Category Archives: Lincroft NJ

>Crime Scene Middletown: Car Thief Caught In The Act

>PREPARED BY DETECTIVE LIEUTENANT STEPHEN DOLLINGER

On June 29, 2011 at approximately 6:10 am Patrolman Felipe Benedit and Patrolman Anthony Gigante responded to the area of Antonia Court in reference to a report of a car burglary in progress. Patrol officers were advised that a home owner was currently involved in a struggle with the suspect.

Patrolman Benedit arrived on scene and engaged in a foot pursuit with the actor, identified as Matthew Drury, age 25, from Emory Drive in Lincroft, NJ, who had broken away from the home owner. Officer Benedit and Officer Gigante were able to apprehend Drury and take him into custody. Police say the home owner was awoken by his dog barking and observed Drury inside his neighbor’s car. The homeowner then confronted Drury and tried to detain him for the police.

Drury was charged with four counts of Burglary, Simple Assault, Receiving Stolen Property, Resisting Arrest, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, and Unlawful Possession of Prescription Medication. Drury was found in possession of Xanax and Soboxin at the time of his arrest. He was being held on $52,000.00 bail with no 10% option set by Judge Thompson. Police are investigating whether Drury may be connected to other car burglaries in the area.

** This information was supplied by the Middletown Township Police Department. It does not indicate convictions.

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Filed under burglary, car theft, Crime Scene Middletown, drug possession, Lincroft NJ, Middletown Police, simple assalt

>After A Rash Of Criminal Mischief At Middletown Parks Police Are Asking Residents For Information

>I have received the following request from Middletown Deputy Police Chief Craig Weber, asking residents for information regarding a rash of vandalism at neighborhood parks around town. Any information that can be provided would be greatly appreciated:

Middletown Police report that a number of Parks and Recreation facilities have been damaged and vandalized during the past week. Among the damaged facilities were two baseball fields at Middletown Thompson Park including the Challenger Youth baseball field, which is intended for the use of athletes with special needs. Middletown Thompson Park is located on Newman Springs Road in Lincroft. Newly-sodded soccer fields at the Fairview Soccer Fields on Oak Hill Rd. were extensively damaged by unknown persons joy riding on the fields. Baseball and softball fields at Normandy Park on Nut Swamp Rd., and Applebrook Park on Iler Drive, were also damaged by unknown vehicles being driven on the fields. In addition, a portable outdoor bathroom located at Lincroft Acres Park on Orchard Hill Drive, Lincroft was damaged after it was intentionally struck by a vehicle and knocked over. A park bench, concrete steps and hand railing in Tindall Park, Tindall Road have also been destroyed.

Parks in Middletown are generally closed to the public at dusk, unless permission is obtained from the Parks and Recreation Dept. or the facility is lighted and specifically designated for after hour use. Police are asking citizens to call and report any suspicious activities or incidents of people misusing or damaging Township Parks and Recreation facilities or property. The Middletown Policemen’s Benevolent Association is offering a reward of $ 500 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for damaging the Parks. Call 732-615-2100.

Deputy Chief R. Craig Weber
Technical Services Division
Middletown Township Police Dept
1 Kings Highway
Middletown, NJ 07748
office 732-615-2054
fax 732-615-2051
email cweber@middletownnj.org

(Tindal Park Steps)

(Thompson Park)

(Normandy Park)

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Filed under Criminal Mischief, Fairview Soccer Fields, Lincroft NJ, Middletown Parks and Recreation, Middletown Police, Normandy Park, Oak Hill, park vandalism, Thompson Park, Tindall Park

>What You Missed at the Middletown Library Board’s June 15th Meeting

>by guest blogger Linda Baum

It was just me again Wednesday night, a little discouraged that more people didn’t show up to support the library. Anyway, here’s what you missed in those 3 hours.

First, an update on the $500K transfer. Scheduled for this meeting was final review of the strategic plan and annual report to be submitted to the State Librarian, plus a required second vote by the Board as to whether or not to proceed with the transfer.

