WARETOWN, NJ - One might call it a case of “muddying the waters.” The Ocean Township Committee tabled an ordinance at the October monthly meeting that would change existing water and sewer ordinances. Truth be told, the issue had more to do with the current regulations than the proposed amendments.

Ordinances related to conversion of well and septic connection to municipal utilities hit the books more than a decade ago in Ocean Township. The local laws contain exemptions that last until it comes to the sale of the property.

Property owners within 200 feet of the municipality’s water pipeline are expected to hook up to the water pipeline. Buildings that use a well in certain circumstances for their potable water supply have been exempt from the requirement. That is, until they make arrangements to sell or transfer their buildings.

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The Township Committee’s proposed ordinance amendment doesn’t change the exceptions – but adds some clarification. If the seller has not set up the connections before the time of sale, the buyer has 60 days of the date of the closing of title to connect to the township’s water and sewer and sewer infrastructure.

More than one local finds the whole concept unfair. Bill Sommerville’s family bought their first summer home in Waretown in the 1950s. Bill and his wife own over ten acres of real estate on Walker Lane.

The Sommerville couple are in their 60s and look at their property as their retirement fund. They hope to sell their home and move over to Greenbriar Oceanaire and take advantage of the amenities.  However, they say the regulations will cost them at least $100,000 on the sale of their home.

Sommerville acknowledges that the municipality’s water pipeline is within 200 feet of his property line. The problem is that running the main to the front of the house would amount to 725 feet.  It’s an expense he doesn’t think he should have to take on.

“I put in a new well and new septic in 2004,” Sommerville shared. “There’s no reason for me to connect to the chemicals in the town’s water – or expect a buyer to pay for it.”

According to Sommerville, subdividing the property might be one way of avoiding the expense. After six generations in Waretown, it’s something he hoped to avoid. Sommerville wanted to keep things the same as they exist since his family moved to the area.

“We had our property on the market for three years, and finally had a buyer,” said Sommerville. “They backed out when they found out what they would have to pay for the connection.”

Sommerville suggested that the township consider paying for the connection – or at least splitting the cost. He pointed out that new homes were going up on Walker Lane and that he should not bear the brunt of paying for the cost of the utility.

“I just want people to be fair,” Sommerville stated. “It’s just not fair.”

Ocean Township Attorney Christopher Dasti explained the proposed ordinance amendment before the township committee only concerned when a buyer would be expected to make the connection.

“I can’t tell you what the rationale was when this was passed ten years ago,” said Dasti. “I think it was intended as means of having older homes and properties tie in the water and sewer infrastructure.”

Bob Lange, a 35-year resident and business owner from Waretown also spoke about what he sees as a problem with the ordinance. He was concerned that it would impact the value of properties in town and impede sales.  His daughter, Michelle and son-in-law Michael Dress have an issue concerning water and sewer connections with property they purchased.

“Right in the MUA rules and regulations, it says the rules are minimum requirements and not intended to replace detailed specifications of the applicant,” Michelle read. “…The authority reserves the right to specify more or less stringent requirements.”

Michelle expressed her feelings that the property she and her husband purchased on Wells Mill Road represents an exception. She suggested that others had unique cases that should exempt them from the requirement to tie to municipal utilities.

James M. Oris, an engineer from Remington & Vernick shared information regarding the reasons that properties are mandated to connect to the water lines.  Some communities do not wait until the sale but expect property owners to do so within a year or two of the municipality bringing in the facilities to the property line.

“This means it’s not hinging on a sale,” explained Oris. “The DEP would like the properties to be put on public water and sewer so that they are better regulated. This impacts the environment less and there’s an outlay of infrastructure by the sewer, water, or utility department.”

According to Oris, this all falls in the context of being consistent with the DEP regulations and stops people from withdrawing water from the aquifer that is 150 feet down.

The proposal to amend the existing ordinances as far as time allotments placed on buyers was tabled pending further discussion. Whether the committee will entertain a different type of amendment remains to be seen.

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