HAZLET – A group of township residents who live in Green Tree Village, a new adult community under construction near the Union Beach border, are frustrated.
Property taxes seem unfairly high, homeowners’ association president Roseann Brooks told the Township Committee Tuesday, especially for seniors who already pay for some township services through their association fees.
Also, after two years, the 24-unit complex by Green Tree Development’s Bobby Devino and Chester Jackiewicz still remains unfinished and is “an eyesore,” she said. The builders say they are waiting on final permits from the township.
“We are asking for your help and support in offering us a credit on our taxes, due to the circumstances,” said Brooks.
More than a dozen Green Tree Village residents attended the Feb. 19 meeting in solidarity, but left without much more than a promise the township construction official would visit the site and the permit situation may soon be resolved.
Green Tree Village is a new community of high-end townhomes, clustered in six buildings around a semi-circle located on property at Stone Road and Poole Avenue. It is across the street from the Union Beach Police Department. There are farm fields in the rear.
The units are around 1,800 square feet and are currently assessed at between $306,000 to $325,000. A corner unit currently for sale features a chef’s kitchen overlooking the dining and living area, granite counters with an island, vaulted ceilings, garage, hardwood floors and a master suite. On the second floor is a large second bedroom and family room that leads to a balcony. Homeowner association fees are $127 a month and cover street lighting, snow removal, grass cutting and watering.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Brooks said taxes are “first and foremost a major issue” to all the residents of this development. They were taken aback to be find out they would be paying $8,000 in property taxes.
“Prior to purchasing our homes in Green Tree Circle we were all advised by the builder that our taxes would be in the $5-$6,000 range,” said Brooks, reading from a prepared statement. She described how coming up with the difference has been a hardship for many residents, especially those on fixed incomes.
“In essence we were lied to and misinformed,” said Brooks. “We did not feel a need or even thought to research this, as we put our trust in our builder.” Several are seeking tax appeals.
Jackiewicz, the builder, attended the township meeting but did not speak. He denies anyone was misled to think there are property tax discounts for living in a 55-and-over community. “There’s no misunderstanding. It’s always been that way,” he said in an interview at the development on Saturday where he was overseeing work on a building.
He agrees taxes have risen since the work started. “I know that land-wise, my taxes here went up from $1,000 to $2,000 in the couple of years I’ve been here,” he said.
At the meeting, Township Attorney James Gorman said there are no property tax discounts or tax abatement programs specifically for homeowners in 55-and-over communities. “There are tax abatement programs for seniors, but they are all income-driven,” he said, citing the state’s Senior Freeze Property Tax Reimbursement program for those 65 and older as an example. He said the state requires every property to be assessed at fair market value. In Monmouth County, properties are now reassessed every year.
Brooks also complained that water is a problem in the unfinished development. “We have a swamp in the front, and a swamp in the back,” she said. Mold has developed, and the crawlspaces are now being treated.
Township Administrator Dennis Pino explained that it is a notoriously wet part of town, and the front includes a pond that collects its own water. But overall drainage should improve once the project is completed and the land is graded, he said.
But the project cannot be completed until the town issues the final four permits, and that can’t happen until the settlement of a case between the builders and the town related to Mount Laurel fees. “Devino, Jackiewicz sued the town and that is not yet resolved,” explained Township Attorney Jim Gorman at the meeting. “Because of that, the town has issued 20 out of 24 building permits, but not the last four.”
The township is working towards having its affordable housing plan adopted by April 25, Gorman added, “and part of that is then to authorize a settlement with Devino whereby he’s paying for some portion of Mount Laurel fees.”
“That will be coming to a resolution in the near future,” said Deputy Mayor Mike Glackin.
Back at the work site, Jackiewicz says he’s ready to go.
“I just need to finish here. And I can’t finish without getting my building permit,” he said.