Seaview Harbor group pleads its case for realignment to Egg Harbor Township Planning Board

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Seaview Harbor group pleads its case for realignment to Egg Harbor Township Planning Board
Residents say their ZIP code puts them in Longport, and that is where they want to be

EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP – The committee chamber was packed Monday, March 31 for the Egg Harbor Township Planning Board’s first hearing of the petition of the Seaview Harbor Realignment Committee.

“The Seaview Harbor residents wish to deannex from Egg Harbor Township and annex to Longport," explained attorney Dean Marcolongo, who is serving as special counsel to the Planning Board.

Marcolongo said that while the Planning Board would hear the petition and testimony from the realignment committee, the final decision on whether the 92-home waterfront community of Seaview Harbor would remain part of the township or be permitted to deannex and pursue becoming part of the borough of Longport would ultimately be determined by the Township Committee. The Planning Board can make a recommendation to the committee, but the committee is free to follow that recommendation or not.

The Seaview Harbor Realignment Committee is represented by attorney John Paul Doyle of Toms River. Before the first witness was called, he called on Township Administrator Peter Miller to recuse himself from the proceedings, and Miller took a seat in the audience.

Egg Harbor Township Mayor James "Sonny" McCullough, who is Planning Board member and has been a resident of Seaview Harbor for more than 30 years, was absent from the meeting, and Marcolongo said Township Committeewoman Laura Pfrommer would take his place on the board.

Doyle questioned if any board member could render an unbiased decision in the matter based on the fact that some members had been appointed by McCullough. Chairman James Garth Sr. took exception to that statement and said there were no strings on any member of the board and that each member is capable of making an independent decision.

The realignment committee members who testified led with a litany of reasons as to why Seaview Harbor should not be part of Egg Harbor Township and should be a part of Longport.

One is the area’s distance from the municipal complex, library and schools. Another point made is that while their tax bills say Egg Harbor Township, residents of Seaview Harbor have a Longport ZIP code. Their driver’s licenses also list Longport – an issue residents say causes them serious problems in times of emergency.

The first witness to speak Monday evening was Kevin Kohler, whose family has owned a home in Seaview Harbor since he was a young boy.  Kohler's recollection of Seaview Harbor went back to when he was 10 years old and delivering mail to the homes there. He cited problems such as sporadic trash pickup, lack of snow removal, no street repairs and almost no police protection. He said talk about wanting to leave the township and join Longport has been going on for decades.

John Dabek said he and his wife purchased a home in Seaview Harbor in 2010 after visiting relatives there since the early 1990s. They had always referred to their time there as visiting Longport.

"I found out that I was purchasing a home in Egg Harbor Township at the settlement table," Dabek said, adding that at least five of his neighbors told him the same thing.

He said created a survey that went out to 91 of the 92 homes in Seaview Harbor. He did not send a survey to McCullough.  "Whether right or wrong, we did the survey without the mayor’s input," said Dabek. The survey, he said, was designed to capture demographic information about the residents and their patterns. He said 75 of the 91 households responded, and of those 32 are full-time residents. 

The responding households listed a total of nine children, none of whom attend Egg Harbor Township schools. The respondents cited preference for Catholic schooling and the long ride to and from school that can take an hour and 15 minutes. Some 65 percent said they attend church in Longport, with a few attending in Margate and only one in Egg Harbor Township.

Dabek complained of inadequate recycling and trash pickup. "We are a shore community and we have a lot of company over the summer months, and once a week trash pickup and recycling every other week is not enough," he said.

He pointed to the mutual aid arrangement the township has with Longport for police, fire and emergency services, saying Longport officers respond within minutes of being called, but they have to wait for an Egg Harbor Township officer to get there, and that can take up to 45 minutes.

While members of the realignment committee were lining up all the reasons to separate from Egg Harbor Township, Marcolongo made it clear at the beginning of the hearing that it is incumbent upon the group that wishes to leave one community for another that their departure would not cause substantial economic or social injury to the community left. Loss of ratables would be considered economic injury, and social injury could include changes in the civic, religious and cultural mix of the community.

"This is a fact-finding mission, and we are here with an open mind," Marcolongo said. The Egg Harbor Township Planning Board was free to call witnesses as well.

After more than three hours of testimony, the hearing was continued over to the meeting 5 p.m. Monday, April 21 in the Egg Harbor Township Municipal Complex.

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