Survivor: Highlands

SurvivorWho needed to watch survivor last night when we had a Highlands town council meeting? The vote on rescinding the permit fees went as follows:

Mayor Nolan: In favor (Can you tell he’s up for re-election this year?)Councilman Francy: In favor
Councilwoman Ryan: Against
Councilwoman Kane: Against
Councilman Redmond: Against

This is a total ‘Boston Rob’ move.. Split the vote, so that it looks like they were concerned and actually considered it but in actuality knew they weren’t going to give back the money or do anything to actually make life easier for the residents.

Let’s recap since Sandy, shall we…
The 1st Town Hall meeting at the Elementary School in November: Permits were waived and they wanted to make things easier to get back in your houses.  (I wasn’t actually at this one, but I’m being told this was said… interesting since no one knew about the memo).

Town Hall Meeting in January: Mayor Nolan “The State is mandating us charging for permit fees.”  (I was there for this, in fact it was my question on why they were charging for permit fees under the circumstances he was answering.)

Town Hall Meeting in March:  Mayor Nolan “Permit fees are waived & we’re refunding paid fees, I didn’t know about the memo.”

Council Meeting last Night:  Mayor Nolan “The memo from the State said we could waive, not that we had too”  “I didn’t know about the memo until a month or so after the storm and by then it was too late..”, “I lost 2 houses, I voted to rescind the fees” – Easy vote to make when you know 3 of your existing council are voting against it and it doesn’t stand a chance.

Anybody else tired of being bull shitted?  —

The council is hoping that we all have short memories and we’ll forget all about this or are forced not to reside in Highlands so we can’t vote by election day. (This year as well as future elections..)

We need to send a message.. (The tribe has spoken)


  1. The State of NJ is not mandating charging for permit fee’s – Highlands is.. I spoke with a rep at the NJ Office of Community Affairs. He advised, as long as the repairs were not structural, or needed intensive plumbing and electrical. I Did not need permits,regardless of what the town thinks or decides.


  2. Unbelievable, but thats the way things go in this town. You have to stay perpetually lubed up as you are getting screwed all the time. Even people who cant live in their houses are still being charged sewer fees.

    This all shows how desperate the town is for cash. I think things are much much worse than is generally known. If they wont waive fees, which arent really a profit generator, then the budget must really be a disaster. Watch out for huge tax increases in the future!

    I cant believe they cant help people out a little bit, by waving these fees! The storm was not a usual event, and its not like the town was budgeting for that money. But its obvious how desperate they are for revenue if they take a move like this. And it will be a very very unpopular one. People just to remember this stuff in up coming elections.


    • Ask the Governor Monday night 101.5. You can e- mail questions to the radio station in advance or try to call in. (7pm) I am sorry to say that I voted for these people, it won’t be a mistake I make twice.


  3. Hello – is this an email everyone sees – or is it private. Would like to send a private response
    Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry


  4. Can anyone tell me what happened at the Council meeting regarding the Height mitigation? I heard they were going to vote on the 14ft to supercede your Zone requirement. I tried UStream to watch and there was bad sound quality


    • Hey HB…didn’t you post the Rebuild, Retreat report they were talking about last night? I swear I read that here and Highlands was included.


    • Tabled to May 15 meeting for the 14 feet. They did pass the height of house to 30ft so lifting can proceed. Also, if you go past minute 7, the sound is fine… damn gremlins…


    • Thanks for streaming! We had a resident just comment he watch it but had trouble with the sound especially people in the back.
      I explained that there are no microphones. Thank you very much! Streaming meetings is something that should be done and glad someone is doing it!


    • Wait, I missed this, 30 ft height?? what? think about this 14 – 16 ft lift at base, + 8 ft ceilings (1st fl) + 8 ft ceilings on 2nd fl if you have = over 30 ft without an attic or crawl space or higher ceilings..


    • Whoa babe don’t get crazy! What the town did was lift the height of our houses. In my case, I am at 8.5 feet above sea level, I have two stories and an attic say 20 feet of just house ( not taking into account sea level). So they cleared they way for people to lift up to the top of the house being 30 feet above street (not sea) level. Don’t freak out, we have enough to freak out about.