The Board’s review of the budget forecast began with Ms. O’Neal pointing out the obvious, that library funding would be painfully low for years to come. Ms. Miloscia asked, since they would be giving up a lot, if the town would recognize that gesture in the future when the library needs assistance as well. Initially, this struck me as a silly question because I think the town committee has made it clear in which direction they expect money to flow. But it has since occurred to me the Board has a perfect right to know what the arrangement with the town will be. Committeeman Settembrino gave a well rehearsed response free of promises. He said that he didn’t see why not, but mentioned non-starters like the tax cap and the changing leadership on the committee (which will still be republican-controlled next year, by the way). And as evidence of the town’s concern for the library, he pointed out that the town’s 2012 capital improvement plan already includes them (under this plan, the town issues the debt and the library pays the debt service). Ms. O’Neal asked if the Board would be forced to proceed, and she may have meant proceed with the lot construction, the funding arrangement, or both. No to all. The Board has the option to pay cash outright for the work, which presumably would allow them to make their own arrangements except for having to use T&M as engineer. Ms. Miloscia asked, “What if we don’t have the money to pay for it?” Kevin replied, “[That] will be a discussion for next year’s committee, but at this point I would say it doesn’t get accomplished unless it’s funded in accordance with the resolution.” Translation: The Board has 2 options, to make payments on the debt or pay cash for the work, but they should not expect the town to pay for it. For now, the parking lot expansion is a dead issue.

If you read my last post, you know that at the May Board meeting, Ms. O’Neal mentioned that the Board had not been satisfied with prior work done by T&M, who has been sanctioned by the town committee as the one-and-only engineer for all library capital improvements. I asked about that – i.e., what work was done by T&M and when was it done? Only Ms. O’Neal and Mr. Gabrielan spoke and they declined to discuss it, saying it was long ago and they have been assured that T&M would do a fine job. Needless to say, everyone seemed acutely aware that Committeeman Settembrino was in the room. Susan glanced often in his direction as she spoke. Unfortunately, I couldn’t see what kind of looks were being exchanged because my view of Kevin was blocked by the sound equipment.

Review of the Board’s strategic goals led to a discussion about the library in Charlotte, North Carolina, which was at one time among the best funded professional-level libraries in the country, but which had to close branches following a loss of funding and the leadership of its long-time director.

The plight of the Charlotte Library demonstrates why improving library volunteerism is an important goal. Public advocacy – our time and our money – becomes increasingly important when political advocacy and funding fall short. Got some free time? Or college-bound and looking for community service credit? Contact your local library.

The strategic plan and annual report were unanimously adopted by a vote of 7-0 (Resolution 2011-32).

When it came time to vote on the transfer itself (Resolution 2011-33), only Board president Randy Gabrielan took the opportunity to condemn the self-serving, deceptive tactics used by the town committee and to voice his frustration with his fellow trustees. It deserves repeat here:

“We saw the evolving fiscal condition of the library in March and it is here in clear black and white in the strategic plan. We would be imperiling the fiscal well being of this library over the next couple of years if we gave this money away. As far as I personally am concerned, the giveaway is tantamount to the township committee declaring war on its own library. The whole process as I see it is one of the mayor seeking to fulfill his short term political goals, the mayor and the committee not having done what they could have done with respect to cap exceptions and an exemption to meet their budgetary requirements, and they are putting their obligations on us. They did it by various threats, including holding hostage police jobs. Then after we passed our preliminary resolution in March, they’re going to other meetings still holding the same jobs at risk. I was against this in March. I’m against it now. I would have strongly counseled that we rescind our prior passage and vote this down, but unfortunately on the advice of counsel, it seems that our hands are tied. …but I insist that if we as a body don’t recognize what this is doing to the financial well being of the library, that at least the record demonstrates that.”

There was a full 15 seconds of silence after that. It felt like a memorial.

“It’s too much water under the bridge at this point to undo what’s been done.…This Board made a commitment to the township to do this,” said Mr. Milne. There was tacit agreement, and a roomful of downcast eyes. After hearing from Ms. O’Neal that even the Board’s lawyers thought that the Board did not have good legal standing at this point to back off, it was clear that the pending vote was little more than a formality. Resolution 2011-33 passed 6-1, with only Mr. Gabrielan dissenting.

