Almost a year after Sandy destroyed most of the shore, towns are grappling with a new phase of recovery: how to balance the complaints of residents living next to neglected properties against the plight of homeowners who lost everything and have not decided whether to rebuild.
Many owners have yet to repair their homes for many different reasons; they’re either contesting or haven’t received flood insurance reimbursements, they are waiting to receive state or federal grants or didn’t even have flood insurance or are simply too overwhelmed to do anything.
Union Beach that sustained similar damage to Highlands, receives between 30 and 40 complaints a week about damaged properties in the community of mostly year-round homes. Their code guy views the homes and determine what needs to be done. The fixes can range from routine lawn maintenance to demolition. Under normal circumstances, summonses of up to $300 a day would be issued for failing to maintain the property. Instead, the list of homes needing just lawn care is handed over to a member of the Gateway Church of Christ, a Holmdel-based church that has helped the town recover by providing supplies and volunteers. UB is also also relying on volunteers to demolish about 102 homes that remain from a list of 300 slated to come down.
Toms River waited almost a year to send out letters to neglected home homeowners. When they sent the inspectors out, they discovered everything from overgrown lots infested with vermin to caved-in homes and structures that remain off their foundations.
Highlands needs to put together a game plan of how they are going to handle the similar situation and share it with residents that have come back. Because doing nothing shouldn’t be an option.