There’s a concept among environmentalists described as “leave a soft footprint”. When we interact with nature we always affect it. The simple concept here is that it is better to minimize the human impact.
Here in Money Island we have strived for decades to build bigger, stronger and heavier to achieve sustainability. That hasn’t worked out well. Nature always proved more powerful.
Now the approach is “soft footprint”. Mobile tools and machinery. RVs, campers, and tents instead of buildings. Floating movable structures. Temporarily moored boats instead of hard docks. Boats on trailers instead of always remaining in the water. Lightweight, portable and replaceable.
The transition is already underway and may take years to complete the transformation. But the end result will be a more gentle relationship between humans and nature.
I spoke with the mayor when he called this week during storm cleanup and while I’m glad to hear from him, I was concerned with the amount of misinformation in the conversation. Today I followed up with this note:
“It was good to hear from you last week and I know you have your hands full lately after this recent storm. I’m glad to hear that there are still possibilities open for the township to be involved in redevelopment at Money Island. I am pleased to work with you on plans for Money Island but am concerned that you have received some misinformation on a number of issues listed below:
LEGAL STATUS First, the state dropped all complaints against me and Baysave on June 24, 2020. I then paid off all the tax liens for the dry lots. That was the plan as proposed more than two years ago when Dr. Mahaney was handling government negotiations for us. So far, so good – that part is working out as planned. Even if nothing else happens, the future of Money Island is financially secure.
LIENS FOR PREVIOUS UNPERMITTED DEVELOPMENT Second, all violations and liens remain on all the affected former marina properties covered under the scope of the township’s ordinance authorizing acquisition. You may recall several months ago that I passed on a request from the Attorney General’s Office that the township acknowledge that fact. You did not respond to that request except to tell me that it must be a “two-way negotiation”. I’m not involved in that negotiation and it does not concern me. Baysave continues to work on addressing these permitting and land use issues for the dry lots only. The cost of compliance exceeds the property value, but I am still willing to raise the funds for this cause. In general, we see a future of undeveloped land that does not require permits or redevelopment.
RESPONSIBILITIES OF FUTURE OWNERS Third, the Attorney General states their intention to resume litigation against the future owners. They refer to the Township and the former owners because the Attorney General apparently sees the lax former permitting enforcement and the Mauros as more directly culpable in the land use and permitting violations that may exist today. That is not my opinion, but rather the opinion of the Attorney General’s office as stated in Superior Court. It is my opinion that the Township did a disservice to itself by passing an ordinance to acquire the former marina properties. That makes you (the Township) a potential target of future state litigation.
MORTGAGE UNENFORCEABLE Fourth, Superior Court has already made a finding or fact that the Mauro’s mortgage is not secured by a note (a debt). That fact was also confirmed by the local attorney, a former marina client, who drafted the deliberately faulty mortgage document. In other words, there is no way that the Mauro heirs can foreclose now; the document was specifically designed by the makers to prevent that. It’s not a matter of getting a better lawyer to represent them as you suggested. Any further attempt at legal action on this previously settled legal matter would be met with my counterclaim for a frivolous action. The point is that you should not waste your time scheming with the Mauros. They will not play any significant role in the future here. If you want to plan for the future of Money Island, then you should be speaking with me.
REMAINING TAX LIENS Fifth, the Mauro heirs would be best advised to focus on the best course of action for the ten remaining tax liens on mostly submerged properties. I’ve offered to pay off the tax liens either now or at a future date even though there is no financial reason to do so. I know that the Attorney General will not sue me again if I continue to work through Baysave for resolution to open issues. The Mauros could foreclose on the liens for ten below-water properties but that would likely net them less than negotiating a settlement to relieve themselves of pending liabilities on the properties.
DREDGING Sixth, our understanding is that it is too late to exert influence on the dredging process in Nantuxent Creek. I agreed to delegate the activism responsibility on that project to the oystermen at least two years ago. I understand that Steve and others negotiated in good faith and worked out the best plan that was available under the circumstances and that the matter is now closed; that dredging materials will not go to Money Island. If that changes, I am open to getting involved in lobbying for a different outcome.
BLUE ACRES Seventh, there is no active negotiation with the state about acquisition of additional properties at Money Island. I last spoke with state Blue Acres officials several years ago. Again, I’m not opposed to it, just saying that the rumor you heard was false.
POSSIBLITY OF NO REDEVELOPMENT Finally, I do not necessarily agree that it is essential that Money Island former marina properties be commercially redeveloped. I believe they can serve as undeveloped space and that is what I see as a practical matter. My current plan is to keep the dry lots for a part-time personal residence. Some of the other private property owners here at Money Island have reached the same conclusion. All of the existing and proposed business plans here do not depend on redevelopment or the issuance of additional government permitting. While I am open to that possibility of redevelopment, it is not a required part of the plan for the future of Money Island properties. I’ve taken a “believe it when I see it” approach toward redevelopment here but am willing to join and financially support a community effort that seems reasonably possible.
I look forward to working with you on the future of Money Island and our township in whatever direction it may evolve. I’m grateful for the dedication and service that you have made to our township. I just hope that by setting the facts straight we can avoid any more missteps from misinformation”.
Edit: Shortly after the publication of this blog post the New Jersey bayshore was struck by tropical storm Isaias in early August 2020 that did more dollar damage than any other storm and wiped out 3 of the remaining 12 homes at Money Island. The storm brought unprecedented waves exceeding ten feet directly on the properties on the western creek bank that caused substantial damage to Baysave managed properties.
Storms are an important part of the New Jersey story, but not something that we’ve talked about much lately. In fact, its been a year since the last edition of “Great Storms of the Jersey Shore” with no need for updates. I recently purchased a read a book specifically about the tidal wave that hit the bayshore region back in 1950. The accounts of our history invariably center around the life-changing effects of storms.
“The reality is, according to numerous scientific studies, these types of storms are already becoming much more frequent and with greater intensity, due to rising global temperatures and climate change, and will continue on this pattern. In fact, one study determined the heaviest 1 percent of rain events in the Northeast region of the United States have increased by 42 percent since the 1950s.” – Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla in a statement following the city’s flooding last month.
In other words, normal weather events and minor storms will cause more damage in the future than in the past. These are not headline events, but powerful subtle forces at work.
This past year has been unusually calm; NJ weather seldom made the news. Unusually powerful weather events have not affected too many of us lately. This can lull us into a sense of complacency. But east coast shore towns are still facing more frequent flooding and other storm effects will return for the rest of us.
Here in our town of Money Island on the Delaware Bay, routine tidal flow – and not so much storm effect – is now causing more damage as the moving water carries more energy to higher levels. We will certainly see more destruction of infrastructure ahead as community rebuilding with new wet-flood-proof technologies does not keep pace with ongoing erosion.