UPPER TOWNSHIP - Losing Strathmere would cost the township its beaches, part of its identity and $393 million in taxable property, according to a Planning Board impact report made public this week.
The report summarizes a March 19 Planning Board recommendation to reject a bid by Strathmere residents to secede from the mainland township and join neighboring Sea Isle City.
The petition to split from Upper Township is now in the hands of the Township Committee, which will likely reject it as well.
If Strathmere seceded, mainland residents would see their school taxes go up about 20 percent to compensate for the loss, according to the report.
The seasonal, sandy resort area makes up 2.5 percent of Upper Township's land area but about 17.5 percent of its tax base, according to the report.
The Planning Board's report noted the benefits annexation with Sea Isle City would bring to Strathmere residents, including taxes almost cut in half and potentially faster police response times.
Strathmere is patrolled by State Police; Sea Isle City has its own police department.
The report questioned whether Strathmere's problems with beach erosion, flooding, parking, noise and ordinance violations would be significantly better.
The civic group Citizens for Strathmere and Whale Beach petitioned the Planning Board in 2007 to secede from the mainland township to join Sea Isle City, setting up an epic 14-month hearing that concluded last month.
The group alleged Strathmere receives inadequate township services.
They focused on beach erosion that threatened homes, and complained of inadequate police coverage, routine flooding, incompetent school transportation and a slow township response to the everyday issues of island life.
Strathmere resident Randy Roash said Strathmere's complaints are about much more than taxes and that the Planning Board's proceedings lacked objectivity.
Strathmere residents suggested they would seek a Superior Court appeal.
"This de-annexation has the stamina for the long haul, and there is an extremely high level of commitment to this cause to the vast majority of residents and property owners in Strathmere," Roash said Thursday.
The Planning Board's impact report says losing Strathmere would not benefit Upper Township.
There are so few children in Strathmere that the Upper Township Board of Education would save only about $20,000 in tuition and transportation costs from their loss, the impact report says.
The township has no local purpose due to Energy Receipts Taxes it gets for hosting the B.L. England power plant.
In Cape May County, other seasonal resorts have tried to leave their mainland counterparts behind.
Avalon Manor took its case to a state appeals court in its effort to split from Middle Township and join Avalon. Avalon Manor lost its fight, and a state Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal.
And Diamond Beach south of Wildwood Crest threatened to leave before Lower Township made concessions to its island community.
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