Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Strathmere citizens group votes to sever link with Upper

Strathmere citizens group votes to sever link with Upper
From The Press of Atlantic City

By JOHN MARTINS Staff Writer, (856) 794-5114
Published: Monday, May 14, 2007

UPPER TOWNSHIP — A citizens group from this sprawling township's seaside village of Strathmere announced Saturday that it will be taking steps to sever the small community of about 200 people from its parent and join another nearby municipality.
Members of the Strathmere Taxpayers Association, which formed in early 2006 to contest a revaluation of property assessments, voted unanimously to refocus the group's energy toward what it is calling “de-annexation.” According to group spokesman and school board member Randy Roash, the idea to split from its mainland neighbor is an old one.

“The (revaluation) gave it some momentum, but it's something that's been discussed for about two decades,” he said.
Upper Township Mayor Richard Palombo said the township will do whatever it takes to keep Strathmere under its stewardship.
“We have been fair and equitable to Strathmere,” he said, “and we'll take fair measures to make sure that Strathmere stays a part of Upper Township.”

The township-wide property revaluation, which concluded about 18 months ago, was first reflected in local property-tax bills received in January 2006. The increase, Roash said, was as high as 800 percent for some properties.
The tax hike has caused some residents to no longer be able to afford their homes, and Roash said that a number of Strathmere's senior citizens have been forced to put their homes up for sale.

“Some of them are up against the wall,” Roash said. “The response has been, ‘If you don't like it, then leave,' and we don't buy that.”

Palombo said properties in Strathmere were assessed at a value between $200,000 and $400,000 while the standard price for a vacant lot in the village could sell for more than $800,000.
Palombo said he felt compassion for residents who can no longer afford their homes, but he said the county requires gross discrepancies between assessed and market values to be corrected.
“It just doesn't work that way,” he said.

Under a new name — Citizens for Strathmere and Whale Beach — the group will now focus on collecting signatures for its effort, which Roash said requires at least 60 percent of the population.
Roash was careful Saturday to express that the Strathmere citizens' displeasure is not directed at either the town or any of its officials.
He said Strathmere's property tax woes are the result of a statewide taxing system that he said is broken.
When asked what nearby town Strathmere residents would prefer to join, Roash declined comment.

The village occupies less than 1 square mile at the northern end of Ludlow Island, which is separated from mainland Upper by the approximately 5-mile expanse of Ludlow Bay. The remaining portion of Ludlow Island is occupied by Sea Isle City.

Sea Isle City Mayor Len Desiderio said Saturday that he has not had any conversations with the Strathmere group.
“As far as I'm concerned, they're part of Upper Township,” he said.

For Strathmere residents, who make up less than 2 percent of the entire township's population, the sentiment in regard to the association with Upper is that the relationship has not been entirely equitable.

Roash said residents are concerned about public safety, emergency management and infrastructural issues.
“Our concerns here aren't the most frequently discussed,” he added.

Palombo, however, strongly disagreed. He acknowledged that the village may have been neglected in years past, but the township, he said, has been very responsive to Strathmere's needs since he was elected mayor eight years ago.
“Strathmere is not neglected,” Palombo said, adding that it is one of seven distinct communities that make up the 64-square-mile township. “We've already accrued a half-million dollars to do a beach-replenishment program, we repair the sewer. It's almost to the point that every time you turn around, they want more.”

Aside from financial or municipal concerns, Roash said Strathmere residents have also felt culturally at odds with their mainland neighbors.
“One of the things that comes to mind on a regular basis is cultural compatibility,” he said. “We're a barrier island community. Culturally, our concerns are different from a mainland community.”


Anonymous said...

What sewer is he talking about? We don't have sewers.

Anonymous said...

Yes, apparently the mayor doesn't know much about Strathmere.