    • So I’m reading and I’m sorry if its just not registering correctly, but they changed the height limit *to* 30 ft? (from street). Its not going to impact me, however, I’m thinking of houses on my street that have full attics and are currently close around 24 – 26 ft today and that’s with only a 2 ft stoop. They aren’t going to be able to meet FEMA standards without cresting the limit.


    • Sorry HB, I don’t remember exact language, will need to review the video or wait for them to post the ordinance. They basically raised the height level of the house from street level so lifting can take place.


    • Are you referring to Rutgers study when they mention storm of 44 Great Atlantic Hurricane was supposed to be a bad one which I looked up and seems like the surge of 30′ was based on eyewitness not sure they had capabilities to measure then but per this article Sandy 5000 year storm. If we get 30′ wave storm I will retreat my ass out of here:) l


  5. In support of full disclosure I want to make sure everyone knows I am the husband of a council person. The alternative to not charging fees was to raise everyone’s taxes in the next year. That was the basis for the vote. It was not the pay one receives or the perks one is exposed to. My wife works many more hours than the part time job being an elected town council member covers. Just adding a little real world perspective to the discussion.


    • Dear Mule1,
      I appreciate your honesty and situation is difficult for all involved but the sooner people fix their homes the value of our homes go up you increase your tax base along with you have more people contributing to local economy. Adding roadblocks and more financial burden for people to return home will only hurt in long run as permit fees will not make up for that tax base. Other towns along the shore are facing same issues and waived so it seems a decision that lacks compassion for plight of people already hurting. We can’t be a community if we don’t have support of our elected officials and neighbors which by council meeting seems not to be the case.


    • Just one more thing…obviously the decision was already decided based on money before council meeting so was a little deceitful to give false hope that Mayor and council were even seriously considering. I’ve felt more kindness and compassion from strangers that came in from other communities to help then our own. It’s really quite sad and disappointing.


    • Taxes are going to be raised next year. We’re ALL going to have to bear the financial burden of Sandy for years to come. Thinking we’re some how immune because of charging for the permit fees is extremely short sighted and isn’t actually true. Its quite simple, the more people who’s homes were damaged in Sandy that actually pay their property tax the less the over all financial burden will be for EVERYBODY. So how do you do that? You streamline the process for getting back in their homes. You don’t have to waive the inspection process, just the permit fees and red tape. Also, waiving permit fees as to not add unnecessary financial burden and aggravation in an already stressful and overwhelming time was just the right thing to do.


  6. News Flash….Your taxes are going up anyway. This will be because of all the people who are not coming back. The people who had to walk away. I can’t think of ONE situation that the town has made easy for us.
    You never seem to get the same answer if you ask more than one person. It is not multiple choice.


  7. Mule and others,

    I appreciate what you are saying about being on council and the fact that no amount of money makes up for the BS one takes as a council person.

    However, the fees not being waived is really a small small drop in the bucket!!!!! The town was floundering before the storm, now its just plain drowning!

    To try to say that taxes will be postively impacted in the least by not refunding and not charging permit fees is totally delusional. If the town cant afford to give back a few thousand dollars, and or is afraid to because of budgetary reasons, then it shows how badly in trouble the town is financially!

    Everyone knows the taxes in this town are going to go sky high!!! they mayor basically admitted that in a recent town meeting. The exact quote was something like, ” After the storm we lost 30 million in ratables, this doesnt count people walking away from homes, and rateables that i will be lost in the future. So, this tells you what will happen to taxes in the town”. I thought it was a joke he had to tell everyone in this round about politician like way that taxes are definately going to go up.

    I doubt that not waiving the permit fees would have any signigicant impact on the town budget one way or the other. Not waiving them was a major political mistake, which is why Nolan and Francy voted for it. It would however been a nice message and a sign of compassion by the town council.

    Now, the perception of the council is that they are rigid, unfeeling, untrustworthy and the like. That combined with the continued sewer fees for people not even using the system is ridiculous.

    My message to Borough hall and the town council is to stop kicking people while they are down!!! Instead of “playing” concilperson and having town meetings and setting up useless solution centers for the sake of appearances, how about actually showing some leadership!??

    The only good thing that might come from Sandy is that people might actually wake up and get their heads out of their butts and see what is actually going on in this town and take a stand. If not, the smart move is to leave the ship while its sinking, and let Highlands die a slow death.

    The situaion is obvious. The state or another town is going to have to take Highalnds over. Gigantic tax increases are unacceptable, will not solve growing town problems, and the people who are already financially stressed from Sandy cannot aford them.

