Mystic Island Residents Must Decide on Special Tax for Dredging

Mar 20, 2019
Photo by: Pat Johnson Committeeman Ray Gormley (standing) explains how the special assessment on Mystic Island residents would pay for the dredging of their lagoons.

Little Egg Harbor Township held a special meeting March 15 with Mystic Island residents who live on the waterfront east of Radio Road. The township has seen the success of dredging Osborn Island lagoons through use of a special assessment levied on those waterfront dwellers and is now extending the question to the 526 property owners on 12 lagoons that lead to Rose Creek.

Committeeman Ray Gormley took the lead in explaining how a special assessment would work for these properties. Existing depths in Rose Creek and at the mouths of most lagoons is 2 feet of water or less. The plan is to dredge 34,500 cubic yards of mud from these low areas to 4½ feet below mean low water. The width of  Rose Creek channel would be dredged to 20 or 30 feet ; the width of the lagoon dredging would be 40 to 50 feet with sloping up to the docks or bulkheads.

At an estimate of $100 per cubic yard to be dredged and disposed of, the cost would be close to $4 million. To pay for this, each property would be assessed $9,500, to be paid out over 10 years of bonding. Residents could pay it upfront the first year or pay $950 a year for 10 years.

The benefits would be improved boating during low tides and a subsequent increase in home values.

The township, with its AA rating, would get a bonding rate of 3.35 percent.

Gormley said dredging is permitted only between July 1 and Dec. 31 unless the town could get an extension. If residents of Mystic Island included in Phase 1 (those living east of Radio Road) decide by majority that they support the dredging, it could begin as early as August of this year.

The township planned to mail out certified letters on March 19, asking if these property owners are in favor of the dredging and the special assessment. Their answers should be returned to the township clerk by March 29. If the vote is approved, the township would advertise for a contractor in May, award the bid in June, start construction in August and hope for completion by Dec. 31.

As in the Osborn Island dredging, the contractor would be responsible for dewatering the mud and trucking it to an approved disposal site.

One change is the township has been approved to take 10,000 cubic yards at the public works yard. Once there, it would be augmented with additional sand to make material suitable for fill behind living shorelines, such as the one being constructed off Iowa Court.

The dewatering would take place on a barge at the end of East Playhouse Drive. This is an area owned by Ocean County where there is an informal boat ramp that is heavily used. But during discussion, residents expressed a desire to have that area permanently cordoned off to keep people from using it as a boat ramp. Some claim the people using it don’t keep to the no-wake laws and speed on Rose Creek.

One bone of contention is the way the township has grouped the north side of Rose Creek with the south side. The north side has eight lagoon ends that have to be dredged while the south side has just four areas of Rose Creek that need dredging. Some from the south side asked why they should be paying for their neighbors to the north.

That was the way the engineers broke out the plan for Mystic Island, and the depth surveys and testing of the mud have all been done through a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant, using $175,000 of the $2.1 million split between Little Egg Harbor Township and Tuckerton.

During the question and answer period, a resident from South Burgee Drive asked about the abandoned homes still left from Superstorm Sandy: How would they pay the assessment.?Township Attorney Jean Cipriani explained that a tax lien would be put on the property.

Someone else asked how marinas would be assessed. Cipriani said they would be treated the same as homeowners. Monroe’s Marina, for example, is four lots and would be assessed on each lot.

Gormley also said if property owners wanted to have the dredging company dredge closer to their dock, they would have to negotiate with the company separately and get their own waterfront permits.

He said only four people on Osborn Island had gone for the extra expense.

Gormley noted that in the 40 or 50 years since Mystic Island and its lagoons were built, this is the first time they have been considered for dredging.

“At no time has the township collected a penny for dredging, and maybe they should have. Someday when we get this all dredged, we may be looking at a dedicated tax like we have for open space,” he said. 

 — Pat Johnson

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