Town Hall Meeting notes from 9/15

NJ Future logoMonday night’s town hall meeting, wasn’t necessarily a “town hall meeting” like past meetings have been conducted. Steve Nelson from NJ Future presented a summary of the SRPR (Strategic Recovery Planning Report).  – If you hear people speak about the SRPR you now know what it stands for.

The SRPR was worked on by Steve Nelson (who also handles the SRPR in Sea Bright as well as Highlands) and a Steering Committee in Highlands made up of Art Gallagher, Larry Colby, Mayor Nolan, Tim Hill and Kevin Redmond.  I don’t know how they were chosen to make up the steering committee, I would personally put someone else on just to have a different perspective, but that’s just me.)

The council is going to go through the report in its entirety and then vote on adopting the report as a road map to move the town forward (R-14-199) in Wednesday’s Night Council Meeting.

Chapter 1 of the report – goes over the demographics of Highlands (Although admittedly they used pre-sandy demographics).

Chapter 2 of the report – goes over the impact assessment of what Sandy did to Highlands.

Chapter 3 of the report – goes over future risk assessment

  • Future Hazards
  • Risks
  • Potential Impacts/exposure of Sea Level Rising
  • Cohesion of the community
  • Governmental Services

Chapter 4 of the report covers Getting Resilient

  • Communication and outreach

In this chapter they looked at the current Master plan, current zoning, the Planning Documents from Rutgers studio and the recommended FEMA plan

Chapter 5 Assessment of Existing Planning and Zoning Documents (such as)

  • Clam Plant Zoning
  • Bayshore Region Strategic Plan (from before Sandy)
  • Masterplan from 2004 and the re-examination of MP in 2008
  • Monmouth County Haz Mitigation plan (2009)
  • Current Zoning Ordinance for Highlands Recovery Strategy

Chapter 6 Recommendations (not in order of priority)

  • Storm water piping from Rt 36
  • Property maintenance and code compliance
  • Steep Slope mitigation
  • Municipal Facilities Plan (i.e. where to put Town Hall/PD)
  • Obtain NFIP compliance & apply for CRS certification
  • Sewer upgrades (I&I)
  • Pump Station Repairs, install “new” catch basins, pipes etc
  • Economic viability of Clamming Study
  • Determine the need of redevelopment and where it should be
  • Update Boro Haz Mitigation Plan
  • Update municipal codes, plans and strategies to handle future flooding risks, hazards and vulnerabilities
  • Update the latest version of the FEMA’s flood maps using “best available flood hazard data or most stringent version”

Chapter 7 includes the Who, What, When and dollar amount to achieve the recommendations.

To view presentation from town hall CLICK HERE

To view NJ Future’s Report CLICK HERE


  1. How long has the council had the report? If you couldn’t make the town hall meeting, how do you get the report so that we can ask the council questions? Or do the taxpayers get no say until the Master Plan process?


  2. This is great. Thanks so much HB. I wonder if it’s part of the new Master Plan to do a census [unofficial] to see how many people are really here instead of quoting the pre-Sandy numbers for number of residents.


  3. The meeting was a royal waste of time. Over and over the same things are discussed with absolutely no resolutions just “recommendations” which then will get pushed back from council meeting to council meeting. Instead of facing the fact that help is needed from outside sources the same agendas and discussions are held with the same”committee” members .Everyone who lives here knows the “future” risk and hazards, everyone knows about “steep slope” everyone knows about the “pumping station” everyone knows about code enforcement and compliance. Why do the town”committees ” think we are not aware of these things and they have to be repeated over and over. Do they think that they have us fooled by repeating this over and over to those of us who continually attend ? Not one important question was answered last night. This town needs serious help from the outside before everyone in town decides to take a hike. Then there will be no “demographic” to discuss.


  4. I pretty much walked away with this public meeting being a prerequisite before any SRPR report could get approved and submitted to the state. There is a steering committee (Nolan, Hill, Colby, Redmond, & Gallagher). – and the Planning Board also appointed subcommittees (including some of the same names) – that will be making most of the decisions. Public input and meetings are a mandatory requirement of any MP, but dates are not yet known. During the process ….or after they write a final draft …. I have no clue?

    I also understood the main focus of this MP process will be on updating and rewriting ordinances to get old ones up to date (since that never really happened after current MP) and getting in compliance with post-Sandy codes … and also writing new ones to change some commercial, residential & multi-use zones …. all under the agenda to hopefully revitalize and develop areas of Highlands that for years have failed to be successful.