I have to wonder if the town committee knew early on that the effect of railroading the Library Board into what was initially billed as non-binding negotiation would be to obligate them legally. Think back to the February Board meeting when Committeeman Settembrino pressed for a resolution to arrive at a number. The Board passed that resolution because they thought there was no harm in talking….

So now the matter will be passed along to the State Librarian, Norma Blake, for review. I heard somewhere that it could take up to 45 days for her decision. That doesn’t jive with the town committee’s plan to finalize their 2011 budget in early July. I asked Committeeman Settembrino how they expected to do that if the State Librarian hadn’t yet approved the transfer. The Board agreed with his assessment that all the documents were in order and that a quick response was expected from the State. Unfortunately, in line with regulations, the State Librarian reviews only the current year’s finances. Thus it is expected that the library’s budget shortfall for subsequent years will be ignored.

I asked Mr. Settembrino how the town would plug the $500K budget hole in the unlikely event the transfer was disapproved. He replied that the library board meeting wasn’t the right forum for that discussion, but he did clarify that the 2.99% tax hike (he said 2.99, not 2.9) reflects the 2% maximum increase within the cap.

Other business discussed at the meeting is as follows:

There was a slideshow presented by Dennis Kowal Architects, who recently completed a feasibility study for the renovation of the Lincroft branch, originally a 2-room schoolhouse built in 1906. The presentation was so packed with photos and sketches that if you’ve never been to the Lincroft branch, you’ll feel like you have. You can view the slideshow by clicking HERE

The good news is that the original structure is sound and can therefore be renovated. There is also ample parking since an overflow lot was added not long back. The renovation would include lots of energy efficiency upgrades while retaining existing wood floors and original hardware. A drawing of the architect’s proposed design is attached to this post. It includes a charming outdoor plaza-lounge created by sandwiching the front walkway between an existing structure and a new addition that would house new ADA-compliant bathrooms and an entry foyer. There is also a magazine lounge, a quiet study area, a contained children’s room (draft-free and no more runaways), and a fireside reading area complete with a gas-burning fireplace. If you live in Lincroft, you are probably filled with a sense of longing right now.

The project would cost roughly $650,000, not including new furniture, security and communication systems, architectural fees, or renovation to the basement storage area (filled with old municipal and police records). Add it all up, and the project budget would need to be in the range of $800 to $900K. And a caveat that the final design could change based on location of underground lines (the architect could not obtain a copy of the property survey).

The renovation probably won’t happen anytime soon because library funds are low for reasons we are all well aware of. The project might qualify for a matching New Jersey Historic Trust grant, but there is stiff competition for these grants, and Mr. Gabrielan, who is town historian in addition to being Library Board president, feels that the chance of getting the grant is slim. No decision has been made yet about how to proceed. The topic is slated for further discussion next month.

Ms. Cavalier asked if they knew how much financial support could be expected from the community. Susan said that $713K was donated for the 2004 renovation of the main branch, but only a small part of that was from Lincroft residents, who may be much more inclined to help fund their local branch. So be on the lookout for fundraisers!

If you are concerned about donating for fear your dollars will end up in the hands of the town, don’t worry. The Board was very clear that Library Foundation money is protected and is not part of the $500K transfer.

You may recall from a prior post that the Lincroft branch has termite damage in the entryway and is believed to have asbestos in the walls as well as lead-based paint. The architect didn’t test for hazardous materials and cautioned the board that if testing for hazmats is done, there is a legal requirement to remediate in line with test results. Susan advised that all paintable surfaces in the Lincroft branch were painted with latex paint in the last decade, so the lead-based paint poses no immediate concern. As for the termites, damage is supposedly concentrated in trim moulding rather than structural beams. The Board opted to wait and address these issues as part of the renovation.