    Mayor Nolan when asked about Middletown taking Highalnds over said, “Not while I am mayor”. Well, this situation can be changed.

    I dont care who is running the town or what the towns name is. But if you cant afford to live here, whats the point??

    In extreme cirumstances, extreme solutions and measures are needed. Home rule is not working, and will only be supported by those that want to be big shots in a small town.

    Its time for people to start screaming for Middletown, the state, or someone else to take Highlands over. I really dont see how anyone else can do any worse than what is going on now!!!!


  8. One more point here. The sad and irrefutable fact here is that the mayor and town council are completely and totally out of their league here. Even the most competent and experienced govering body would be in trouble with this situation. The fact is that the council is made up of part time people who have very little experience in running a town. I dont think there is anybody there that has more than 6 years of experience on a town council, and 2 are brand new.

    The truly responsible move would be for them to admit they are over their heads, admit it to the public instead of trying to pretend they have things under control, and admit the town is too small to survive on its own.

    The tax base is just not there. One glaring example is the amount of vehicles the town, police, and fire dept have. Its a huge fleet for such a small town, and who do you think pays for all of that? Highalnds cant afford that, but yet there it is. And its there, because the people in chage, their friends and family like their toys. Not because the town needs or can afford them. This is the mentality the taxpayer in this town is up against. Permit fees cant be waived, but the town can afford the gas, insurance, maintainance and the like for all the vehicles! What does this say about the towns priorities????

    There needs to be a grass roots movement to have the town taken over by Middletown, or merge with 1 or more other towns. We already know the Mayors stance on this, so people should know what to do in November.

    if the town council wont support this idea, then people that will and do the right thing need to be elected.

    The reality is that the whole situation is really in the peoples hands at this point, and not those running the town. They are over their heads, the town is effectively dying and lost at this point. A huge part of the tax base is gone, but the bills will still remain!!!!

    Has anybody heard any talk from those on council about drastically cutting town expenses, or getting rid of vehicles we dont need, or anything else?

    People have a choice, do nothing and just happily pay their soon to be even more outrageous tax bills, or get off their butts and stop bitching and do something about it. The only other option is to leave the sinking ship as so many have intelligently done, or done becuase they cant afford to stay here.

    The situation is grave and will only get worse and not better until people start dealing with the reality of what is really happened and what is going on. The cheery talk of Highlands coming back better than ever, hope for highlands, and all the other feel good propeganda is not going to fix the problem we are all in. Its all smoke and mirrors and political grandstanding!

    So, the options are, stay and pay, stay and fight, or get out and cut your losses!


    • I’d like to stay and fight. But I don’t see letting another town take over. You are so right about the town’s toys and how no one ever talks about cutting expenses.
      Since the storm, we’ve been here with our finger in our ears waiting for some direction from this town. Must we lift, or not? How high? Why hasn’t the town challenged the proposed FEMA maps – are we really a V zone? Wait for the grant, or not? What grant? Where did any of the money go? What stuff is really inside the old firehouse? What solutions are really at the center? Why am I penalized for having insurance?
      Had they had the foresight to tell us to build right away and then to wait for the lifting, there now would be taxpayers moving back into their own houses and renting out their property. But instead they’re nickel and diming us with permit fees, dangling illusive grant money,and hindering rebuilding by dragging on variances.
      No leadership, no direction. Hell, they can’t even help out with streaming video for the town meetings!
      Time for a change, yes. But please not Middletown.


  9. Bay Ave,

    I really dont care who comes in to take over, or merge. The ideal situation would be sea bright or Atlantic. but who wants to take on our problems. Like Keansburg, Highlands is commonly regarded as the white trash poor cousin noone likes to talk about of the bayshore.

    In a totally blatant exampe of how much the town has its head up its butt, and how inept they are, may homeowners whose residences are already and previously been raised, or were built raised originally, are now being sent notices that their houses must be raised. yes, thats right, houses already at or above where they are need to be are told they have to raise them.

    Now, when you get a notice like that, is this supposed to inspire a person with confidence?

    Its just like the town saying, we want you to move back in as soon as you can, but you better not have done any work to make your house livable without a permit, because we might just come in your house and rip your walls apart to inspect! Whats with that noise?

    Many people are just sitting on the sidelines, waiting for insurance, or other things, living elsewhere and deciding whether it is worth returning to town.

