TOMS RIVER, NJ – The agenda for Tuesday’s Toms River Township council meeting shows the council will vote to authorize a $247,000 land sale to an anonymous LLC. Mayor Maurice Hill this week told Shore News Network he could not comment on the sale, but to tune in Tuesday to see what’s really going on here.
“RESOLUTION of the Township Council of the Township of Toms River, Ocean County, New Jersey, authorizing the Township to accept a $247,500.00 bid for the sale of Lot 42.08, Block 394.25 (1870 Hinds Road), consisting of approximately 1.22 acres,” the township agenda reads for Tuesday’s meeting.
That sale, according to state records was made to 1810 Hinds Road LLC, a corporation formed on June 26, 2020. According to the auction house, the sale was made on June 24th.
The land had a township appraisal of $750,000.
We’re not sure who the lucky person behind the anonymous LLC is just yet, articles of incorporation papers on the property obtained by the state do not list an actual person on paperwork. We have submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the U.S. Postal Service to find out who the owner is.
The property will have a negative impact for residential homeowners on Hinds Road. Twelve homes in all line the road from Church Road to Polhemus Drive used as a cut-through commercial drive and to for drivers looking to avoid traffic at the Church Road/Hooper Avenue intersection. Now, with a new strip mall or other building being constructed on that land traffic would increase for those homeowners.
Additionally, four homeowners on Greenwood Drive would see the land now owned by Toms River clear cut with a strip mall in their backyards. Those home now see a line of trees and township owned land from their back porches. After the sale and development of this property, they could be facing the ass end of a strip mall, complete with garbage dumpsters and cars parked along their backyard fence.
Last week, Toms River Mayor Maurice Hill announced that township appraisals in his town could be at least 21% under their real values. With that being said, a piece of land appraised by the township on Hinds Road that was recently sold at auction to a developer for $250,000, according to township records, could be worth as much as one million dollars. The land, previously assessed by Toms River for $750,000, according to Hill’s account could be worth as much as one million dollars in the new reassessment coming this September.
The property, which now presents a natural land buffer between the commercial growth on Hinds Road and Hooper Avenue will undoubtedly be turned into a commercial space. It was purchased by the town to curb the commercial growth in that neighborhood, but now, is being used by the Hill administration to balance the budget. But at what expense? Hinds Road and the Stonehedge development for years has been used as a cut-through for commercial traffic seeking to circumvent traffic at the Church Road and Hooper Avenue intersection. It has become a secondary commercial thoroughfare for homeowners on Hinds Road as the commercial development began to creep down the road years ago from the intersection of Hinds Road and Church Road. A new plaza, a medical center and the construction of a large Walgreens to replace the former aging strip mall that once stood at the corner of Church and Hooper.
Another shopping plaza behind the already busy Hooper Avenue corridor would bring more traffic for homeowners on Hinds Road. After Team Hill sells that property, there will be one last tract of wooded land available for development on Hooper Avenue from Brick Township south to Southshore Drive. That is a 1.5 acre wooded corner that sits sandwiched between the Alpha Medical Plaza and Walgreens. That land is owned by an LLC that uses Silverton Memorial Funeral Home as its address.
Why did the town sell the highly valuable commercial property, one of the last remaining untouched lots along the already congested Hooper Avenue commercial corridor sell the land, which could have brought $1,000,000 perhaps on the open market, according to the Hill team’s latest assessment by his business administrator and fellow council members, “Currently the total assessed value of all properties in Toms River is $12,909,498,560 whereas the true equalized value is $16,264,959,758. 79%.”
Councilman Dan Rodrick who has been the voice of opposition on the town council said he feels there can be more illegal activities in town hall concerning the sale of this property.
“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 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. The property at 1870 Hinds Road is now listed by the auctioneer 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. 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.
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.