The recent filing of the proposed JCP&L Monmouth County Reliability Project should serve as a wake-up call to all taxpayers in the state of New Jersey. The proposed 10-mile project with upwards of 200-foot monopoles to be installed on New Jersey Transit right-of-way will have a negative impact on the property values of all adjoining properties and potentially, properties within the line of sight. The impact alone in Middletown could be upwards of $1.5 million in lost value. However, don’t despair taxpayers of Middletown, Holmdel, Hazlet, Aberdeen and Red Bank. According to their BPU filing, JCP&L will be making a $9.8 million payment towards the local municipalities through Energy Receipts taxes.Energy Receipts taxes are the monies paid by electric utility companies for use of easements and equipment in a community to provide their servic- es. In other words, the utility company pays a fee for you and I having to deal with power lines, substations, utility poles, and so on and so forth. You may be thinking Middletown may lose millions in property values but JCP&L will make up for it so it should all work out in the end. Not so fast. Since Gov. McGreevy’s actions in 2002, the State of New Jersey has taken this money due to the municipalities and has used it for their own state budget purposes. Both Democratic and Republican governors alike have continued the state’s skim on suburban taxpayers to the tune of millions of dollars per year. Fortunately this was challenged in court and the state was told that they could not directly take the money due to municipalities in this fashion. Thus, law- makers in Trenton will tell you that this is not true and that municipalities do receive their energy receipts tax money. Instead, all governors since 2007 have reduced CMPTRA (Consolidated Municipal Property Tax Relief Aid) payments to local towns by the amount that is owed to the towns in Energy Receipts taxes. If a town receives $2 million in energy receipts taxes, the State of New Jersey reduces the exact amount that is supposed to be used for property tax relief to your town. Money that belongs to the taxpayers is syphoned away to be spent on wasteful state budget programs on an annual basis instead of reducing our property taxes.Since 2007, Middletown Township has seen Trenton skim over $40 million that rightfully belongs in Middletown. In fact, Middletown is owed over $5 million per year in this year’s budget alone. To put that into perspective, that $5 million would have resulted in a 9 percent property tax reduction on the 2016 municipal tax bill with a fully funded budget to meet our obligations. This is not a one-year, one-time event. These cuts would be happening every year. Municipal tax bills in Middletown and neighboring communities would be slashed.If approved, the Monmouth County Reliability Project will have a negative impact on taxpayers in all of the affected municipalities. The only entity that will benefit from this project will once again be Trenton. Middletown Township has done everything we could over the past five years to bring this issue to light. As mayor in 2011 and 2012, I hosted public forums with other mayors to bring this issue to light. The Middletown Township Committee has sup- ported countless resolutions sponsored by the League of Municipalities and supported bills that would stop this state shell game and provide the neces- sary property tax relief we deserve. If the leadership in Trenton is serious about helping to control the soaring costs of property taxes in New Jersey, it is time that they stop their continued Ponzi scheme financing on the backs of municipal taxpayers. The list of unfunded state mandates and diversionary programs that are breaking the backs of municipal taxpayers runs deep, and it is time that the taxpayers of New Jersey to demand the restoration of these critical funds back to the people they belong to. As I struggle to find one positive benefit to the Monmouth County Reliability Project for Middletown and our neighbors, I hope the issue brings to light an issue that would surely help provide immediate property tax relief. If the state doesn’t stop the way it does business, will the last one left please turn out the lights?Tony Fiore Deputy Mayor, Middletown
“We have maps and data that support that smoke from this size stack will travel for six miles. If accurate, you’re not talking about a local issue. This covers a large part of northern Monmouth County. You’re talking north to Hazlet and Holmdel; west to Marlboro and south to Red Bank and Little Silver. This is not just a couple of neighborhoods in Middletown that should be worried,” added Clark, who recently launched an online petition denouncing the crematorium. The petition currently has more than 4,000 signatures. Rather than a location set behind the cemetery’s mausoleums, which are visible to drivers traveling the state roadway, the developers have eyed a vacant, forested area on the other side of the railroad tracks identified on the municipal tax map as Block 865, Lot 136. According to New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) press officer