Did City OK Year-Round Park Model Residency?
The Woodbine, N.J., City Council narrowly voted Thursday (Dec. 3) to allow year-round occupancy at the borough's campgrounds. Or did it?
The council voted 2-1 with two abstentions to remove a stipulation from the borough's rules that required campers to leave nine days of the month between November and April, according to The Press of Atlantic City.
The issue of campground residency initially came up last year when the state sought to enforce electric-code rules governing "park model" trailers. The state imposed harsher residency rules on campgrounds such as Carol Lynn Resorts than had been enforced locally.
State lawmakers stepped in last summer and exempted existing residents from the residency restrictions. But residents wanted the borough to change its ordinance as well to permit year-round residency at the campgrounds.
A tenants group at Carol Lynn Resorts is suing Woodbine and the campground's owners, Councilman Anthony Saduk and his wife, Carol, over the issue.
During a contentious public hearing, campground neighbors bickered with each other as much as with the council.
"The association does not represent a majority of lessees," camper Bob Diggs said. "To me, they are not an association. They are a lynch mob."
Before the hearing, Carol Saduk said she could not comment because of the lawsuit pending against her business.
"They do not intend to throw people out of the campground. It's a fiction," her lawyer, Mitchell Kizner, said.
"I don't want to hear about intentions. Where is it in writing? I can't go by someone's word," association President Darren Kirsch said.
Campground tenant Lauren Kelly said she was threatened with eviction for not signing a new lease that reiterated the residency rules. She said the campground's strongly worded letters threatening eviction contradict the owners' reassurances that nobody will be forced to leave.
"I don't trust them anymore. It's your very ordinance that is threatening to make me homeless in the wintertime. I don't believe they're not going to enforce it," Kelly said.
Jay Otto, director of the New Jersey Campground Owners Association (NJCOA), said campgrounds would face greater state scrutiny if the ordinance were passed.
"On behalf of 100 campgrounds in New Jersey, we urge you not to adopt this ordinance," he said. "They are not intended for residential use."
Meanwhile, the Pinelands Commission in a Dec. 2 letter warned the council that the changes would conflict with the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan – the document governing development in the environmentally sensitive Pinelands.
Solicitor Paul Baldini said the ordinance passed, but his interpretation was disputed by borough Clerk Lisa Garrison and former Solicitor and now Councilman-Elect Michael Benson, who takes office next month. Both said the ordinance failed by one vote because approval required a majority of the five councilmen present.
Councilmen Clarence Ryan and Louis Murray voted yes. Councilman Eduardo Ortiz dissented. Councilmen Anthony Saduk and Douglas Watkins abstained.
Saduk did not participate in the discussion but he remained at the dais during the hearing.
The campers' lawyer, Brenda Rascher with South Jersey Legal Services, said Saduk should have stepped down from the table.