I have a new opportunity to communicate with a peer accountant who serves on the Governor’s Red Tape Review Commission. This is my attempt to put together some notes for the discussion:
Red tape #1: Aquaculture stalemate
The goal: We envision Money Island as the future soft shell crab capital of the Delaware Bay. Our crab shedding operation is modeled after those in Tangier’s Island in the Chesapeake Bay. We are poised to expand when appropriate. Tangier’s Island in Virginia currently boasts the title “soft shell capital of the world” with substantial revenue to its local rural community. We believe that Money Island has the natural resources to be just as successful in this specialized niche of food production.
Current status: Soft shell crab production requires two licenses from the state of New Jersey: a crab harvesting license and an aquaculture license. We have the state-issued aquaculture license #00119 issued March 9, 2012. The physical facilities for the shedding operation are complete but currently idle waiting for the state-controlled harvesting license.
The red tape problem: Different state agencies handle the aquaculture license than the harvesting license. The state apparently lost my application for a crab harvesting licence and feels no compulsion to expedite our license application now. I recently confirmed that it was submitted to the local shellfisheries office ant they have a copy of the application, but it was apparently lost in transit to the state office. Without that license, we have no supply of crabs to put into the shedding tank system.
The common sense solution: The issuance of a NJ crab shedding aquaculture license should be automatically paired with a crab harvesting license since both are required together to run an operation.
My request: Issue me a crab harvesting license.
Red Tape #2: Abandoned real estate
The goal: Return financially and physically “underwater” real estate at Money Island to the tax paying roles to allow us to attract new investors for sustainable redevelopment.
Current status: The majority of our real estate at Money Island is now underwater due to sea level rise. Thee mostly underwater properties have little market value yet are assessed and taxed at much higher values. These properties were abandoned in the prior owner’s bankruptcy and remain in tax default today. Current tax liens exceed the market value. The local municipality was unable to sell the tax liens. Additionally, the NJDEP issued its own separate liens shortly after Superstorm Sandy saying the properties lacked appropriate permitting dating back at least 40 years. Even furthermore, the Office of Community Affairs issued fines for building code violations during Superstorm Sandy repairs. The collective amount of debt now attached to the properties far exceeds their projected future value. As a result, nobody wants to own the land and assume these liabilities. In 2012 I offered the land as a gift to the state as part of a 20 acre gift/sale involving multiple owners. Last month, in July 2016, the NJDEP verbally declined interest in the properties. Now we are trying to find a way to clear the old deb to allow for new economic redevelopment.
The Red Tape Problem: According to a number of experts at PlansmartNJ, OpporunityNJ and representatives from the New Jersey League of Municipalities, NJCPA and others who have reviewed the situation, no legal means exists under current state law to bring the properties “up to zero” so that we can encourage new investors.
The Common Sense Solution: An executive order could be used to waive the old liabilities to bring the properties back to zero value and then reassessed back to taxpaying status.
My Request: Use an executive order to clear the old debts on these mostly underwater properties so we can begin to rebuild a working waterfront business community with normal real estate status.
Red tape #3: Governmental infighting hurts us
The Goal: Implementation of the Cumberland County Long Term Recovery Plan for Money Island as agreed by all stakeholders and by all levels of government.
Current Status: Our Sandy flood insurance claim remain unpaid and are still in review status. FEMA admits fraud in altering the engineering reports of the wastewater system damage but has not moving forward to resolve our open claim. Cumberland County Health Department government is pushing for system repairs before the insurance claim is settled. The township building officer declines to issue building permits until the wastewater system is installed. Funding is not yet available for many planned infrastructure projects including well water permitting, bulkhead construction, wet-proof flood construction, boat ramp extension, channel dredging, wastewater handling and processing, large vessel working waterfront reconstruction. We simply need more time to rebuild under these extraordinary challenging conditions.
The Red Tape Problem: None of these events are under our control. Yet we bear the risk and the ongoing cost of legal defense of the multiple assaults by government during the recovery period.
My Request: An executive order to pause prosecution of property owners at Money Island for pre-existing conditions until intergovernmental dispute issues are resolved and reconstruction is complete.