TOMS RIVER, NJ – This week, Toms River Mayor Mo Hill and Council President Maria Maruca announced that the township has sold a 1 acre tract of publicly owned land to a potential real estate developer that operates anonymously out of a post office box at the UPS Store near the Lakewood-Toms River border. The sale caught the attention of Toms River Councilman Daniel Rodrick who voted to table a resolution that would have memorialized that sale.
“I have serious concerns with this sale and the documents that were presented to me as a councilman,” Rodrick said today. “It appears there are a number of areas where the law may have been violated and I will be investigating the matter further.”
The sale, which the township kept under the radar and hidden in an obscure resolution on Tuesday raises questions as Toms River is running out of open space quickly. Should the township begin selling off township-owned land to real estate developers?
Rodrick today said no.
The sale is a sudden shift from the campaign message of Mayor Maurice Hill and his councilmen, Matt Lotano, Josh Kopp and Kevin Geoghegan. That team ran on a platform to stop overdevelopment, although it has been pushing for high-density development downtown and in other areas of town since taking office. Last month, the council approved a high density North Dover development by passing a zoning ordinance that doubled the number of homes on the Hecht-Lipshitz development. The town council in 2018 changed zoning on that land, but the new council this year undid that zoning change.
The Hill team has also been working behind the scenes to modify the 10-acre house of worship zoning to allow for smaller lot houses of worship in North Dover and other sections of town. Hill now has Democrat backing on that front but knows it would be an unpopular move with voters.
As for the Hinds Road land sale, that remains up in the air after being challenged by Rodrick.
On Tuesday, the township council and Hill had an agenda item that called for the $250,000 sale of a property owned by the township on Hinds Road. According to the township tax assessment, that property is worth $250,000. It was quietly put to a two-day auction by real estate auction house Max Spann. The property at 1870 Hinds Road is now listed by Max Spann as under contract.
According to the auction house, that property had a high bid of $318,000, but the township agenda item listed the sale as $250,000, $500,000 lower than the township’s assessed value of the 1.219 acre lot that backs up to about a dozen residential homes on Greenwood Road. Max Spann records show that there were 59 bids as two entities competed for on the property in back and forth bidding during the auction. The 1/3 acre residential lots connected to the property have been appraised by the township at between $103,000 to $110,000 per .3 acres.
The 1870 Hinds Road lot however is zoned highway commercial according to the township zoning map. A comparable commercial lot next to the 1870 property carries an $825,000 land value assessment by the township.
According to Max Spann, the auction took place from Monday, June 22nd at 9 am and ended on Wednesday, June 24 at 2:00 pm. The buyer of the property is 1810 Hinds LLC. According to New Jersey state records, that LLC was actually formed four days later, on June 26th. 1810 Hinds Road has a mailing address that tracks back to an unmarked UPS store post office box located in the Tri-City Plaza on the border of Toms River and Lakewood.
The council decided to pull the vote from the agenda and the matter will be heard on August 11th after a unanimous vote by the township council. The name of the person behind 1810 Hinds LLC has not been disclosed.