Lawrence Hajna, Fair View Cemetery applied for an air pollution control pre-construction permit three years before submitting its application to the township in 2017. Unlike the original site among the cemetery’s thousands of headstones, which includes vital infrastructure like roadways, parking areas and utilities, this 19.5-acre plot is completely undeveloped and, if approved, would place the crematorium directly across Oak Hill Road from the entrance to the Poricy Park Nature Center and a residential development accessible via Ivy Hill Road. It would also be adjacent to Fairview Fields, a series of soccer fields used by township athletes. Currently there are no regulating measures on the books in Middletown pertaining to crematoriums. Mackiewicz said when the application first came before the planning board, she questioned a developer’s professional about the chamber emissions and was troubled to hear the response. “They told me the only thing that comes out of the chamber is water vapor. But that’s a vague statement. After questioning them about the vapor, they said it would not be 100 percent clean. They said it’s the same effect as if I was running my own fireplace. But I’m not putting bodies in my fire place. There’s other things in a body we need to worry about,” Mackiewicz told The Two River Times. Clark also noted there is mercury present in some deceased bodies, mostly derived from silver dental fillings, that is most dangerous to pregnant women and small children. Though crematoriums are considered low emitters of potentially hazardous materials, a group of township residents are not so sure. QUESTIONINGEMISSIONS According to the New Jersey Cemetery Association there are an estimated 25 operational crematoriums in the state, and around the country they are being viewed as a viable option for cemeteries that are running out of plots. A crematorium is a permitted use at Fair View Cemetery, one of the largest nonsectarian cemeteries in the Garden State. Two years ago the application was granted conditional approval by the Middletown Planning Board. The DEP approved thatpermit June 19, 2014, andthe permit is due to expireJune 18, 2019, Hajna toldThe Two River Times. Regina Mackiewicz said she began monitoring the situation in April 2017, and is the founder of the Facebook group Stop Fairview Crematorium, a private group that has nearly 550 members. Fair View Cemetery, a 90-acre parcel bordering Route 35 South, Oak Hill Road and the NJ Transit North Jersey Coast Line railway, initially proposed the construction of a crematorium in April 2017. However, the site of theproject will be moved. Clark, who was an active member of the Residents Against Giant Electric (RAGE) group, which was instrumental in defeating a $111 million power line proposal by JCP&L, said a new resident opposition group is growing in the township and is collecting data that shows the potential dangers which could arise from the crematorium chambers. The scope of the project is expected to remain the same when Fair View Cemetery goes back to the planning board March 20. A NEW LOCATION Despite several attempts, Fair View Cemetery superintendent William Rockafellow could not be reached for comment. “For me, it’s the environmental impact and it’s the toxins that are most troubling. The smoke stacks are said to be low emitters, but there are still hazardous materials like mercury we need to worry about,” said Andrew Clark during a Feb. 25 interview with The Two River Times. Mackiewicz noted that some bodies can contain medical implants, silicone implants and even unaccounted-for pacemakers. “If pacemakers aren’t removed at the funeral home, who is to say they’ll be removed by the crematorium operators? It could be overlooked, and pacemakers do explode inside crematorium chambers, damaging the chambers and filtration systems, which could lead to bigger problems.” But when the developer, Fair View Cemetery Association, sought a setback variance a few months later, which would have allowed them to build the facility just 50 feet away from the nearby highway, the application was snuffed out with a unanimous vote at the July 24, 2017 zoning board meeting. According to the projectdescription delivered to thezoning board in September2016, the project called fora 1,128-square-foot humancrematorium facility withtwo chambers. Because the application is open before the planning board, Middletown Township personnel and elected officials declined comment. RESIDENTS RALLYIN OPPOSITION MIDDLETOWN – After lying dormant, an application for a proposed crematorium is scheduled to go back before the township planning board in March. Crematoriums have been a controversial topic in the area in recent years, including a 2014 case in Oceanport in which elected officials said they would mount a legal defense against Woodbine Cemetery. Though Woodbine proposed a crematorium, it could not obtain an air pollution permit from the DEP. In 2016, a group of Manalapan residents entered a similar fight against a proposed crematorium at the Old Tennent Cemetery. The planning board ultimately refused to hear the application.