Mayor Anthony Ammiano agreed to sit down with Patch and . Here are his answers, in no particular order.
Q: Why code enforcement does not enforce code? I am referring to the commercial vehicles in Stonehurst. A NJ turnpike pick-up on Stonehurst Blvd every night, a school bus at Stonehurst apartments, hundreds of pallets stored in a backyard and a AAA service center being run out of a home on Coventry Road. I feel like I live in an industrial park.
A: Township Code Enforcement prioritizes all complaints and glaring problems, and investigates these issues in this manner. We rely on notifications from residents, such as you, to perform our job completely and successfully, and we thank you for your message. Rest assured that your concerns will be addressed.
Q: The state law requires that local police departments notify applicants for gun permits whether they are accepted or denied within 30 days, yet many towns are well over this limit, including Freehold. The 30 days notification is a law, not a suggestion by the state, so how can you (Mayor Ammiano) help make sure this law is followed, and speed up the process for law abiding citizens looking to purchase firearms?
A: Township procedure is that Police Records Bureau provides interested residents with gun permit applications. Once completed and returned, the Township forwards it to the State. The State returns the approval or denial to the Township, and we return it to the applicant. Typically, the turnaround time from the resident submitting the application to the Township and the State returning their response is between 4 – 6 weeks. As a matter of reference, other area municipalities take up to 6 months to return an approved/denied application to residents. Any concern you may have with the State’s review time must be addressed at the State level.
Q: I have tried for 18 years to get help from the town on my eroding property due to the creek. My land keeps sliding into the creek. It is a constant danger to my children and the community as well as me. It is bringing the value of my home down. So, my question is why have you not done anything to help a citizen of 28 years with this ongoing dangerous problem?
A: Freehold Township is acutely aware of the situation with the Koenig Lane stream. As you may recall, the Township has been pursuing this matter for years with the State Department of Environmental Protection, unfortunately with great difficulty. Most recently, in April, representatives from the Township and the County met, and together we are developing a new strategy towards a more regional approach to reduce the rate of flow and regulate the quantity of water passing through the stream. This will involve more consultation with appropriate professionals and a very involved permitting process. This is a far reaching situation that the Township intends to resolve or mitigate to the extent it can be done. As such, your patience has been and will be much appreciated. In addition, I have recently spoken with Senator Jennifer Beck and Chief of Staff Kevin Israel (who will be personally inspecting the site). Senator Beck has advised us that she will make this issue a top priority. She further advised that she will contact New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to schedule a meeting to include the Township Administrator, Township Engineer and me. Rest assured that the Township Committee and administrative professionals will do our best to improve the stream situation.
Q: On Arbor Day, 2011, you had a wonderful dedication to the 7 astronauts that lost their lives aboard the shuttle Columbia. You planted a fir tree in their honor, a tree that was a seedling that spent 10 days on a flight in outer space, a tree that was awarded to Freehold Township for its wonderful work in keeping the Township green. Can you share where this tree was planted?
A: The dedicated tree for the astronauts is #119A, an Eastern White Pine on the entrance road to Durand Park on the left.
Q: What is Freehold Township doing to address the issue of undocumented workers in the area?
A: Your concern falls under the jurisdiction of the Federal Government. There are strict guidelines that the Township Police Department must follow concerning their ability to check identification and documentation.
Q: Does Freehold Township have any policies regarding criminal charges against employees?
A: Should an employee be charged with a crime, he/she may be, at the discretion of the Township, suspended or removed from his/her current position, depending on the facts and the charges. Upon any conviction in a criminal matter, proper disciplinary action, including removal, would likely be appropriate.
Q: I applaud your acceptance of a problem with uneven and over-assessed property values in Freehold Township. Now that a company has been engaged to do the work, I hope that they will be consistent and accurate, especially within our homogeneous communities. We all understand that the same dollars are needed to run this wonderful town, but look forward to the more equitable distribution of that burden. For example, an 1/8 or less of an acre can not have the same resale value as a single family half-acre lot. We in the communities of Raintree, and such have been asked to shoulder an unfair portion based upon what the true value of the land should be.
A: We always strive to make sure that every taxpayer pays only their fair share of the tax burden, and no more. With the recent four year decline in home prices, the 2008 revaluation, which was fair and accurate then, became ultimately skewed because all housing segments did not decline equally over that period. The primary reason for the “Round-Two” as you call it, is to again level the playing field to provide relief for those who had a bigger decline, and did not file an appeal in the last several years. We would like to note, though, that the 2008 revaluation was indeed a good indication of that housing market snapshot. The market was just moving so quickly that things were already unraveling as those numbers were applied.
To address the question of the assessing of various different homes, one issue we always run across is that different properties are classified and assessed using formulas specific to the home or development type. Those formulas present challenges as to how they can be applied to properly assess a home, condo, or townhome at fair market value.
The key is that a property should be assessed as close as possible to what it can be sold for on the real estate market. The split of assessment between land and improvements is often “backed into” using a formula that at times may not seem accurate, but is used to achieve as close a number to sales value as possible. That is why you may see a smaller lot with a land value equal to or greater than a larger lot. However, if you compared the “total assessment” of both of those properties, the difference should make sense to a large degree.
We find that the problem most people have with their assessments when compared to their neighbors is that they don’t take into consideration the smaller items that make assessed properties different. These are things like remodeled or modern kitchens and bathrooms, finished basements, extra garages and other accessory structures, and pools. There are invariably significant differences in home square footage that cannot be seen from the outside as well.
We have all the confidence that this current reassessment, which will be completed for the 2013 tax year, will again level the playing field and stem the tide of tax appeals that add to the imbalance of our tax base. On behalf of the Township Committee, we thank you for your kind words and support, and welcome any other inquiries that you may have on any issue facing our wonderful Town.