    • I walked out feeling frustrated. I didn’t hear anything I didn’t already know about or know we we needed to fix. We need new ideas and new people. The same ole same ole doesn’t really bring anything new to the table. “New” isn’t a horrible thing Highlands.

      The answer just can’t be another 9 1/2 % tax increase. Maybe more than 10 people will show up Wednesday for the council meeting and feel the same way I do.


    • There are an awful lot of line items on our budget that can be crunched to keep taxes under control. The ‘cover our ass so we can spend irresponsibly’ surplus reserve can also be crunched with an exercise of discipline. That’s why I’m voting NO to moving our elections to November. Keep them in May. 2 seats will be on the ballot and change can hopefully start there.


  5. ONCE AGAIN … Operator Error! … wrong login ….. that post was mas made by me, Barbara, and not dougcard4highlands. So to clear the record … I am voting NO to moving the elections to November.


    • @barb – I would IMO rather change the elections back to Nov. I just don’t see it in the budget. If the council did the right thing this past spring and let the question on the ballot in May instead of Nov we could have changed this already. You can look around on the hill and see people leaving because of the tax increases. Just driving up Grand Tour I saw 5 for sales. People are fed up and I think people are ready for a change, so just like 700+ voted for nonpartisan, they’ll come out for new blood on council. When people start getting their tax re-assessments after lifting and seeing their flood insurance NOT go down, will start comprehending why we need new people. To quote Dina Long “Prior to Sandy, serving as the mayor of Sea Bright was a 10-to-20-hour a week job. In the days since Sandy, it’s been a fulltime, just about 40 hour a week job that happens at night, on weekends, in the morning, squeezed in between. I pretty much eat, breathe, drink and sleep on disaster recovery at this point.” –

      To the current council: “if you can’t invest the time, do yourself and us a favor and step down” – Quote by me…


    • I understand the concern of $7k for holding a May election. But given the last 9.5% tax increase, and some questionable spending in 2014 ….do you really think $7k is going to make any impact on our taxes and budget? Do you think saving $7k will keep people from moving out of Highlands? Do you really think we can wait another full year for the chance of a real change?

      In the past 8 months our bondable cap limit went down by about $8M that hopefully the Finance Committee can identify as necessary. We have supposedly ‘shovel ready’ flood mitigation projects that have been bonded and on the table for years and still not close to getting installed. We had an ordinance approved at the last Council meeting for an additional $38k to pay to repair-an-emergency-repair that was done wrong the first time! Basically a do-over because the council placed the wrong man on the job and ignored the engineer design of a project!

      Maybe spending $7k for elections in May – especially this May – we will hopefully get more new blood on Council to work with Councilman Card and focus on business instead of blocking changes.

      We have state agencies walking away from Highlands because our officials don’t listen to expert’s recommendations. These outside groups throw their hands up in the air saying it’s not worth their invested energy and time to work with Highlands. That may be the real reason people are moving out … not just the taxes.

      And it all comes down to a mere $7k???
      I don’t get it …???

      Residents pushed hard for change, and just when new blood (as you say) is in, and that goal is tangible – and in reach – to possibly bring Highlands up to the caliber of the Dina Long’s way of governance … there’s a big NEVER MIND we’ll keep things as they are????


    • I’m with Barbara. My initial reaction was that it was a no-brainer to move the election back to November for the cost savings. Now, almost two years after Sandy, we have very little to show for everyone’s hard work. There are meetings upon meetings and reports upon reports, and everything says the same thing: code enforcement, fix the drainage, fix the sewers, get us out of the borough trailer and PD trailer. Almost two years later and the only thing we have to show for our hard work is a 9.5% tax increase. With Doug we finally have some momentum on council. We need more people willing to speak up and take action instead of rubber stamping whatever is put in front of them.

      If the council and finance committee can’t find $7k in savings over the 2014 budget, then this town is more broken than I thought. We might as well start looking into merging.


    • Its not just about the $7k (which seriously, we can’t spare)… its about I don’t think we need to have the May elections to attract new people.

      So I guess the real question is why do you think it will be better to have the elections in May? (Let’s take money or cost out of the equation).

      Is it because the council pre July wanted to wait to put the question until the November election, thus giving their people an extra 6 months of power and you want new people in sooner? Or just that strategically (for other reasons, you think its better to have it in May.


