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The Island Divide: Bill Would Combine Barrier Towns Into One, Eliminate Mainland Influence


The entrance to Brick's barrier island portion. (Photo: Daniel Nee)
The entrance to Brick’s barrier island portion. (Photo: Daniel Nee)
A revived bill in the New Jersey legislature that would combine most of the length of the county’s northern barrier island has been drawing both support as well as strong opposition in the weeks after it was proposed.

The bill, sponsored Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer), is not a new proposal – Gusciora generated a similar controversy when he proposed it in 2008 – but it is one that may draw stronger opinions on either side in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, where new issues have been raised over the role of small towns during large disasters, as well as the domination of island communities by mainland municipalities and high property tax bills.

Gusciora’s bill proposes consolidating Mantoloking, the island portions of Brick, Toms River and Berkeley, plus Lavallette, Seaside Heights and Seaside Park into one municipality called Seaside Township. The bill also proposes merging all of Long Beach Island’s towns into one municipality.


Lavallette, whose residents enjoy property taxes well below the state average, stands to benefit the least from the proposal, as taxes would likely rise and its small-town government, recognized during Sandy as being more efficient than many neighboring communities, would be eliminated from the map. But in Ortley Beach, as well as other sections of Toms River, Brick and Berkeley townships, an island community free from their links to lower property values on the mainland would translate into tax bills likely cut in half or more, since the tax ratable base would be balanced with similarly high value properties.

Lavallette officials cast the first stone of opposition at the proposal at the borough’s Feb. 22 council meeting, passing a resolution against enacting the bill.

The resolution states that Gusciora, whose district includes towns in Mercer and Hunterdon counties, should not use the island’s residents as “lab rats for his social experimentation.”

The resolution also took issue with Gusciora’s stated goal of lowering local property taxes, instructing the lawmaker to “concentrate his efforts on other issues such as the restoration of lost state aid, the rising cost of health benefit and pension plans and the wasteful spending of state funds.”

Officials in Lavallette said the last time the bill was proposed, hundreds of residents rallied at a meeting against it.

But for island residents whose tax dollars go to mainland municipalities, the bill could be seen as a saving grace from tax bills that often creep into the five-figure range due to the lopsided tax scale. In Ortley Beach, part of Toms River, the “Free Ortley Beach” movement has simmered for years, with residents once approaching Lavallette about combining the two areas. Lavallette was not interested. Now, South Seaside Park, more than a half-hour away from Berkeley Township, where its tax dollars are sent, is attempting to merge with Seaside Park due to the tax inequity. Over the years, just one attempt to free island communities from their mainland masters has succeeded – with a single block, Bay Beach Way in the North Beach section of Toms River, successfully suing to become part of Lavallette.

Toms River fought hard to keep from losing the block, and would likely put up an even fiercer fight, along with Brick and Berkeley, to keep the barrier island communities, which generally consume few public resources but generate millions of dollars per year in tax revenue. After Toms River’s last revaluation, taxes on the island skyrocketed, leading to thousands of tax appeals to be filed as homeowners scrambled to afford the increase.

Then, there is the question of municipal services.

“The issues, and what needs to get done, on the entire barrier island is far different from the issues and needs on the mainland,” said Paul Jeffrey, president of the Ortley Beach Voters and Taxpayers Association.

For example, he said, Toms River’s fire companies do not respond to Ortley Beach; the township contracts with Seaside Heights.

Though Jeffrey said the community’s relationship with Toms River has become more positive since Sandy struck, high taxes driven by high island property values continue to be an issue weighing on families who are trying to maintain their homes.

“If you could imagine what our taxes would be without the Toms River school assessment, it would be a real shot in the arm,” said Jeffrey, who said the budget woes Toms River could experience could be dealt with at the state level.

Gusciora’s bill has no co-sponsors, no Senate companion bill, and has not been heard by the Assembly State and Local Government Committee, which would have to approve it in order for so much as a chance for it to be voted on in the full assembly. A Senate version would then need to go through the same process, and Gov. Chris Christie would have to sign it into law.

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  • J W

    I support this completely. No incorporated municipality should exist in this state unless it has at least 40-50,000 people. Do the same thing for Camden, Atlantic, Bergen, and Essex counties. The number of tiny boros with 5000 people and independet police, schools, etc just serves to make this a state of tiny feudal kingdoms where local corruption networks can flourish more easily and in small enough numbers that no attention is called to them.

  • Chief Wahoo

    Of course it should be Seaside Township. But the 3 mayors Dufus, The Pope and Meatball would never give up control of all that stolen money just because it’s the correct thing to do. So we all sit around and wait for the collapse to finish off what SuperStorm Sandy tried its best to do and wash away the parasites.

  • Beach N8iv

    If this were such a good idea why is it coming from some gelding whose district includes towns in Mercer and Hunterdon counties? I smell Trenton corruption.

  • Richard Weber

    If Brick lost the tax monies from their Mantoloking and Normandy beach portions, this town would be in dire straights for money in support of the town payroll. A very large percentage of tax revenue comes from out there. Where does that get made up from?

