By John Burton
RED BANK — The Borough Council intended to vote on an ordinance requiring owners of foreclosed properties to post contact information on their properties and submit that information to borough authorities, but the vote was tabled last Wednesday after Councilwoman Sharon Lee voiced her objection.
Lee was concerned about a provision of the ordinance that requires owners of foreclosed properties to post an 81/2×11 inch sign on their building, likely in the window, with the pertinent contact information.
Lee, won of two borough council members who are west side residents, explained that she felt the posting of signs on foreclosed homes could exacerbate neighborhood decline, particularly in low income areas of town that are largely on the west side.
“I certainly know that a sign plastered on one house or two houses would certainly discourage people from purchasing in that neighborhood,” said Lee, who is African American and a lifelong west side resident.
Lee also wondered if this would be administered equitably for the more affluent east side and the downtown business district. “Can you image Broad Street with a bunch of stickers on the doors?” she asked on Monday.
“The genesis of this,” Borough Councilman Michael DuPont explained at last week’s public meeting, is “to compel the mortgage holder to contact us.”
“I don’t have a problem with that,” Lee responded.
While there is a state statute requiring that towns be notified and property be maintained after a foreclosure, the economic meltdown and the ensuing rise in foreclosure has, in many cases led to confusion over who the owners of many foreclosed properties actually are.
Banks and mortgage companies have been selling off the mortgages on these properties, and merging with other banks, making it increasingly difficult to track down the responsible parties when properties fall into disrepair. “We’re going to put the burden on them to ensure their information is up to date,” Mayor Pasquale Menna said last month. The ordinance is modeled after one enacted in Lodi, and would also require a $125 registration fee
Vincent Lepore, a Long Branch resident, offered his objections at last Wednesday’s meeting, telling the council he feared it could open the door for properties to be deemed as “blighted” and condemned under eminent domain laws, much like what was done in the controversial Long Branch Redevelopment.
But DuPont and other council members responded that there would not be any condemnations of property.
When contacted by ***ITALSThe Two River Times**ENDTALS this week, Phyllis Salowe-Kaye, executive director for New Jersey Citizen Action Committee, a government watchdog coalition, agreed with Lee’s perception of the detrimental effect of requiring foreclosed properties to be identified with signs.
The state already requires mortgage lenders to be registered and to have a local agent available, said, Salowe-Kaye, which her group supports, however, “Putting signs in the windows of foreclosed properties can’t do anything to make the neighborhood a better place to live.”
The council agreed to table the matter to continue discussions before it returns for a vote.