Congratulations to Library Director Susan O’Neal, who is the NJ Library Association’s president-elect for coming fiscal year. “This is both a high honor and an awesome responsibility,” to quote Mr. Gabrielan. Susan’s name will be engraved on one of the silver-toned pages of a book-shaped locket to mark her achievement. The locket, a heavy piece made of gold and faience (tin-glazed ceramic), is the badge of office for NJLA presidents. Susan noted that the locket is actually too heavy to comfortably wear and reasoned that it was designed for a time when ladies wore much heavier clothing. A picture and history of the locket may soon appear on the library’s website.

In accordance with the Conover Whitol Scholarship guidelines, two graduate students enrolled in Rutgers’ library science program will receive $900 each toward the September term. Congratulations to recipients Debra Bodofsky and Elizabeth Edwards. (Resolution 2011-34, 7-0)

The Library welcomes back college student Stephanie Chadwick, who worked at the library last summer and is being re-hired part time for this year’s busy summer season. As a trained page, she is a valuable addition who can “hit the ground running”. (Resolution 2011-31, 7-0)

There was a first-time-ever theft of petty cash recently from the library’s Bayshore branch. The thief scored a negligible amount, and a lock-box will be added to deter future attempts. Yet another sign of the times.

Another topic concerned bill payments that have been held up by town administrator Tony Mercantante. In one instance, the requisition was for the payment of registration fees for a June conference that would provide training for five library assistants at a cost of $100 per person. The payment delay resulted in the registration deadline being missed, so the individuals couldn’t attend and will have to wait a year for the next conference. In another case, payment was denied for food expenses as part of conference attendance by a member of the library’s IT staff. Tony said the town doesn’t reimburse for food. However, the Library does. The Board felt this was unwarranted interference with Library operations. Mr. Gabrielan pointed out that the costs in question are normal outlays for staff development, benefit the library, and have been approved and budgeted for by the Board. Ms. Cavalier wondered if the problem was just ignorance (her word, not mine) on the part of the administrator.

In an effort to address the delays, Susan has contacted Mr. Mercantante, who feels he is within his authority. About a year ago, per Susan, Tony began asking for a written explanation for requisitions over $1000, but Susan said that the voucher, which is attached to the requisition, already lists that information, so to write it again is a duplication of effort for her. She said, “Anything over $1000 he sits on.” Part of the problem, Susan said, is that no one from the town contacts her when there is a question about an expense, so it doesn’t get addressed until she calls the town after there has already been a long delay. She’s wondered if maybe the slowness has to do with cash flow……

This was all news to Kevin, who said he’d look into it.

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Filed under ADA compliance, Board of Trustees, budget surplus, Lincroft branch, Lincroft NJ, Linda Baum, Middletown Library Feasibility study, Middletown NJ, restricted funds, slideshow, Susan O'Neal

>Middletown Update and Background Proposed Four Ponds Development Plan

>At the behest of the Township Committee, Township Administrator Tony Mercantante, posted the following letter the Middletown Township website late yesterday, the letter is an attempt to give some background information behind the history of the rezoning of the Avaya property in Lincroft that is a hot-button issue in town and ready to explode. At least three separate citizens groups are now involved and on record as being opposed to the project.

What this letter doesn’t tell residents about is how, much like the infamous “Town Center” project, the Township went to Torsevias (the owners of the property) and pitched this idea to them. The township would never have been able to rezone this property if the owners weren’t on board with it. Promises were made and palms were greased in some way to make this happen, now the Township needs to backpedal before it’s too late.

Unfortunately it may be too late for that already, money has been spent already on the project by the owners, they would want so type of reimbursement for there troubles i’m sure, which will tie this project up in the courts for years at a cost of millions of dollars to the tax payers of Middletown if it doesn’t go through.

And as usual, the Township is blaming Democrats in Trenton for inaction on the issue of COAH. They wont dare point a finger at the Governor for vetoing the COAH bill that was past by the assembly last year. If COAH was on the top of the Governor’s priority list, he would be taking the lead on this issue like he has been while bashing teachers and unions.

But don’t confuse the issues of COAH and this project, the opposition to this redevelopment is not COAH based as the Township wants you to believe. The opposition is opposed to the project based on quality of life issues and concerns such as infrastructure, traffic and the effects of having many more students enroll in area schools.

