WAYNE, NJ – A proposed change to a Wayne ordinance governing Certificates of Continued Occupancy (CCOs) was introduced at last week’s Wayne Town Council meeting. The proposal is to extend the deadline for the Township to provide CCOs from ten business days to fifteen.
According to Mayor Chris Vergano, the change is needed because a backlog of pending CCO applications had reached 192 as of Friday, Sep 11.
“Residential real estate is booming,” said the Mayor. “A lot of people have waited till after COVID happened, so we had three months of a slow period, but real estate sales have picked up tremendously.”
Wayne real estate expert, Annmarie DeGeorge of Realty Executives agrees with the Mayor. “There are a lot of people looking to move out of the city and Wayne is such a commuter friendly town with a great school system, so houses have been moving fast,” she said.
“Interest rates are at a historic, fifty-year low which is not only helping the real estate market, but fueling a massive re-finance boom,” said Managing Director of First Second Mortgage of New Jersey, Brian Borchard. “In Wayne, any houses that are going up for sale, are being sold immediately.”
A CCO is required by the township anytime a residential property changes ownership or a new renter occupies a residential unit in Wayne. “We instituted these about three or four years ago to have better control,” explained Vergano. “These are to protect the new occupants.”
The proposed ordinance was called into question at Wednesday’s meeting by Councilman-At-Large, David Varano. He began by complimenting Wayne’s new Business Administrator, Talib Aquil, who he met with earlier in the day.
“I came away very impressed with some of the efforts that are underway by the new Business Administrator to essentially bring greater efficiencies to the current process that exists around inspections and issuances of CCOs,” he said. “I would have actually anticipated that the time to process a CCO request would have decreased, and I was actually surprised to see that the ordinance is calling for an increase.”
Varano then mentioned another proposed ordinance that was also being introduced that night. This ordinance called for an increase in the fees for processing a CCO from $100 to $250. “I think that's warranted based on the new process and the new technology,” he said. “But, again, I think that the flip side of that should be, at worst, the same time-frame, and, at best, I would hope for a shorter time frame, not a longer one.”
“Currently the ordinance says that we will do these CCOs within 10 days and I'll tell you up front that is not happening,” said Vergano. This is when the Mayor informed the Council of the backlog of 192 CCO applications and that they had already moved a second township employee to work on this backlog.
Sixth Ward Councilman, Jon Ettman also expressed concern at the extended time frame for processing CCOs. “I represent buyers and sellers in deals,” said Ettman who is also a lawyer. “I know how frustrating it can be when you need a CCO. And while I do appreciate the predicament that we're in, I also am uncomfortable endorsing the idea of extending it. [Fifteen business days] is a little much in my view.”
Ettman also asked if the Township planned to hire more employees to address the backlog. Vergano replied flatly that there were no plans to hire more employees.
“These certificates are good for 90 days,” said Vergano. “So, if people want to apply early in the process and hope to close on their house within 90 days, they can do that. That way, people know ahead of time that they have to replace the railing they never put on their deck, or the illegal addition that they put in their basement, or the extra bathroom that was never counted.”
“Quite frankly, if you have not followed all the rules you are not going to be done in 10 days,” added the Mayor.
Second Ward Councilman Al Sadowski suggested that the administration send out a letter to realtors and mortgage brokers about the expected timeframe of CCOs and the Mayor agreed that this was something they will do.
Business Administrator Talib Aquil then spoke up. “I'm a firm believer of being clear, concise and direct with people and especially being transparent,” he said, then explained that informing all interested parties of the change of law was precisely what he had planned to do. “Even though it’s 15 days, people are alright with waiting if they know the process. And, 15 days is the worst-case scenario. Most people are not going to have to wait that long once we up once we cleared this backlog. We just want to make sure that we're not promising something that we're not able to deliver.”
“The queue that we’re seeing right now is obviously inflated based on what the Mayor has told us,” said Varano. “I would hate to see us make a reaction here and put a new law on the books for something that could be temporary. It seems reactionary and potentially unnecessary.”
Sadowski pointed out that the vote that night was to introduce the ordinance. The actual vote to pass the ordinance would be at the next meeting in October. “So hopefully we will have better metrics to look at for the next meeting to make a better-informed decision on this and see if the backlog is a lot lower,” he said.
The vote to introduce the ordinance passed 6-2, with Jon Ettman and David Varano voting no. The next Wayne Town Council meeting is scheduled for October 21. This ordinance will likely be on the agenda that night for a vote.
The Wayne Township Building Department website has this information on CCOs:
What is a Continued Certificate of Occupancy (CCO)?
The Township of Wayne requires a Continued Certificate of Occupancy for the sale and rental of certain residential units including, but not limited to, one or two-family homes, duplexes, townhouses and condominiums. No residential premises may be changed in tenancy, use or ownership unless a Certificate of Continued Occupancy has been issued by the Enforcement Officer. (code reference: Section 100-1 through 100-6)
Upon submission of a CCO application, the CCO Enforcement Officer has 10 business days to either issue a certificate, provided that the inspections reveal that the residential premises complies with the requirements zoning and property maintenance ordinances, or, in the event of noncompliance, notify the applicant as to the reason(s) why the residential premises failed the inspection. Please note that this 10-day clock starts once it is determined that there are no open permits on the residential unit.