Belmar Council voted to label the entire borough an area in need of rehabilitation, a term that would eventually allow tax abatements for commercial and residential property, officials said.
The designation required the explanation of special counsel for Belmar, who explained the label "area in need of rehabilitation" would allow taxpayers to seek tax abatements when they complete improvements on their property.
Mayor Matt Doherty said Belmar was moving forward with this label to help taxpayers impacted by Hurricane Sandy, who may have seen widespread damage to the older homes in Belmar and are now decided if its the time to not just repair but improve their property.
"A lot of homes in Belmar are very old...as they do repairs maybe they decide it's time to improve a roof, add an addition or otherwise make an improvement," Doherty said. "This 'rehabilitation' allows for a tax abatement once the improvement is completed."
The designation is defined by state statute and the Department of Community Affairs, and several residents had questions on the impact of saying the whole town was in need of rehabilitation. Some definition was needed on what exactly an improvement was, versus making a repair. Others wanted to know what happened after the five year abatement, or if other periods less than five years would be decided.
Still other residents were skeptical the designation would somehow pave the way for condemnation of properties and eminent domain. The mayor and special counsel said the process didn't involve such an intrusion on property rights, and that Belmar actually hasn't equipped its administration with the power to take private property through eminent domain.
"We don't have the power to take your property," Doherty said. "This is not allowed in Belmar nor should it be."
Ocean Avenue "Area of Redevelopment"
A second designation at this week's council meeting labeled Ocean Avenue a redevelopment area.
Specifically, the property involved is all the borough's, from the ocean to the Ocean Avenue curb.
"No private property is involved in this," Doherty said.
The main motivation behind the redevelopment area is to open the borough up to the possibility of allowing a private developer to come up with plans for rebuilding the oceanfront, Doherty said.
In order to explore that possibility, one of the steps is to have council proclaim an area in need of redevelopment.
The resolution allows the Belmar Planning Board to conduct an investigation and determine whether the area within the Borough bordered to the north by the northern edge of the roadbed of Second Avenue; to the south by Lake Como; to the east by the Atlantic Ocean; and to the west by the westerly edge of the roadbed of Ocean Avenue is in need of redevelopment.