Seaview Harbor, a small but affluent Shore community just off the causeway leading to Longport, will remain part of Egg Harbor Township, a judge ruled, dashing the aspirations of residents to join the more tony and lower-taxed beach town of Longport.
Atlantic County Superior Court Judge Julio Mendez, in a 65-page opinion, ruled that allowing Seaview to secede would “cause significant injury to the well-being of Egg Harbor Township": specifically the loss of more than $2.3 million in tax revenue, much of it targeted to the township’s school district.
Mendez noted that the primary motivation for Seaview Harbor to seek secession was that residents of the waterfront community feel “geographically and demographically more akin to Longport" than to the landlocked bedroom community of Egg Harbor Township.
Seaview residents, he noted, look to the more affluent Shore town for “their civic social cultural and religious needs.”
Nonetheless, Mendez ruled, their $95 million in tax ratables were more important to Egg Harbor Township than Longport.
Mendez said Seaview residents had, in fact, proven that remaining part of Egg Harbor Township would be detrimental to their “economic and social well-being.”
“Longport is unquestionably the natural focus of Seaview Harbor,” Mendez wrote, adding that the marina community was geographically isolated from the rest of Egg Harbor Township, five miles away, and that residents look to Longport for church, recreation, emergency services, and the post office.
Under the proposal to join Longport, the average taxpayer in Seaview Harbor would have seen a reduction in property taxes from $20,759 to $3,347, in fact, according to the court record. And they would have seen a reduction in flood insurance as well, Mendez noted.
Mendez agreed that in terms of age and seasonality, Seaview resembled the coastal Longport more than the younger, year-round community of Egg Harbor Township. He also agreed that having municipal services based in Egg Harbor Township mainland was an inconvenience.
“The Petitioners established that the Township’s refusal to consent to the annexation is detrimental to the social well-being of Seaview Harbor,” Mendez wrote.
But that was not enough to overrule Egg Harbor Township's decision to deny the community’s petition to leave the township.
He said residents of Seaview had not proven that the township’s decision was arbitrary, or that it would not cause injury to Egg Harbor Township’s well-being. And he said he found some merit in the argument that residents were simply “tax shopping.”
The school district in particular, he said, would be hurt in concrete ways, Mendez said.
“The loss of $1.88 million will have a devastating impact on the school budget and on the children of Egg Harbor Township,” Mendez wrote.
In addition, cuts to the township’s police and fire departments would negatively impact residents.
Since March 2014, the Egg Harbor Township Planning Board has held 32 hearings on the proposed de-annexation of Seaview Harbor from Egg Harbor Township, according to Seaview Harbor attorney John Paul Doyle.
The lack of services provided by the township, steep tax rates, and the fact that the community isn’t even contiguous with Egg Harbor Township are among the reasons the 99-home neighborhood and harbor of Seaview want to leave and join neighboring Longport
The decision is expected to be appealed.