Category Archives: Shadow Lake

Corruption Behind the $4 Million Tab for Tax Appeals in Middletown

By guest blogger Linda Baum

I’m sure we all recall the big jump in our property assessments on 2009 tax bills. That was the result of a town-wide revaluation done at the height of the market in 2008 — a huge mistake. It guaranteed there would be an onslaught of appeals and the drastic measures we saw this year by the Mayor and Township Committee to find extra money to pay the $4 million dollar tab.

Remember the ugliness? The seizure of $500,000 of library funds and threats of police layoffs to gain concessions. Middletown certainly didn’t feel like a great place to live.

The Township should have done a revaluation years earlier. It had been at least 15 years since the last one. The company hired to do the revaluation had difficulty explaining the delay. That company, Realty Appraisal, does loads of revaluations around the State, and the cause for the delay didn’t stem from their efforts. So then where does blame lie?

If you spoke to the County Tax Administrator, I’m sure he would tell you that revaluations should probably happen every 4-5 years. By waiting, Middletown drew the ire of the County Tax Board.

Middletown Republicans basically thumbed their noses at the County and refused to do a revaluation while other municipalities followed the law. Meanwhile, the richest property owners in the Township saw property values increase hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in that time period while their taxes were based on assessments from long ago.

Residents in less affluent sections of the Township were picking up the tab for the Navesink River Road crowd. That’s because when expensive properties are dramatically under-assessed, the effect is to remove potentially hundreds of millions from the town-wide assessment base. The result is that everyone else pays proportionately more.

The low assessment base means that the tax rate would have been set too high. Evidence of that is the big decline in the overall tax rate upon revaluation – it went from $3.787 in 2008 to $1.725 in 2009 (per $100 of assessed value). Owners of newly built homes would have been among the most adversely affected by the inflated tax rate, which, coupled with their higher more up-to-date assessments, means they were paying more in property taxes than they should have been in the years prior to the revaluation.

The bottom line is that the more valuable your property and the longer you owned it, the more money you stood to save from the Township’s failure to revaluate.

Per the County, around 60% of Middletown residents saw a reduction in taxes as a result of the revaluation. Since the Township still needed to collect the same total revenue, it stands to reason that owners of high end properties saw the largest dollar increases in their taxes after the revaluation.

It seems to me the Township most likely delayed the revaluation for two reasons.

First, the Republican Party leaders resided along the Navesink River Road corridor and had enjoyed tax-free, enormous increases in the value of their homes. As they took advantage of this increase in equity, the Township gave them a free pass. A revaluation would have increased taxes for many of them.

Second, Democrats had started to take seats on the Township Committee and the Republican Party desperately wanted to avoid losing votes, and possibly control of the Township, by doing a revaluation. Republican strongholds like Shadow Lake might have punished Republican leaders for tax increases and shifted the balance of power.

The County was upset with Middletown officials and, in 2008, took the unprecedented step of suspending our tax assessor, Charlie Heck, for failing to submit the paperwork necessary to do the revaluation. In a brazen admission of the underlying truths, then Mayor Scharfenberger actually referred to Mr. Heck as “Saint Charlie”. And this year, Mayor Fiore and our all-Republican Township Committee voted unanimously to award Mr. Heck a $15,000 bonus.

While you can draw your own conclusions, it seems obvious to me that Republican officials manipulated the process for their own political and personal financial gain. Due to their delays, when they were finally compelled by the County to submit the data for the revaluation, they did so on the eve of the financial crisis, just before property values plummeted. It would have been wise to postpone the revaluation until the market settled, but they couldn’t ask for another extension because they were already in deep trouble with the County for waiting as long as they had.

The delay cost taxpayers dearly. To deal with the unrealistic property data created by the poorly-timed revaluation, the Township was forced to undertake a costly reassessment this year, forcing taxpayers to expend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a reassessment that could have been avoided.

The overall tab may be $6 million or more now. Township officials won’t reveal how much or exactly where the money is coming from to pay for it. But appeal awards continue to roll in, and one thing is certain. Middletown residents will be feeling the sting for years to come.