    I personally know many people that will not come back to town because its not worth fixing up a house, when you have to live next to section 8 rentals run by absentee landlords, and rented to patrons of modern chemisty! Many are looking to take what they can and run.

    For people to make the investment to come back, they need leadership and a plan, and it seems both of these are sorely lacking.

    If anyone wants to really stay and fight, they have to take over and run borough hall, and not depend on those running it now to help them.


    • this is where your tax money goes to. . it drives the chief car down the the driftwood (which he parks on the side of washington ave not in front of the bar, that would look bad) which he stays for a few hours then dives home. now i dont patronize the bar and i will give the benefit of the doubt that maybe, maybe he works there, but why does he drive the town truck, use the town gas. people are sick of paying for the perks. still to this day i have not received any word back on my hope for highlands grant. i bet all the connected have. it a good thing i am not holding my breath for that because i would be dead. but living here is a slow death too. i have sent a letter to the the links above regarding this town. i hope that someday something gets shaken up in this town.


  10. I know we are all busy rebuilding our lives but we need to be relentless on not accepting the status quo. I will keep e-mailing and e-mailing until I get someone to answer. In my opinion this is the moment and only chance to make things change for the better. Please don’t stop standing up for yourself even if you begin to feel hopeless.


  11. It will remain hopeless if the same old people are allowed to keep running the show. which is to say running things into the ground and below! With the Mayoral election right around the corner, if neither party runs someone acceptable its time for a real independent candidate!


    • Agreed! You know I was thinking wouldn’t mind the paying permits decision if all the money made from permitting people to rebuild went directly to protecting their homes. There are things you can do with 250K to help drainage and maybe use money for flood preparedness(which there is none in place now that I know of) perhaps invest in this system that HB mentioned in one blog post and fire dept. and police dept. can deploy to help residents until there hopefully more permanent solutions other than lifting homes.


  12. Sol the APP, did their story oh Highlands, Permit fees: – they left out the fact that the state sent out a memo saying they would waive the State portion of fees if the town wanted to waive for their residents as well as the fact the State pointed stated what types of things a municipality *could* charge fees for in the rebuild after Sandy, and Highlands wasn’t following that either.


  13. Every one please Send a email to writer of article…. now we have someone’s attention let keep it.


  14. I just got yelled at and hung up on by Nancy O’Neil, the building department secretary. She demanded I speak with her immediately about a permits problem. When I pointed out that I was not yet home from work (I had no paperwork on me), I asked if I could call her back. She continued being pushy and then said I was the one being rude. Then she said she’d issue me a violation notice. I am so fed up with the people running this godforsaken town. Instead of helping residents, they’re just trying to kick us to the curb. I don’t think it was unreasonable that I asked to call her back. Maybe I’ll just walk away and let the bank take the place, if the town doesn’t want me living here anymore. You’d think they’d be happy people still want to live in Highlands, but I guess not. They were horrible to my next-door-neighbor about permits too.


  15. Thats just horrible…this has been such a traumatic experience and it’s like pouring salt into an open wound.


  16. The number and fax you posted for the town are still one answers… Call 408-432-2811 and the fax is 732-872-1095
    Call John Maher At NJ Community Affairs 609-984-7720 or Govt Fraud hotline 866-738-797
    Let your voice be heard.


  17. I’ve left two voicemails for Paul Vitale and two for Mayor Nolan. No one’s called me back yet. I plan to go down to the “solutions” center in person this evening.


  18. The break ins are happening at an extreme rate which is not being broadcasted We need help taking back what we have worked for. WAKE UP HIGHLANDS!!


  19. This just sent to Wolfe Houselifters:

    I have received your “job packet” and I must decline to become any further engaged with your company. We are victims of Hurricane Sandy, located in the now “V” (ABFE) Zone. We now have five complete three ring binders full of paperwork and photos pertaining to FEMA, our insurance company, our mortgage company, federal, state and local government rules and regulations as well as a complete binder dedicated to our contractor and much more. We are at least two months away from returning to our home.

    If you think we are going to dedicate more time to your ridiculous specifications for obtaining an estimate for raising our house, you must be high. If you would like to come to Highlands NJ and do some actual work in assessing the cost of raise our home, we welcome you. Otherwise, thank you anyway.

    Cathy R.


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