Dear Residents:

The Township Committee has asked that I provide a summary of the circumstances surrounding the proposed Four Ponds Development Plan at the former Avaya property, which is part of the Township’s state-mandated Council On Affordable Housing (“COAH”) housing plan.

The Township Committee has many concerns about this proposed project, which is why the Township is currently litigating the COAH’s revised third round rules before the New Jersey Supreme Court. Not only has the Township joined in the League of Municipality’s lawsuit, but the Township also filed its own lawsuit, which was just recently accepted by the Supreme Court. It is unclear, however, when this case will be heard, which could be anywhere from 6 months to a year, or more, from now. In the meantime, the Township is still subject to COAH’s rules, as they existed three years ago.

It is the Township’s belief that we should not be punished by these rules since, we believe there are plenty of affordable housing units, including rental units available throughout the Township. This fact is largely the basis of our legal position. Further, the Township does not have a history of exclusionary zoning that would be in violation of the original Mount Laurel doctrine. Unfortunately, this legal doctrine has evolved into something it was never intended to be, which essentially hands control of much of our zoning over to developers and in some cases the courts.

Making matters worse, the Appellate Court recently invalidated a large portion of the revised third round COAH rules that gave the Township a variety bonus credits for past performance and for allowing the creation of affordable rental housing. Without these extra credits and other mechanisms thrown out by the Court, the Township’s affordable housing obligation could grow significantly higher than it already is. Fortunately, the Township sought and secured a stay from both COAH and the Supreme Court of the Appellate Court’s ruling on this matter. Now, the Supreme Court will decide the ultimate merits of this issue, but the outcome is far from certain, which is why the Township has actively been seeking legislative action that has not been forthcoming. The legislation that has been proposed so far, in most cases would be a giant step backwards, making matters far worse. Fortunately the Governor vetoed the bill that was actually passed by the legislature since it would have increased the Township’s affordable housing obligation possibly two-fold.

As a result, the Township has been forced to zone a number of properties in a way that it would not have otherwise, only to satisfy COAH’s requirements. It is also critical in order to stem what are known as Builder’s Remedy lawsuits, which essentially strip away any local control and allows the courts to order the approval of housing developments. In fact, the Township is currently subject to a challenge by the owners of the Bamm Hollow Country Club. Specifically, since challenging our plans, they have been seeking to construct 1,200 multi-family dwellings that would include at least 240 COAH units upon their 277-acre property. They also have an application pending for 50 homes which the property is currently zoned for, which is also not actively being pursued. That application will not make this litigation go away as they are continuing to seek a development many times that size. We are currently seeking a stay before the Appellate Court in this matter in an effort to try to resolve it through sound planning without facing the prospect of 1,200 more units of housing in Lincroft. The reality of the situation is that if the Avaya property had not been zoned to allow for the development of residential housing two years ago, Bamm Hollow would likely be building 1,200 court-ordered units on its property by now.

These are the unfortunate realities currently faced by the Township until the Legislature or the Courts act appropriately to eliminate these irrational mandates that do nothing but promote poor planning and development while wasting hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars. I would note, however, that the Avaya property is still also zoned to allow for commercial development, so the Township is not impeding that from taking place should market conditions allow for it. Further, the Township has been encouraging businesses to move into the site along with seeking economic development assistance for prospective tenants from the state.

Simply put, due to legislative inaction, the Township was left with no option but to include Avaya property as part of its housing plan three years ago to allow for residential development. The reality is that the alternative would be far worse for Lincroft and the Township as a whole. We would like to encourage all residents, as many of you have in the past, to write and call Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver who should be held accountable along with the entire State Legislature for failing to act on the Governor’s proposed COAH reforms. With those reforms, there is at least a chance that this project may not have advanced to this point.

Sincerely,
Anthony P. Mercantante, P.P. AICP
Township Administrator

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Filed under Avaya, Bam Hollow, COAH, Gov. Chris Christie, Lincroft NJ, lincroft village green association, LVGA, Middletown Township Committee, Sonic, Tony Mercantante, Torsevia, Towns Center, Trenton

>APP: Middletown board hears controversial housing plan

>The Asbury Park Press this morning has a good write up on last night’s Middletown Planning Board meeting with some additional background information that pertains to the Bam Hollow development and how 1200 housing units were originally scheduled to be built there.