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Filed under Charles Heck, corruption, Middletown Township Committee, property tax reassessment, property tax revaluation, Republicans, Shadow Lake, tax appeals, tax assessor, tax rate

A Simple Observation And Reason As To Way Shadow Lake Dam Collapse Wasn’t As Bad As It Could Have Been

Bill Stevenson is a life long resident of Middletown who lives adjacent to Shadow Lake. If there is anything anyone wants to know about the lake, he is the one to speak to.

Mr. Stevenson sent along, via email, his observations as to why the collapse of Shadow Lake dam was not as cataclysmic as it could have been, it seems that the precautions that were taken back in 1938, after the dam washed out a second time in 4 years, was enough to save it from total collapse 73 years later.
Mr Stevenson also expresses an idea on how to temporarily fix the road and open it back to traffic in a timely manner in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene.

The collapse of the Shadow Lake Dam has not caused the water level to drop even 1 inch below normal. Let me explain why.



The dam was originally constructed with a spillway at the south end. After the dam washed out twice (1934 & 1938), they added a 2nd spillway at the north side. This was a few inches higher than the main spillway, so that is only needed when the water rises. Beneath the earthen dam are interlocking steel beams which were pile driven into the earth to about the level of the spillway. In addition, a creosoted wooden bulkhead was constructed between the earth and the water. The top of this was slightly higher than the spillways.


Both the steel beams and the bulkhead survived the washout. Thus the lowest point was the original spillway. The beams may have been bent slightly, but I don’t think that it is serious.


Now as to what happened to cause the washout. This is what I believed happened.


The heavy rain caused the level of the lake to rise well above the spillways. I don’t know how much, but at the west end of the lake at Stevenson Park, the level rose about 3½ feet above normal. At the main spillway, the level was so high that the spillways could not handle it and water started to flow against the berm at the north side of the spillway. Once it had eroded a small portion of earth, the erosion expanded and got worse as it got larger, eventually washing away more than half of the top of the dam and eroding a big hole in Hubbard Avenue. I think that they should fill the hole in the road with large rocks & maybe concrete. There should not need to have a big rush to replace the washed out portion of the dam.


Bill Stevenson

Those are some good observations but it leave the question of why didn’t the water go over the 2nd spillway also? If it had maybe Hubbard Rd. wouldn’t have been damaged as badly as it has.

I suppose we’ll just have to wait for that answer however and be thankful that it a total collapse of the dam did not occur or much more damage would have resulted.

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Filed under dam collapse, hubbard road, Hurricane Irene, Middletown NJ, Shadow Lake, storm damage

Picture; Shadow Lake Dam Breach



This picture was sent to me by a friend that lives on Hubbard Rd., just down street from the Shadow Lake Dam. As you can see in the picture this breach isn’t any small leak, a large section of the berm seems to be gone. The road is beginning to buckle from all the water washing the soil away from underneath. The guard rail is just hanging, no longer anchored to anything.

It will be a long time before this road is passable, expect travel in the area to be a nightmare for the foreseeable future

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Filed under hubbard road, Hurricane Irene, Shadow Lake

Shadow Lake Dam Breached: Portion Of Hubbard Rd Washed Away And Toxic Lake Sediment Spilling into the Navesink River

Big trouble for those living in the Shadow Lake / River Plaza area of Middletown, I’ve just been told be a friend who lives on West Front Street that the Shadow Lake Dam was breached as a result of Hurricane Irene.

I have been informed that the earthen berm is nearly gone and the water rushing from the lake has washed away a large section Hubbard Rd. and is spilling it’s arsenic rich and heavy metal contaminated toxic sediment into the Navesink River turning the river a dark muddy brown color.

I guess there wont be much of a need to dredge Shadow Lake after all seeing how there wont be a much of a lake left if the breach of the dam isn’t fixed and the lake waters contained soon.

Also a major concern for the area residents I have been told, is that the recently replaced section of Navesink River Road near Hubbard was also washed out and will need to be replaced again.