    • No Strategy here … just plain survival. Yes it’s obvious that putting off any election allows those already in office to remain in power. But the very essence of non-partisan is to create a governance not controlled by party affiliations. I understand the purpose of non-partisan is to adopt as much of a ‘we the people’ governing body on the municipal level. By altering the May election character of a newly declared non-partisan municipality into the November political game, you are then conforming (once again) to the mainstream schedule and agenda of the political parties. The parties operate on a November timeline with contributions, meetings, lobbying and loyalty paybacks for choosing candidates …. all of those party actions are not geared up for a May election. So why would a newly created non-partisan municipality want to fall right back into those election schedules before the town itself fully realized the significance of the Faulkner act and in declaring itself non-partisan?


    • If you want survival you go back to November. May elections could hurt more than help and I’m not about losing. You may not have a strategy, but I do.

      I want new people in that are going to make a difference. I don’t want the same ole crap.

      Why would a non-partisan want to fall in line with existing election schedules? Because it makes sense. Because 700+ voted for non-partisan in little ole Highlands for a reason. More people voted for non-partisan than ANY one candidate, and that speaks volumes. Because we can get more bang for our efforts by getting the higher numbers at a November election. I’m here to drag Highlands to a better place if I have to drag certain people by their ears.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I want change six months sooner. Even if Redmond & Ryan get reelected, the campaigning will bring out more candidates, more ideas, move viewpoints. The town needs change sooner rather than later. I’d rather see that momentum in early 2015 instead of waiting until 2016.

      It has nothing to do with money, nothing to do with when the referendum showed up on the ballot. It’s all because I believe Highlands can’t wait any longer.


    • Also, I think those that come out to vote in May really do care about who they are voting for. IMO, in November, more people are just going to be pushing buttons. I’d rather have a lower turnout but the voters care instead of a larger turnout which includes those that don’t even realize we have a local election.


    • Let’s face it …. No one will step down until another election is held. So it’s either July 2015 from a May election, or January 2016 from a November election.


    • You’re right and I get it. The fact if we move the elections back to November, Ryan and Redmond get extra time on the council. And that sucks. I still stand firm that November will do better for us than May. That being said, we have noticed small changes in a positive direction since Non-partisan was voted in and Doug Card took office. Hopefully that will continue. Not enough changes to keep either Ryan or Redmond in office, but changes none the less.


    • IMO, the elections should be in November. Fiscal responsibly should be always and for everything, not just when convenient. Highlands shouldn’t spend a dime more than needed for anything.


    • I think the question is how much is fiscally at stake to wait? If the ordinance that bundled a playground with Shore drive project was never questioned and just passed through as some have in past the cost of leaving in May is way more fiscally responsible.. I guess its a matter of these type of ordinances being carefully scrutinized by all and voted on correctly until November.


    • Well we know the good, bad and ugly of the fiscal responsibility of 2014. Maybe if us voters knew what the 2015 budget was going to be I might change my mind. But I doubt if highlandsblog is the only one with a strategy … and the 2015 budget will most likely not be made public until AFTER this referendum vote. The thought of having the same driving forces possibly control the budget for 2016 as well scares the hell out of me.


  6. We have years of studies that put the future vision of Highlands down on paper. So I agree self-interests have gotten in the way. I think its up to us – the people that live here.


  7. Right On Doug Card for finally getting tough with Coves! I also want to thank Mayor and rest of Council for agreeing to addressing with no tolerance policy after years of torture I wish we could next address the drains in the area as the water does not come up from all in the area but a select few?


    • One thing at a time! LOL

      I was very happy to hear about the Coves, but I’ll believe it when I see it. I hate to be so cynical but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone found a reason not to do the clean up.


    • Yeah it’s hard to see that water come up after Sandy from a mental point of view not to mention not being able walk out of your home. I mention cause I don’t think just pump issue but drains are just do clogged and rotten. Coves truly is a hazard to area. Not only all the crap on property but so dilapidated that a source of flooding who knows what toxins seeping into ground and water. I pray they stick to their guns.


    • I’m sure the lack of properly maintained and functioning check valves might have something to do with the water backing up into our streets, too.


  8. Yes I’m sure your right but Im talking a river ran threw it. Look at Doug’s interview at 7:10 Thats not just some water seeping up from drains that goes down in a few. Its scary and if you notice Snug harbor is dry. Its corner of Waterwitch, Huddy, Coves on Rec. You can go a block either way and no water? So serious issues with these particular drains, these hot spots in town need to be looked at and finally addressed IMHO.


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