Wantage Committee approves special assessment

Lake Neepaulin residents to pay for dam for 20 years; many say they got no benefit from lake

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  • Photo by Vera Olinski Wantage resident Joe Tallerico speaks during a recent Wantage Township Committee meeting.



History

May 2007: Friends of Lake Neepaulin requested Wantage to co-sign a loan application for NJDEP rehabilitation of the Dam.
Nov. 2007: Wantage Committee Resolved to act as co-applicant.
Dec. 2007: NJDEP order to drain dam.
Oct. 2008: Ordinance for Special Assessment
June 2009: Wantage withdrew participation in loan application.
Aug. 2009: FOLN filed lawsuit against Wantage.
July 2010: Judge Bozonelis said Wantage must cooperate. He also left the FOLN percent amount to the Tax Assessor’s discretion.
Nov. 2010: Consent Judgment: 1. Wantage shall co-sign; 2. FOLN shall be responsible for repayment of 10% of the loan; 3. The Wantage Township Tax Assessor shall determine the “local improvement assessment”; 4. The Tax Assessor shall designate three tiers of property within the Lake Neepaulin community, each responsible for repaying a percentage of the Township’s share of the loan; 5. FOLN shall be solely obligated to repay loan funds expended in excess of one million dollars.
2011: Resolution between co-borrowers
Feb. 2011: Resident lawsuit
Jan. 2013: The court dismissed resident’s lawsuit without prejudice, thus, the suit could be reopened.
Jan. 2014: NJ DEP final loan costs and schedule of loan repayments.

Joe Talerico moved to Lake Neepaulin 1997 because he said there no lake dues.

Now, he is one of many residents on the hook to pay for a more than $1,000,000 loan between the Friends of Lake Neepaulin and the New Jersey Department of Environmental protection as the Wantage Township Committee unanimously passed the special assessment for the area after a tense hour of public comments on Thursday, March 6.

There were 23 comments against the assessment and a few statements in support of it.

"I moved my house because there no lake dues," Talerico said. "Now I am responsible to pay for someone else's private lake."

A total of $1,200,825 must be paid back to the state Department of Environmental Protection over the next 20 years.

The special assessment involves three tiers.

Tier I includes 43 lakefront properties with one side on the lake. They will pay 35 percent of the loan. Tier II consists of 39 lake view properties that will pay back 30 percent of the loan, while Tier III, which includes 624 lots, is on the hook for 25 percent of the loan.

Resident Ann Smulewicz said the committee was involved in group malpractice for following a flawed plan that will not go away.

"It keeps on haunting you," she said. "Put it to rest.

Mayor William DeBoer said the township has been dealing with this problem for a number of years.

"We tried to go the other way, and it didn't work," he said.

During the public hearing, many residents argued the fairness of sthe assessment, as the Friends of Lake Neepaulin is only responsible for 10 percent of the loan repayment, yet the group receives the most, and in some cases, the only benefit. Some residents that must pay the special assessment never use or see the lake.

Many residents spoke of resent possible tax liens which could be made against their properties for non-payment, when they are not receiving any benefit from the Lake Neepaulin Dam.

Other residents do not want to pay for someone else’s privately owned lake. People specifically moved to Lake Neepaulin because they did not want to pay private lake community dues.

Working residents or those on fixed incomes voiced concerns of being able to financially pay the special assessment. One woman asked councilmembers if they want her to get another job.

Some residents of Tier III, who will pay $28.39 per year believed they should have been assessed more, and many residents told the committee cosigning the dam loan was a mistake from the beginning.

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