The article was written by Kevin Penton and is a pretty accurate description of what went on durning the discussion of the Avaya redevelopment hearing last night.

You can also checkout the raw video from last night’s Middletown Planning Board meeting that I have posted in the previous post.

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Filed under Asbury Park Press, Avaya, Bam Hollow, kevin penton, Lincroft NJ, Middletown NJ, Raw Video

>Raw Video: Middletown Planning Board Discusses Avaya Re-Development

>For those that were unable to attend the Middletown Planning Board meeting last night don’t fret, I took a few picture and shot an hour’s worth of video from the proceeding.

The meeting started at 6:30 pm but because of old business before the planning board, the discussions concerning the Avaya redevelopment project didn’t start until 7:25 pm and lasted only an hour. It was explained that further meetings would be needed in front of the planning board over the course of the next few months before any decisions concerning the site would be made.
I would say that there were easily 250 or more Lincroft area residents in attendance for this initial site presentation. Unfortunately none were afforded an opportunity to speak their minds about it because no public comments on the project were allowed at this time. It was stated that after all testimony before the planning board was given, lawyers for various community groups would be given a chance to cross examine the witnesses and residents would have a chance to speak.
Below is raw video from the night’s meeting, it lasts an hour and captured all but the first minute of the meeting (I wasn’t fast enough turning on the camera, sorry)

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Filed under 342 units, Avaya, COAH, Lincroft NJ, lincroft village green association, Middletown NJ, Middletown Planning Board, Monmouth County, Raw Video, Sonic

>Avaya Re-Development On Tonight’s Planning Board Agenda In Middletown

>Tonight’s 6:30 pm meeting of the Middletown Planning Board should be interesting, at tonight’s meeting plans for the controversial Avaya redevelopment project will be discussed.

This project calls for 342 housing units to be built off Middletown-Lincroft Rd. in Lincroft and has caused a major backlash of opposition against the project by area residents. The Lincroft Village Green Association and the citizens group SONIC ( Save Our Neighborhood’s Integrity & Character), have each rallied their members and plan to have large contingencies there.
Redbankgreen.com‘s Dustin Racioppi has a good write-up on it:

Middletown’s planning board will meet Wednesday to hear a proposal that’s got neighbors up in arms and township officials grinding their teeth.

The proposed project, submitted by Four Ponds Associates, calls for the demolition of a large office building vacated by telecom giant Avaya and the construction of 342 residential units on 68 acres on Middletown-Lincroft Road.

For locals, the prospect of adding hundreds of homes to the tract is an unwelcome one, as traffic and safety top the concerns, not to mention a serious disruption to the Lincroft section’s quality of life, they say.

For township officials, the proposal represents “archaic and ridiculous” affordable housing laws imposed by the state. But until changes are made in Trenton, they’re handcuffed, they say.

“We oppose this development and every development we’ve been forced into under the guise of affordable housing regulations,” Mayor Tony Fiore said, “especially when they’re not in the best interest of Middletown. And that’s exactly what’s going on here.”

Currently, the property is zoned for office use but is able to add residential units since the town listed the property in its affordable housing plan, which was revised in 2009, Administrator Anthony Mercantante said. No variances are being sought.

A non-profit advocacy group made up of residents, the Lincroft Village Green Association, has called for the town to rezone the property back to residential single-family or commercial use.

But “We have no authority to simply rezone” the property, Fiore said. “We would be steadfast in doing that. Unfortunately, the legislature and the state assembly has given us no relief.”

Of the 342 units proposed, 68 are said in the builder’s application to satisfy the town’s affordable housing obligation, a murky mandate delivered by the state Council On Affordable Housing – which itself is in limbo, as Governor Chris Christie has recommended eliminating COAH and letting local municipalities decide how much affordable housing is necessary within their boundaries….

Finish reading >>> Here


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Filed under Avaya, COAH, Dustin Racioppi, Lincroft NJ, lincroft village green association, Middletown Planning Board, RedBankGreen.com, Sonic