Toms River, NJ – The Toms River Township Council on Tuesday will vote to increase the amount of taxes collected to be used to purchase open space. 2020 was a divisive year for the council on open space after a prolonged purchase of the former Joey Harrison’s Surf Club and the sale of an existing open space to a developer that was thwarted by residents.
Last year, the township applauded it’s $8,000,000 purchase of the derelict former Joey Harrison’s Surf Club. It was Councilwoman Maria Maruca’s ticket to re-election in 2021, except she was subsequently defeated by Lavalette Police Officer and lawyer, Justin Lamb.
Earlier in the year, the township fumbled an open space land sale to a Lakewood developer in Silverton, which drew the attention of the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office during the COVID-19 pandemic. In that land deal, Toms River Mayor Maurice Hill was accused of rigging a bid in favor of a Lakewood planning board member by Councilman Daniel Rodrick. The township backed out of the sale once Rodrick sounded the alarm on the sale. The incident was reported to the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office which investigated the potential sale, but never publicly made any statements on the investigation.
Now, the town is seeking to increase the amount of money collected to purchase future open space by 1 cent per $100 of property valuation. That comes out to about $35 more in taxes per year on a home assessed at $350,000.
The township uses the penny per $100 assessed property value in a way to shield the actual cost to taxpayers, a common tactic among towns controlled by the Ocean County GOP which usually directs the towns to purchase properties owned by politically connected individuals.