WOODBINE - The owners of a Cape May County campground Monday said the state is putting them in a difficult position in forcing their tenants to leave by November.
Carol Lynn Resorts in Woodbine this year told residents at its 238 sites they must find a new winter home by Nov. 1 in keeping with a state rule over campground residency.
The state Department of Community Affairs this year adopted new rules allowing just six months of residency in seasonal campgrounds. The state said the restrictions were designed to comply with the electric code for smaller park-model trailers that occupy campground such as Carol Lynn Resorts.
The property leases stipulated the trailers were not to be used as a primary residence, owner Carol Saduk said. A majority of tenants use the trailers as a summer home. But others stay year-round. Saduk said she never minded until the state took issue with the practice last year.
Now she fears she could face state fines as owner of the campground, the revocation of her campground license or lawsuits if there is an electrical fire, she said.
"As long as the state isn't bothering them, I'm not going to bother them," she said. "Now the state is cracking down. We're not heartless people. I understand how hard it is. My heart is bleeding for some of these people. I warned them, but they made that choice. They're asking me to break the law."
Dozens of campground residents attended a Borough Council meeting last week to air their objections over the eviction notices. The residents directed their displeasure toward campground owner and Councilman Anthony Saduk, who declined to address the public Thursday.
"If ever I go to war, I'm going to get those retired people behind me," campground resident George Neal said of the contentious meeting.
"Everyone likes the Saduks, but they're putting us in a bind here. We have no choice but to push back. I know we have rights."
Councilman David Rodriguez criticized Saduk for his handling of the complaints Thursday. Rodriguez did not attend the meeting but heard about it from campground residents afterward.
"If you really care about the folks out there, why don't you call the state and say, 'What can I do?'" Rodriguez said.
As president of the Puerto Rican Action Committee, Rodriguez said he often works with state agencies to resolve problems.
"I blame Councilman Saduk for not negotiating with the state in setting up some kind of phase-out plan. It's not set in stone. I work with departments all the time. You can work out a plan with these agencies," he said.
Carol Saduk said negotiating with the state was not an option, especially since the rules are in effect now. The state rejected the latest proposal on residency by the New Jersey Campground Owners Association, the trade group to which the Saduks belongs.
She said she and her husband would be willing to meet individually with any of the residents.
"They took an honest man and vilified him. It was totally unfair. It was a lynch mob to start with," she said. "These are people who came to us when they couldn't pay their bills."
Meanwhile, Neal said he has been looking for whatever housing he can afford but has had little luck finding it. He and other residents were attracted to the campground because of its affordability, he said.
"If they were concerned about public safety, the state should close down parts of Camden and Newark. They really do have electrical-code problems," he said. "Nobody has ever heard of an electrical fire at a campground."
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