Potential hefty increases for land leases in Ocean Grove, particularly for commercial properties, remains an issue with people owning property there and the Ocean Grove Homeowners Association and others have retained an attorney to look into the matter.
The Homeowners Association and other stakeholders have retained Roseland-based Attorney Matthew Adams, who is the son of former Neptune Police Chief Robert Adams, to look into the land lease issue.
All land in Ocean Grove is owned by the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association and leased to its property owners. In addition, property owners are still taxed on the value of their land just like any other township property owner
Homeowners Association President Barbara Burns, who is also an attorney, said that three major banks will no longer issue mortgages in Ocean Grove because of the uncertainly over the land leases.
“The water is kind of murky right now in Ocean Grove where land leases are for 99 years and renewed in perpetuity. So property owners and banks don’t really know where the power of the Camp Meeting Association really lies,” she said.
Earlier this year when the Carriage House Bed & Breakfast was sold, the Camp Meeting Association increased the ground rent from $21 per year to $5,000 per year. The sale closed but not before the sellers reduced the sale price by approximately $40,000.
An ad hoc committee of Homeowners Association representatives and other stakeholders recently met with Camp Meeting Association officials and Burns said they were told the OGCMA is reviewing the ground rent situation and will have a response sometime in the future.
“They did not give us a timetable but they said that whatever they do there will be a six month advance time period before they implement anything. They did indicate that they are focusing on commercial leases rather than residential,” she said.
“So there was nothing concrete other than we will keep on talking,” she said.
Neptune Township Committeeman Randy Bishop, who owns a bed and breakfast in Ocean Grove, said the township has a real reason to worry about any sizeable increase in the lease agreements.
He said the $10.50 per lot lease was really a tradition but the new lease increases raise the question does the OGCMA now have a more vested interest in the land. And, if that is the case, should the township now be naming them on every violation and every lien process.
“Since three banks decided to no longer write mortgages in Ocean Grove, it causes instability and the actions of the Camp Meeting Association continues to jeopardize homeowners’ values. Since the original leases make no mention of use, commercial or residential, it continues to have a negative impact on all properties in Ocean Grove,” he said.
Burns said in a prepared statement that the ground leases are “a complicated issue.” The leases are not uniform for all lease-holders which means that it is difficult to evaluate the Camp Meeting’s power and authority to increase ground rents, except on a case-by-case basis- what the Camp Meeting Association may do with respect to one lease may be not apply to another.
“The Camp Meeting Association’s statement that it will evaluate ground leases on a case-by-case basis will certainly be problematic to the extent that outcomes are arbitrary or impermissibly discriminatory,” the statement said.