EGG HARBOR CITY — Elected officials in Egg Harbor City are aware that an increasing number of residences are being converted to housing for people with disabilities. That prompted the City Council to pass an ordinance at its Thursday, Dec. 12 meeting to place restrictions on such properties.

According to the new law, a community residence shall be located a sufficient distance from any existing community residences so that the proposed community residence does not lessen nor interfere with the normalization and community integration of the residents of existing community residences or combine with any existing community residences to contribute to the creation or intensification of a de facto social service district.

The facility must also operate as a functional family residence that fosters normalization and community integration of its residents, rather than as an institution, boardinghouse, nursing home, short-term vacation rental, continuing care facility, motel, hotel, treatment center, rehabilitation center or a nonresidential use.

The primary use of the proposed community residence is residential where any treatment is merely incidental to the residential use of the property.

Community residences, except as required by state law, will be at least 660 linear feet in any direction from the closest exiting community residence as measured from the nearest property line of the proposed community residence to the nearest property line of the existing community residence and at least 1,000 feet from a school as determined by the school zone maps of the city.

“I can understand why you would want to limit these facilities for those with addiction and those who committed sexual crimes,” resident Mary Campbell said during the public hearing. “My fear is that it blankets everyone with disabilities, including those confined to wheelchairs and those who have cognitive or other issues.”

“That is not the intention of this ordinance,” Mayor Lisa Jiampetti said.

Also at the meeting Councilman Joseph Ricci Jr. said a bid has been received to purchase a city-owned property at 335 Boston Ave. The proposed buyer offered $85,000 for the property and the building on which it sits.

“Is there any wiggle room to get a higher price?” Councilman Angelo Lello asked.

“There might be, but keep in mind that the buyer expects to pay $15,000 to $20,000 to remove unwanted materials from the building,” Ricci said.

Council then unanimously agreed to accept the bid from Ken Happle, who is expected to open a printing facility at the site.

Council also authorized an agreement with Hammonton to form a joint municipal court. Two recent matters prompted the meeting. Court Administrator Crystal Czerwinski recently resigned to accept a position in Hammonton. “The state judiciary is now running our court, which we have to pay for,” Jiampetti said.

Secondly, Atlantic County Superior Court Assignment Judge Julio Mendez stated that any courts with less than 3,000 filings per year would be required to enter into a joint or shared court relationship with another town. Egg Harbor City falls into that category.

“Under the terms of the agreement, we would pay them $36,000, and they would also retain an estimated $60,000 in court revenue,” she said.

Merging their court with Hammonton would have a positive effect for Egg Harbor City taxpayers, as the court operated at a $110,768 deficit last year. “This would equate to a savings of $56,602,” Jiampetti said at an earlier meeting to discuss the merger. “That amounts to about three cents on the tax rate.”

Another potential benefit is that the cost of $10,320 to have police officers on guard in the court would be eliminated. “They can then be put back on the street,” Jiampetti said.

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