Longport commissioners noncommittal on Seaview Harbor annexation bid

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LONGPORT – Egg Harbor Township officials came here to ask whether Longport is interested in annexing Seaview Harbor – which has filed a petition to secede from the township and join Longport – and the answer they received is that it’s too soon to say.

At the borough’s March 19 meeting, Egg Harbor Township Administrator Peter Miller asked the Board of Commissioners to decide now if Longport would annex Seaview Harbor should its bid to secede succeed.

During the public portion of the meeting, Miller said that investigating the wealthy bayfront neighborhood’s petition to leave Egg Harbor Township and join Longport would cost the parties more than $500,000 for reports and legal fees and take three to five years to complete. That’s an expense the Township Committee doesn’t want to incur should Longport later refuse to accept Seaview Harbor as part of its municipality, Miller said.

“If Longport does have an interest in acquiring Seaview Harbor from Egg Harbor Township, they should make that known. If you have no interest in acquiring Seaview Harbor, I think you should allow us all to know that so both parties do not end up spending more than a half-million dollars,” Miller said. “If voters are given the opportunity to weigh in, we request that Longport does that as soon as possible.”

The Seaview Harbor Realignment Committee filed a petition with the Egg Harbor Township Planning Board Feb. 18 to leave the township and join Longport, which already provides the neighborhood with police, fire and ambulance service. Sixty-nine people, representing 80 percent of the registered voters in Seaview Harbor, signed the petition. A public hearing on the issue is scheduled for the board’s March 31 meeting.

The 1960s subdivision, which lies west of the Longport bridge, has 93 homes, a restaurant and 300 boat slips valued at more than $100 million. Russo has said previously that annexing Seaview Harbor could result in a tax rate reduction of 4 or 5 cents in Longport.

Miller said a three-step process would determine if the secession bid is successful. The community has already taken the first step by requesting realignment of Egg Harbor Township’s borders. Now the governing body has to decide if it will permit it. Then Longport officials must decide if they will accept the community as part of the borough.

“Egg Harbor Township’s answer is no to losing part of its community. What if the situation were reversed?” Miller asked.

He told the commissioners that if Longport accepts Seaview Harbor, it would immediately “get a bill for $3.5 million” – Seaview Harbor’s share of Egg Harbor Township’s outstanding debt.

Longport Mayor Nicholas Russo and Commissioner Dan Lawler said they attended an informational meeting with Seaview Harbor residents.

“The only way that any of this would make sense is if it made sense financially,” Russo said. “No municipality wants added burdens. The commission has made it clear that before we make a decision, we have to do our own fact finding and not rely on statistical data that Seaview Harbor would present us.”

Russo said residents of Longport should be the ones who decide if they want to have Seaview Harbor as part of their community.

“If this a good idea, then Longport voters will know it’s a good idea. If this a bad idea, then Longport voters will know it’s a bad idea,” he said.

Lawler said he was not ready to make a decision, but if it’s left up to the voters, it should be done “sooner rather than later.”

Longport attorney Pat Agnellini said the borough has taken no stance on the issue, nor has it commissioned a study because it doesn’t want to spend any money on reports or a referendum so early in the process.

“The way the law is set up, we weigh in on this at the end of the process,” Agnellini said. “There’s going to be a lot of money spent on this, and at the end of the day, if the residents of Longport decide they don’t want this, that money would have been spent for naught.”

Miller suggested that the borough pursue a nonbinding referendum in the November general election, saying future administrators would not be bound by the results.

The commission took no action on Miller’s request.

Russo said Miller’s attendance at the meeting was unexpected but thanked him for attending.



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