    • Beach N8iv

      Mantoloking is a separate municipality, it isn’t part of Brick.

      • Richard Weber

        i know… i meant the northern end to where #35 splits to 2 lanes. a lot of tax revenue there, plus i agree, be interesting to see what connection that fellow has down these parts/

      • J W

        What exactly do we call that part of Brick though? Just Normandy Beach? I’ve said before that I forget that corner of Brick belongs with the rest of us. And Mantaloking was formerly a part of Brick, as was Bayhead and Point and a few other places back before boroitis and the home rule insanity started.

    • chris Rhu

      maybe they need to trim down their payroll. As you indicated, a very large percentage of tax revenue comes from an area that uses a very small percentage of town resources. Something is not right with that.

    • Barrier Island Owner

      That’s not the problem of barrier island residents that get no services and are unfairly taxed.

      • Spell Check

        They get the beach and the views and the security of legislators giving money to save their beaches. Those properties are not gambles in the housing market unlike brick where it’s like a grenade mine on neighborhoods that may collapse

  • Barrier Island Owner

    As an owner of a property on the barrier island I pay twice as much as others in mainland Toms River. Toms River and Brick use barrier island homes as piggy banks to keep property taxes of mainland properties lower. We get no services from Toms River, their police dont even patrol our streets its outsourced to Brick.

    • Spell Check

      Stop it the town pays to keep that place nice and safe while toms river loses funding and the town is on the brink of collapse with brick.

    • jo jo ormaz

      Thank you for paying for those hundreds of students from all over NJ; who’ve recently been transplanted into Brick, for their Education and picking up the low income/hard working people’s taxes who pay rent in town. Love to see you a town meeting to hear you share your thoughts, in fact, bring your neighbors.”

  • Spell Check

    We gave them all the money from our towns when they are established as their own township they can assume all the debt that incurred from sandy we have paid a bulk of money for this already they can’t build a town on a platform everyone payed for. We have set ourselves up for looming debt in the backs of these homes and they scam to pay nothing to our towns. Crooks helping crooks . Assume every dollar of sandy debt to this fictional town and watch the bill be shredded faster than the kickback check given to the man who wrote the bill was cashed

    • Scott

      Spell check bring it on. If the debt is 6 million hand it over with the keys to the island. I think I could get 100% vote on that.

  • jo jo ormaz

    That would be Great !!! we can see it now – from the borders of Mantoloking to Chadwick Beaches [ Brick Beach I- II- III ]- Say GOOD BYE BRICK !!! and those wonderful homes along Princeton Ave would jump ship… tomorrow!

    Did you think they are going to continue to pay the Taxes for others in this town? they’re already “Dumping at least 12%” – of their millions in to the township. while their children go to Private Schools of tuition of $35K++ a year.? What are they actually getting here in Brick, that they can get somewhere else?
    with their older children off to Villanova, Ithaca or George Washington with tuition over $300K for four years. [ everyone in Brick has those funds right ?] – and we have Whole Foods,Wegmans and Trade Joes here too.. Oh, wait, that’s for “Well established areas”.
    They all have millions of dollars out there. Mostly summer homes and rentals.
    Could you imagine what would happen when they break away and leave? your property taxes would go from $8,500.00 a year to $20,000.00++ a year over night.!!
    Foreclosures everywhere. The destruction of thousands of lives all throughout Brick.”

    ~ “Lakewood City would look like a Utopia in comparison. ” ~

    But let’s get more “Affordable Housing on the Block-Folks” – then look to see who “Owns the development”. More Affordable Homes + More CONDO’s = More Kids in schools systems = Board Of Education requesting Big salaries for more teachers and staff = HIGHER TAXES + Municipal Department will need more funding for more people on those roadways and services – like Snow Plowing – Crews- Parks, “need more parks”
    ( remember this article )
    Take a look around – how many homes are now up for Sale in Brick ?- Look at what’s moving in. Say what you will, until it happens next door to you”
    Has anyone investigated those “Rentals behind Shop Rite?” recently?- there is usually no one there or “They’re “only taking applications”- for the past 2 years.? while they report it as a loss?? but no one is following up with that property? It’s the same old dog fight every time another condo or affordable housing complex comes to Brick. Bs. Bs .Bs. Bs – they keep blaming those from the past.
    Time to call in a local Rabbi to sell off another Block in Brick.” if this article doesn’t escalate people emotions! I can see the people from Sea Brook and Green Briars – pack up and leave over night! they’re seniors – they would be so done!

    • Digger & Anne

      I’m sure NO ONE would mind if all of Green Briar packed up & moved. I’d bet the farm that YOU live there with all of the complaining about taxes for school aged children that you do. Do you elderly people remember when you had children in the school system?? It’s terrible that you would of cared then, but don’t now.

  • jo jo ormaz

    “The issues, and what needs to get done, on the entire barrier island is far different from the issues and needs on the mainland,” said Paul Jeffrey, president of the Ortley Beach Voters and Taxpayers Association.
    ~ This say’s it all,,, It’s quite LOUD and CLEAR !!
    I like the Voters and Taxpayers – part!