New bill, more federal aid target storm-ravaged properties

TRENTON – Towns could sell land acquired originally for conservation to homeowners repeatedly displaced by Sandy and other major storms under a bill introduced this week.

Under A4343, a municipality could sell for fair market value land it had acquired for recreation or conservation uses to people who suffer continued property damage and displacement from Sandy, Irene, Lee and other tropical storms or hurricanes.

The land, which a town might have acquired through constitutionally dedicated funds, Green Acres bonds, or its own moneys, could be sold to residents of that town whose properties are continually damaged by the storms whose severity has become more common in New Jersey.

Under the bill, sponsored by Assemblyman John Wisniewski, (D-19), Sayreville, such weather-ravaged properties would be sold to the municipality for Blue Acres purposes. Under that program, flood-prone properties are acquired by the state and kept as open space.

Under Wisniewski’s bill, the resident would have to be willing to relocate within the same municipality and be unable to find a comparable property for sale.

“It is essential to provide stability to these residents and their communities, not only to their property tax base but also to provide a sense of normalcy to the residents, especially to families with school children who wish to stay within their community and school district,” Wisniewski’s bill states. 

The money received by the town for the sale to a resident would go to the same funding source that provided the money to purchase property for the Blue Acres Program.

Wisniewski said that in his town of Sayreville, for example, approximately 100 properties on Weber Avenue were devastated.

His bill would allow such residents to avoid being forced to move to a new town. And for a town such as Sayreville, which does not have much undeveloped land, replacing such lost ratables would not be easy, he said.

“It may not be a happy ending,’’ he said in reference to such flood-weary residents, “but it may be an OK ending.”

It is an attempt to keep communities somewhat whole, he said.

Also on Tuesday, the administration announced $13.8 million has been made available from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for voluntary acquisition of 67 Sayreville homes.

FEMA has now awarded the state nearly $55.1 million for the purchases of 272 homes in Sayreville and South River, the administration reported

The Department of Environmental Protection has made offers to more than 50 property owners in the first round of 129 targeted acquisitions in Sayreville. Nine of these have accepted offers, the state said. 

FEMA previously awarded nearly $29.5 million for the purchase of 129 Sayreville homes followed by a second round totaling $11.9 million for the acquisition of 76 properties in South River, the state reported.

The 67 Sayreville properties FEMA approved for acquisition in the third round of funding are located primarily in the Old Bridge section of Sayreville on Charles, John, and William streets, as well as David Street, Bordentown Avenue, Fisher Street, Mac Arthur Avenue, Weber Avenue, Brookside Avenue, Boehmhurst Avenue, Miller Avenue and Washington Road.

“The buyout program will move thousands of families out of harm’s way and turn these properties into open space that will absorb future flood waters, helping to protect at-risk communities,” DEP Commissioner Bob Martin said in a release.

New bill, more federal aid target storm-ravaged properties