This will cause a huge problem once school begins next week, it will be extremely difficult if not near impossible for kids to get school with these roads needing to be closed for an extended period of time.

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Filed under dredging, hubbard road, Hurricane Irene, Middletown NJ, navesink river road, Shadow Lake

>Middletown Still Kicking Around Shadow Lake Political Football

>I was glad to hear after last week’s Middletown Township Workshop meeting that nearly $2.7M maybe freed up soon by the state, for the long talked about Shadow Lake dredging project.

According to what I had been told of the meeting and a subsequent article posted on MiddletownPatch.com it seems that Middletown resident and NJ State Senator Joe Kyrillos (R-13) found a way to partially fund the estimated $4+M dredging project by co-sponsoring legislation that will provide funding through the state’s Environmental Infrastructure Trust (EIT) fund.
The legislation that originally created the Environmental Infrastructure Trust fund was intended to provide special financing, in the form of a low-interest loans to companies and municipalities looking to clean up environmentally contaminated “Brownfields” in order to return them to tax rolls.
Kyrillos’s bill that would provide funding for Middletown under the EIT, still needs to be voted on by the full Senate before moving onto the Assembly for approval and signature of the governor, which is not a given. I wouldn’t exactly call Shadow Lake an environmental “brownfield” that needs to be cleaned up so it can be returned to the tax rolls.
But what disturbs me here is the fact that Middletown Republicans are still playing the equivalent of political football with this issue and sending mixed messages with the intent on blaming state and local Democrats for delaying the dredging of the lake and contributing to it’s skyrocketing cost.

Officials ran into a project roadblock when the NJ Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) made it clear that, when removed, any dredge spoils gleaned from the lake would have to be transported to a safe, licensed off-site location, dried out and then taken to a legal dumping ground, Middletown Mayor Tony Fiore said.

Township Attorney Brian Nelson had said that where the township had no luck with the last administration’s state DEP officials, the new DEP principals seem more receptive. The township governing body is all-Republican, as is the Christie-appointed administration.

“We can’t do anything without permits,” he had said a couple of months ago at a Township Committee meeting. “But the DEP is working with us much better than it formerly did. Before it was clear they were not giving us permits.”

Now, knowing that the funds are being secured, Mayor Fiore said that the next step would be to go out to bid for the project.

“Thanks to the efforts of Senator Kyrillos the residents of the communities surrounding Shadow Lake can rest easier knowing that a project more than a decade in the making is nearing reality,” said Fiore. “In addition to the senator’s efforts in helping secure financing for this project, he has assisted the township with the DEP to find a qualified site outside of Middletown for disposal of the dredge spoils.”

It wasn’t Democrats that said this project was going to be an easy slam dunk just before the 2007 election and how it wasn’t going to cost residents a single dime (but proposed bonding for it) because local college students would perform surveys of the lake and other services for the township for free. And that the rest of the cost for the dredging would come from grants or planned to have the arsenic, heavy metal and carcinogenic contaminated spoils buried within Stephenson Park without proper permits from the NJ DEP. It was Gerry Scharfenberger and the rest of the Middletown Republicans who were attempting to secure last minute vote from residents who live around Shadow Lake by proposing such a plan.

