Breaking News! Highlands Floods

I’m certainly grateful for a very professional and considerate borough clerk who is patiently answering all my questions and responding to my many requests. But I can’t help but think many others must be as interested as I am in the proposed Redevelopment business area that envelopes all of Bay Avenue as well as parts of other streets.

To me it seems like this whole venture could have a huge impact on the town and could mean some major changes. It sounds like something the people would like to know.

Yet I cannot find the comprehensive Redevelopment Plan, the study and report by the planning and real estate consultants who did all the work or anything else about this proposal on the borough website, other than the proposed timeline the governing body and Land Use Board have pretty well been keeping.

So here it is. It takes a lot of going through, isn’t terribly exciting, but it gives you a better idea of what the report says and why it says it.

What I’m saying is, for all the folks who think I write from a slanted or biased or I LOVE HIGHLANDS point of view…well, you got me on that last one, I admit to loving Highlands….. I encourage you to review for yourselves.

But it does make me wonder….how come this plan isn’t easy to see, study or access unless you go to borough hall?

The other thing I wonder about is, make no mistake about it; these properties for sale are going for high prices, prices unheard of in flood prone Highlands.

The plan shows lots of shabbiness, lots of trash, lots of stuff that needs work and makes it appear that it’s a good thing to swoop up some of the small lots and make great big lots for great big new business ideas.

It shows a lot of money must have been spent by taxpayers just to have all this work done to examine each of the 150 sites carefully and precisely, even with notations as to where cars are parked on properties and where trash is piled….as if neither could be removed at any time.

But there is nothing, absolutely nothing in the plan, the review, the criteria for state help, nothing that addresses what is the centuries old problem in Highlands. Flooding.

Simply put, shouldn’t the major problem be the one that’s addressed first?

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, it was called Urban Renewal and lots of federal money was offered to solve the problem. The solution was simply to buy out the entire downtown, tear everything down, put in fill, and voila….All of Highlands would be high lands.

Needless to say, the folks who love the town wouldn’t go for it…and urban renewal faded away.

Judging from the prices properties are getting, with no studies or research being done on stopping flooding, perhaps flooding isn’t the big problem to some it seems to be to those who weathered Sandy and Donna and lots of moon and high tides.

For instance, on Bay Avenue and South Second St alone, there are two commercial properties, and ten residential properties listed for sale as of today. Of the ten residential, prices range from $124,900 to $990,000, just under one million dollars.

The almost-million dollar house, owned by a licensed realtor, hasn’t been sold yet, but it looks truly spectacular, if out of place. The $124,900 was sold last December. It went for $125,000.

The report from the planner described it as a one-story dwelling and a one-car asphalt driveway on a 40 foot frontage lot, in poor condition, extensive peeling paint, broken dormer window, and front screen door askew and off its hinges. Situated a few feet from the ground with a driveway with broken pavement, in poor condition. “A vehicle was observed parked in the driveway and another vehicle was parked in the front yard on South Second Street during a site inspection in March 2021,” the planner continued. And more…there is a broken wooden fence, several property violations over the past five years, including upkeep, registration of a vacant structure and an unfit building.

Like all the properties in the study, property is located within the AE flood zone with a one percent chance base flood elevation of 11 feet.. It fits the state’s shabby criteria in that the dwelling is vacant, in poor condition, has documented property violations, detracts from a vibrant commercial corridor, is not elevated so reasonably subject to a severe risk of flood hazards, including structural damage to the dwellings, personal property, and potential harm to, or entrapment of, residents.

What’s more, the one-car driveway doesn’t provide sufficient off-street parking to support the dwelling, resulting in that vehicle parked in the front yard. Therefore, all of this, plus the poor condition of the dwelling and improvements, results in a general sense of neglect on the site, conditions detrimental to health, safety, and welfare of the community.

That’s the cheapest property that went for sale. I don’t know who the owner is, it’s listed as 30 S. Second St. LLC. But the property hasn’t been cleaned since the $125,000 was plunked down and the property purchased.

By the way, the realtor, who clearly has more vision than the planner, described the same property as a prime Highlands water view lot nestled between the Twin Lights and Sandy Hook Bay, a block from the waterfront, premium dining and sweeping Atlantic Ocean views, a hold with tremendous potential. What’s more it’s close to all the good stuff, the realtor continued, morning coffee at Bay Ave Bakery around the corner, evening cocktails at nearby Proving Ground, one of the long list of Highlands top tier outdoor dining destinations, minutes from the hi-speed Sea Streak Ferry terminal, Henry Hudson Trail at nearby Popamora Point for waterfront biking and outdoor exercise, a short ride across the Highlands Bridge to Sandy Hook and New Jersey's finest beaches.

Oh, it was on the market for 18 days. Does the new owner know something we don’t know and is simply going to let it sit, maintaining the planners’ description of it until a redevelopment ordinance is adopted?


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