EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — Monday’s first Planning Board hearing on Seaview Harbor’s petition to join Longport started with Seaview’s attorney John Paul Doyle questioning the board’s independence and Egg Harbor Township’s Planning Board angrily declining to recuse itself en masse.
“There is not a single string attached to us. We are not puppets. We are not marshmallows,” Planning Board Chairman James Garth Sr. said. “We can make our own decision.”
"I'm coming into this looking at things objectively and unbiased," added Township Committeeman John Carmen.
Monday was the first act in an effort by residents of the upscale enclave to separate themselves from the township and join the beachfront community of Longport, a place where Seaview Harbor residents have long shared both an affinity and a ZIP code.
History and geography, however, placed the 92-home community in Egg Harbor Township. As a result, following the 2012 reassessment, individual residents paid an average of more than $24,000 in property taxes in 2013. Taxed at Longport rates, they would have paid less than $7,700.
Seaview Harbor residents are expected to stress the lack of services that comes from being a relatively far-flung community, as well as the closeness of ties between itself and Longport.
Under state law, the Planning Board will hold hearings on the petition for the section to join Longport. The board will make a report and can make a recommendation to the Township Committee, which will vote on the matter.
But Doyle argued that the die was already cast, unfairly.
Among the residents of the Seaview Harbor section is township Mayor James “Sonny” McCullough. Doyle pointed out that if the section is successful, McCullough would no longer be able to live there and be the township’s mayor.
McCullough has announced he plans to move, unable to afford the new, higher taxes on his home. He was not there Monday, replaced at the hearing by Committeewoman Laura Pfrommer. It was not clear if he had recused himself from the hearing.
Doyle pointed out that McCullough’s role as mayor meant he had a hand in appointing the entire Planning Board.
Doyle also objected to the presence of Pfrommer and Carmen, who is also a Planning Board member. Both would be called to vote on the proposal as committee members. Both declined to recuse themselves from the Planning Board hearing.
The one board member who did step down from the hearing was township Administrator Peter J. Miller, who as the person in charge of day-to-day operations will likely testify in the matter.
Doyle also said township officials’ comments in The Press of Atlantic City’s coverage in the matter suggested that officials had already decided the question before hearing the evidence.
The first two people to testify were part-time residents who stressed that the community is paying for services they either do not receive or do not use.
Kevin P. Kohler, of Maple Glen, Pa., and Sunset Boulevard, recalled his parents moving to the community in the early 1960s as a 10-year-old. When the mail came in to the Longport post office, he was frequently called on to deliver it.
He also discussed how the original plans for the community was significantly bigger, but a lack of dredging attention from the township following the death of the builder, resulted in parts of the community washing away.
Trash was not collected and police coverage was also spotty in those years, Kohler said.
The next was John Dabek, of Sewell, Gloucester County and Sunset Boulevard, discussed a survey that had been distributed around the community.
Out of 32 full-time residents, five households had school children, totaling nine children. Four children go to private schools, he said the survey said, while the balance went to schools in Margate, Ocean City and elsewhere that their parents paid tuition for.
They paid tuition, Dabek said, because he said he was told elementary school students would face nearly two-hour bus rides.
He also pointed to other questions about medical facilities, recreation, libraries, restaurants and churches.
Dean Marcolongo, a special counsel hired by the Planning Board on this matter, questioned whether or not these answers were hearsay.
“There is very little social interaction with residents in the community and Egg Harbor Township.” Dabek said, adding later, “We are so disconnected from the rest of the township.”
The hearing was continued to April 21.
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