Local Democrats want to see Shadow Lake restored but want it done smartly, cost efficiently and with in the law. The last thing Democrats or residents want is to clean up a lake only to create an environmental hazard somewhere else, namely Stephenson Park.
The NJ DEP was right not to issue permits for that and insisting that the dredged spoils be carted to a properly secured landfill.
And the following comment left on the MiddletownPatch article by a Mr. Dave Venture seems to agree:
Coming from someone who is an environmental professional who grew up on Shadow Lake and lived there for 22 years and still fish it weekly, I can tell you this issue has been twisted and misused by various media groups as well as private landowners on the lake . The lake has become naturally shallower in some areas which is normal succession for a man-made lake. The problem of increased vegetation is in large part not due to the depth of the lake. The lake is surrounded by residential development and Shadow Lake Village all of which contribute tremendous amounts of nutrient runoff to the lake in the way of fertilizers etc. The lake also sits in an area that was all farmland until the middle part of the 20th century. The groundwater may still be pumping nutrients from the historic farms into the lake contributing to the eutrophic environment. This is very similar to what is happening on a much larger scale in Barnegat Bay. The issue of depth of the lake and water quality/aquatic vegetation are two separate issues that have been blurred. If the goal is to make the lake deeper than I agree dredging is the only option. If the issue as they have proclaimed is to decrease the aquatic vegetation then dredging is not a cost-effective or ecologically sound solution. Green stormwater infrastructure and practices must be instituted to prevent the runoff that is making the lake an overly enriched ecosystem. State the goals clearly before dumping 4mil into a project.
So it’s about time now for Middletown’s “non- partisan” Township Attorney Brian Nelson and other finger pointers to point the finger at themselves. Too often Nelson acts like he is the 6th member of the Township Committee and gives bad, partisan advice that cost the town tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees because he has a vested interest Republicans maintaining control in town and it’s about time members of the Township Committee stop taking his poor advice.

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Filed under Brian Nelson, dredging, Environmental Infrastructure Trust (EIT) fund, Joe Kyrillos, Middletown Patch, NJ DEP, Shadow Lake, Stephenson Park, Tony Fiore

>It’s Catch-Up Time

>If you’ve notice over the past two weeks the postings on the blog here have been a little thin. I’ve had a temporary change to my work schedule for the month that hasn’t allowed me to focus on thing the way that I would’ve liked to. This coming week my schedule is back to “normal” before being disrupted again for another two weeks, so it’s time to play caught-up.

Along with some local items of interest such as a discrimination charges filed against Middletown’s Chief of Police by a Middletown Police officer, news on the AVAYA and Bamm Hollow redevelopments and some funding being secured for dredging Shadow Lake. A number of readers have also sent me items of interest that others may be interested in knowing.

So over the course of the weekend I hope to get back up to speed on number of items so stay tuned.

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Filed under Avaya, Bamm Hollow Country Club, blogging, catch-up, ethic charges, items of interest, law suit, Middletown Mike, Middletown Police, Shadow Lake

>Transparency Once Again Turns Opaque in Middletown; APP: Middletown missed loan deadline for dredging of lake

>Very interesting article that was online at the Asbury Park Press the other day which I have been meaning to post about. One of the big issues of this past years election was the issue of Shadow Lake and whether or not the lake was going to be dredged any time soon, according reporter Kevin Penton it now doesn’t seem likely to happen before 2012.

It seems as though, the low cost loan that Middletown had planned to apply for that would cover some of the costs of dredging was never applied for. The loan application needed to be handed in by Oct. 4th to meet the deadline for possible funding and it was never sent.
What I find most disturbing about this, is how Gerry Scharfenberger and other Middletown GOP members (remember Tony Fiore’s letter) mislead many residents that live by and around Shadow Lake into believing that dredging was eminent if only they could get approval from the DEP to bury the contaminated spoils in near by Stevenson Park.
Scharfenberger attended a number of meeting with residents of Shadow Lake Village while campaigning in October and never once mentioned that funding for the dredging of the lake was a problem. He lead all to believe that as soon as the DEP agreed to Middletown’s demand of using Stevenson Park as a dumping ground for the spoils the project would begin.
With this latest revelation about the dredging of Shadow Lake, it is sad to say once again that transparency of those in charge in Middletown is sorely lacking and is turning, as resident Jim Grenafege has said at many Township meetings this year, opaque.
It just goes to show that Republicans in Middletown will do and/or say anything in order to retain their position of power in town even if it means that they have to deceive others to get it.
My thanks go out to Kevin Penton for following up on Shadow Lake and bringing this information to light, it shows residents that those elected in Middletown like to play fast and loose with certain information that they deem a possible threat to them.
Eventually residents will wise up and show the likes of Gerry Scharfenberger and the others the view form the other side of the doors at Town Hall, the view looking in from the outside.

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Filed under Asbury Park Press, dredging, Gerry Scharfenberger, kevin penton, NJDEP, Shadow Lake