulted as to the best way to proceed with the trees. He then said he felt that the first step should be towards repairing the storm damaage and replanting the trees and buffer areas so that the surrounding residents could once again enjoy some protection from the existing lights and sound system of the LIttle League Field.

The proposed plan was submitted to the Borough but never brought before the Council for discussion. As to whether the group is still meeting “behind closed doors” (guessing that Seabreeze Deli DOES closes its doors in the wintertime), anyone interested in learning more should reach out to Bill Thermann and discuss it with him.

Exploding the Lies, Continued: The Creation of a Large Retail Center at the North End of Route 71

Wouldn’t residents prefer to change the current zoning to prevent a Ramada Inn from being built on Route 71?

Historically, the lots facing Route 71 have been zoned to allow businesses. B-1 zoning allows for primarily business offices; B-2 zoning allows for everything else, including hotels and motels. Word got around that one property owner who lives out of town but who owns a large tract in the B-2 was speaking to a major hotel chain about having their parcel developed.

From the highway, the lots do not look particularly large, but when seen from overhead, some of them are 400 feet deep with a 100 foot frontage. 40,000 square foot lots in SLH are few and far between. In the B-2 zone, a lot this size would support quite a large building.

The Planning Board recommended to the Council to alter the existing commercial zoning to allow only light retail use and NO hotels or motels. They recommended limiting the size of certain businesses. They also recommended changing the zoning on some land-locked residential parcels to avoid the necessity of additional roads being cut through.

Once the Planning Board made their recommendations, the issue went back-and-forth with the Council and many amendments were made, such as allowing for a 30′ rear vegetative buffer and a 20-foot front buffer. Once the issues were amended, the Council voted to make the changes.

Currently, the only plan submitted to the Planning Board for the area is located at the corner of Route 71 and Allaire Road. The property owner of the bank building, the old “fortune teller” storefront, and the empty lot proposed building a modest office building along the highway and putting 2 house in the zoned residential area behind this. A 1988 Planning Board Resolution granting permission to build the bank building also restricts the development of the zoned residential area, so it is doubtful than any houses would ever be built back there anyway.

Because Councilman Richard Diver is the Council’s liaison to the Planning Board, he immediately became the target of the political liars and trolls who circulated stories that Diver supported large retail development. In truth, Diver did his best to negotiate a compromise that prevented large retail development, and prevented large hotel development. The properties have been zoned B-2 forever and no one prior to this point ever came forward with a plan to put a strip mall there.

Word is that Councilwoman Cindea has asked that the issue of the new B-3 zone be put back on the Council’s agenda for their November 12 meeting, with a thought to repeal it. Repealing the B-3 zone would again allow hotels and motels be a permitted use.

Exploding the Lies, Continued: Tom Vorbach voted against paying Theresa Casagrande $30K for undocumented overtime.

The key word here is “undocumented,” as this is a lie. Mrs. Casagrande provided ample documention to her lawsuit against the Borough for withholding her overtime pay. She had timecard copies and she had witnesses. And, Mr. Vorbach and Mr. Lewis both seemed to have overlooked a key point: when Mrs. Casagrande was told she would be paid the overtime, Mr. Vorbach’s running mate Tom O’Brien was the Finance Chair of the Council.

The Council majority who voted to settle her lawsuit were smart, because they knew they did not have a leg to stand on in court. Mr. Vorbach voted “no” because he almost always votes no.

What the public needs to know is this: in 2006, the Borough’s Chief Financial Officer, Wendy Matson, was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She could not afford to quit her job while undergoing treatments. Theresa Casagrande, who was deputy Borough Clerk at the time, began assisting Mrs. Matson in order to help out. When Mrs. Matson ultimately died in March 2007, the only person on staff who had the educational level to pick up her works was Mrs. Casagrande, who holds an MBA.

During 2007, Mrs. Casagrande, in essence, worked two jobs – that of deputy Borough Clerk and also as financial officer. She worked most nights until 11 or 12 o’clock, and many people outside the Borough Hall staff were aware of this. A number of Mrs. Casagrande’s political detractors would come to the Council meetings on a regular basis and ask: “Why is she here so late at night? What is she doing? How could she possibly be working so much?”

Well, she was working and she had been told she would be paid overtime for her dedication to the Borough. Everyone knew it. If Mr. Vorbach did not know this, he is a victim of the political lies himself.

More troubling that Mr. Vorbach believing his own lies is this: clearly, Mr. Vorbach did NOT discuss the matter with his running mate, Mr. O’Brien. At the time that Mrs. Casagrande was working her approved overtime, Mr. O’Brien was serving as the Council’s Finance Chair. In this role, he has the responsibility to oversee all financial transactions, sign the payment vouchers, and other related tasks. Either he was aware that Mrs. Casagrande had been approved for overtime, or he was not aware – which is worse, because as Finance Chair, he had an obligation and a duty to know that. In either scenario, Mrs. Casagrande’s approval of overtime happened on his watch.

Mrs. Casagrande had every right to sue the Borough. The Council knew she had documented time records and witnesses who vouched for her. She did the work, she deserved to be paid for it. It was an indefensible position for the Borough to choose to stonewall the suit; settling it and moving on was the right thing to do.

Councilwoman’s E-mail Reveals Effort at Political Patronage Appointment

During the recent election slur campaign, John Lewis wrote that “The Committee candidates were replaced by the County GOP boss who was hired as the Borough’s Bond Attorney.” First of all, this statement is completely false. The Borough’s Bond Attorney was Kerry Morgan, who just happened to work at the same firm as John Bennett, who later became the head of the County Republican Party after any bond issue was raised in SLH.

However, it is interesting that Lewis protested political patronage, since his political colleague Councilwoman Patricia Cindea, supported a patronage appointment of the former County Republican boss, Joe Oxley.

cindea patronage message

In a December 2010 message to the now-editor of heightsonline, Councilwoman Cindea wrote: “I am serious…unless the candidate that Sara and I wanted for Borough Attorney is the one that is up for nomination…I am voting against the party, possibly on all counts. And I will do it because I may not even run again. I mean after all we have done for this party, and these candidates in helping them get elected. And we can’t even get a backing for a Borough Attorney appointment…why bother. Meanwhile, the guy that we are backing is the frickin head of the Monmouth County Republicans…unbelievable!!!”

Perhaps what is most unbelievable in this is that John Lewis, the self-appointed head of the SLH “Facts Slayer” Association, did not tell his taxpaying followers about this? Was he okay with the appointment of the County Republican Chair as Borough Attorney in this case?

Here is the e-mail, with personal information cloaked as a courtesy that John Lewis did not extend!