UPPER TOWNSHIP - Residents in the township's Strathmere section are appealing a court decision that upheld the denial of their petition to break away from the rest of Upper Township.
The group Citizens for Strathmere and Whale Beach, which represents residents of the seaside community, has said it wants to break away from the mainland portion of the township and join neighboring Sea Isle City. The group's efforts were rebuffed in October when state Superior Court Judge Valerie Armstrong found the Planning Board and Township Committee acted reasonably last year in denying a petition to secede.
The group recently filed a notice that it will appeal to the state Appellate Division.
The years-long secession battle - a process called deannexation - has cost township taxpayers about $300,000 so far, Mayor Richard Palombo estimated. The fight has been the costliest legal battle the township has engaged in during the past 10 years, he said.
"It's a significant amount of money. There have been considerable costs, but we're into it this much. I'm not going to walk away from defending the township," Palombo said.
The township stands to lose $4 million per year in school tax revenue if Strathmere is allowed to join Sea Isle City. The Strathmere section of the township contains $420 million in taxable property.
Citizens for Strathmere and Whale Beach spokesman George Welker said he could not say how much his group's members have spent pursuing the deannexation. But they were prepared to pay to appeal, he said.
Township Solicitor Dan Young and special counsel Frank Corrado are defending the lawsuit on behalf of the Township Committee. The Planning Board also is a defendant, Young said.
The appeals process could take as long as a year, Young said.
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