BRIDGEWAER, NJ - The Bridgewater Township Council has run out of patience with one local resident regarding the ongoing outdoor condition of his home.
The township’s governing body held a public hearing regarding the property at 718 Park Avenue, owned by William Vincent. The council unanimously authorized the deputy zoning officer/construction code official to oversee and direct the removal of violations at the property, along with approving remediation of the existing conditions on the site.
The measure also certified that the ensuing costs would be charged against the premises and become a tax lien with a maximum value of $6,175, while also further authorizing the township’s deputy zoning officer/construction code official to cause the final amount to be converted to a tax lien upon the property and also form part of future taxes to be assessed and levied upon the premises.
Deputy township attorney Chris Corsini called Vincent to the stand before the council at the meeting, following the delivery of individual council member updates. Also appearing was Bridgewater Code Enforcement Superintendent Stephen Rodzinak, who said he had spoken to Vincent about the remediation of the property.
Rodzinak said there has been no significant change regarded an inoperable vehicle located on the property.
Vincent responded that he had remediated “quite a bit” of debris that had been located near his garage, and which he said had been relocated outdoors after a fire had occurred in the home a few years ago.
Vincent said he understood that further work on the home was needed. He also said that he had promised his wife he would do more remediation when the weather turned warmer, and that he was also a proponent of recycling.
In addition, Vincent said, he filled up a mini-van with debris and removed full trash bags left by the side of the house, although he added that there are still leaves that need to be cleaned up.
“I will continue to do the work,” Vincent said. “It needs to be done.”
Vincent told the council he had experienced family and health issues, and that he is over the age of 65. He said he is more susceptible to hot and cold temperatures, and can only work a maximum of two hours in one stint.
“I want to get it cleaned up, and will do it,” he said, adding that the car on the site would be removed in a week. “I just need more time.”
Rose asked Vincent how much additional time he required, and he replied that he would like to have until April 30, when the weather turns warmer. Corsini said the remedy is at the council’s disposal, and it can grant Vincent an extension if it so wished.
Vincent said he recently found the key to the car, after it had been lost in the fire, and the car was blocked by a container.
“Nothing could have gotten in to remove the car,” he said.
Rodzinak said he believed a warrant had been issued for Vincent’s arrest, for a failure to appear in court. Vincent said the summons had been sent around Labor Day of last year.
Councilman Filipe Pedroso said a complaint was filed back in 2014, and he asked Vincent if he had gone to municipal court for it. Vincent said he had, and that corrections were also made.
Pedroso asked if the case had been finalized, but Rodzinak said he wasn’t sure.
Pedroso mentioned that Vincent had said he had health issues in 2016, which had ostensibly precluded him from cleaning up the property. The councilman then wanted to know what the situation had been in the preceding two years, and Vincent answered that he had been moving items from one storage container to the next.
“It just stayed there longer than I would have liked,” said Vincent, who added that there were also empty plant pots on the premises that he needed to discard.
After examining several photos of the site, Pedroso said the property looks like garbage, as opposed to a place of storage from fire damage.
Rodzinak said that debris was still located by the garage, but Vincent maintained that he had cleared that out.
Councilman Allen Kurdyla asked where the refuse in question had gone, and Vincent said he had taken the bags inside his house, to go through their contents. Kurdyla asked if the garage was also loaded with paraphernalia, and Vincent said it was mostly storage bins.
“I have to go through it and see what’s there,” said Vincent of the garage.
Township administrator James Naples pointed out that the situation has been going on almost four years. He said he personally answered complaints from neighbors regarding Vincent’s property, and added that the hearing had been a last resort to bring Vincent into compliance.
Vincent apologized, and again cited the fire. Naples said he sympathized with that, but not for the possessions that had long been left outside.
“We’re here today to get something done,” Naples said.
Councilman Howard Norgalis was less charitable.
“I’m out of patience with you,” he said.
He said Vincent’s property was a health hazard, and that he was ready to approve the resolution.
“The neighbors deserve peace of mind,” said Norgalis, who added that he had seen a number of fire-damaged structures in over 30 years as a firefighter. “I don’t see a fire, I see junk.”
Pedroso said the town had been very patient with Vincent, and that the situation was not fair to his neighbors.
“They live next to garbage,” he said.
Council vice president Matthew Moench asked if Vincent could be allowed to remove the car within two weeks, and everything else in 30 days. He said the car removal is not weather-dependent, even if it is disabled, and that removing the vehicle from the premises might make the rest of the cleanup easier.
“We want to make progress,” he said.
Kurdyla said he recalled the instance of a similar home in Bridgewater, which was given 30 days to be cleaned up, and which he added had been accomplished in that timeframe.
Kurdyla also cited the existence of tarps on the property, which he said were being used to cover brush and tires that could not possibly have been inside the house before the fire occurred.
The council decided to give Vincent 30 days, until March 22, to clean up his property. Naples said that if the cleanup is not done to Rodzinak’s satisfaction, the township will be there the next day to do the job.
“And we will do it in a day,” Naples added.
Corsini said an extension might be possible, if snow or some other catastrophe occurs in the interim.
The council voted unanimously to pass the measure. Vincent asked what the next step will be after he cleans up the property, and was told that Rodzinak would then inspect the property.