Oceanport Mayor Answers Residents' Questions
Mayor Michael Mahon gives the lowdown on downtown redevelopment, the retention basin at Monmouth Park and how maintaining fences can make good neighbors.
The following are answers to questions Patch readers sent in for Oceanport Mayor Michael Mahon as part of our "Ask the Mayor" series.
By Mayor Michael Mahon
One of the first things you learn as mayor is that you don’t know everything. The advice I’ve always received is, “If you don’t know, just say so … then go to the people that can provide the answers for you.” In this case, that’s just what I’ve done and it’s important that I recognize those folks helping to respond to these questions. First is Jeanne Smith. Jeanne is our Deputy Borough Clerk and Planning Board Secretary and was able to provide information firsthand or gathered the information from other resources in the borough. As each question is addressed, I’ll credit the individuals that contributed.
1. What’s happening with our downtown? Are there still plans to revamp that tired strip mall or will they be pre-empted by the eventual plan for a town center on fort property on Oceanport Avenue?
The downtown (East Main Street from Port Au Peck Avenue to Old Wharf Park) is showing signs of activity after a long delay. The closing of Fort Monmouth and the national recession have had significant impacts on development. The Village Center developer has posted cash guarantee, inspection fees and performance bond, which was reviewed and approved, locally and from Monmouth County. Building permits are ready to be issued as soon as a code variation and off-site improvements are worked out.
Concerning the existing strip mall (Oceanport Plaza), we would encourage the owners to take advantage of activity at the fort and Monmouth Park as the local economy improves and redevelopment opportunities stimulate investment in their property. The street-scaping along East Main Street represents investments already put forth by the borough that will complement any improvements to the Village Center complex. Our planning board is amending the Master Plan encompassing the Monmouth Park property anticipating the potential for development at that site to ensure it complements the current business district.
The fort plan for a commercial/retail district along Oceanport Avenue is a concept that will take shape as FMERA considers a variety of options bouncing around. Whether it’s a university tech park, a mixed residential district or sticks with the FMERPA plan, remains to be seen. Until a Phase 2 transfer of the fort property to the redevelop authority is negotiated, the pace continues slowly.
*Credits: Jeanne Smith, John Bennett (attorney), B. White (engineer), Sal Massaro (construction Official)
2. Is there an update on progress at Monmouth Park retention basin project? July 26 will be six years since "Danger Polluted Water — Avoid Contact" signs were put up along Branchport Creek on the Long Branch side. Is the retention basin project completed or near completion? Will creek pollution ever be resolved?
The Storm Water Management Project was completed this spring under an engineering contract issued by the NJ Sports & Exposition Authority (NJSEA) several years ago and financed through bonds ($23 million) issued by the Borough of Oceanport through the NJ Environmental Infrastructure Trust Fund. In May, the original consent order issued by the DEP was lifted. The Borough of Oceanport participated in a “walk through” on July 16 represented by members of our Water Watch Committee, Environmental Commission, council member Ellynn Kahle and Borough Attorney John Bennett. The NJSEA makes payments annually to satisfy the $23.2 million dollar loan. The project was designed to eliminate contaminates from the run off at Monmouth Park from entering Branchport Creek.
The decades-old problem was noticeable to the naked eye when the “first flush” during a rain event caused a “bypass” to occur sending untreated storm water, normally headed to the sewer plant, directly into the creek. The Oceanport Water Watch Committee’s testing program documented the seasonal spikes in the waterways surrounding the borough over several decades. Recent data points to the positive effects the completed project is already contributing to. Testing sites before the track (Turtle Mews Creek) remain elevated while those after the track (OP Landing, Itaska, PB Marina) show reduced levels. Dr. Kaloss and the Water Watch Committee just completed July sampling this week and results will be available soon. The elevated test levels prior to the track will likely direct our attention further upstream as Oceanport and our neighbors across the shore pursue clean waterways and a safe environment now and in the future. While we have every confidence the project will keep Branchport Creek clean; rest assured that a watchful eye and regular testing will continue.
*Credits: Ellynn Kahle, Jeanne Smith, Dr. Kaloss, OP Water Watch Committee
3. What are the rules governing fencing between neighbors? What are the laws/rules for this? We had a wooden fence for 12 years that we installed when we moved in and the neighbors don't care that their ivy and weeds grow against their side, but also grow through to our side and come over the top, to our side, and ruin the structure of the fence. We let it go with the old fence, but we installed a new fence last fall and now their weeds and ivy are doing it again. What recourse do we have to kill the weeds/ivy on their side that is growing onto our fence that is on OUR property? It is unsightly and will breakdown the fence. Fences are expensive and the other neighbors that our fence has common ground with don't do this.
In general, neighbors are able to take action on their own and cut back encroaching limbs, vegetation, etc. as it crosses their property lines. Regarding this issue specifically, it would be a property maintenance issue. Our local ordinance addresses these as public nuisances including vegetation, obnoxious growth, etc. to be maintained or removed. However, it does not define responsible parties for the maintenance of fences on private property.
Each situation is different depending on the location of the fence and current or potential impact. Because the subject vegetation is actually growing on the fence and eventually will cause deterioration of the fence, as ivy is known to do, I suspect our ordinance could be enforced for this situation. Most of these situations are resolved by the neighbors communicating and cooperating in the maintenance and appearance of their respective properties, maintaining the appearance of their neighborhood and simply being good neighbors; something the community of Oceanport takes great pride in! When all else fails, a call to borough hall will prompt a site visit and follow up with the responsible neighbor to help resolve the problem.
*Credit: Jeanne Smith