IT’S MAYOR v. EX-MAYOR OVER ‘MONSTROSITY’

dilapidatedMayor Maria Fernandes wants to see dilapidated buildings, like this one owned by ex-Mayor JoAnn Kalaka-Adams, cleaned up and in better shape in Sea Bright. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Sea Bright Mayor Maria Fernandes is setting her sights on a number of eyesore properties in town, and plans to go after their “slumlords,” one of them being a former nemesis who’s running for her post later this year.

Fernandes, who recently received an official report highlighting dilapidated buildings in town, is resurrecting withered discussions — and perhaps a political fray — to put an enforcement ordinance in place to get unsightly buildings into shape.

dilapidated1The former River Street School is among the properties in need of improvement. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

Two years ago, Fernandes asked the council to draft an ordinance dealing with dilapidated properties, a local law she says is needed to get property owners to restore the safety, if not aesthetic appeal, of their buildings.

“And this council is not moving at all on this issue,” she said Tuesday night. “You have to do something to motivate these people to fix up their buildings.”

One of those people happens to be mayoral candidate Jo-Ann Kalaka-Adams, who Fernandes narrowly upended for the top slot four years ago after a recount and protracted lawsuit, making Fernandes’s timing to bring the issue back to the table one heck of a coincidence.

It’s a coincidence and nothing more, said Fernandes, who recently announced she’s not running for re-election this year.

“She had that building up last time she was mayor and never dared touch it,” Fernandes said of her predecessor as mayor.

Kalaka-Adams, who is running again in November, could not be reached for comment.

After receiving a report from the borough engineer highlighting seven properties in need of improvement, Fernandes said she’s intent on getting all the properties cleaned up and in safe condition.

In addition to Kalaka-Adams’s building, the reports says 1135 Ocean Avenue; the former River Street School at 4 River Avenue; a home at 3 Beach Street; a home at 6 Peninsula Avenue; a home at 30 Normandie Place; and another at 31 New Street are all in need of improvement, and some have a list of complaints ranging from being an eyesore to being unfit for occupancy.

Some of the properties have been broken into, had items stolen and fires set to them, the report said.

The complaints have come into borough hall over the years, Fernandes said, “and then they have the slumlords who don’t care.”

What’s scary, Councilman Read Murphy said, is that a couple of them are still occupied.

The problem is that many of the buildings are inaccessible to the borough, but the council appears loath to get an enforcement ordinance in place, giving a property owner little or no incentive to get their buildings into shape, Fernandes said.

She instructed borough Administrator Maryann Smeltzer to send a letter to code enforcement to take another look at the properties and draft a letter asking what the department may need from the borough to take action on the properties.

“If they don’t have the tools – for example, the ordinance in place – then they have to get back to us for what they need,” she said. “And that’s going to be a problem.”

Fernandes said she’ll continue to bang the drum for an ordinance not only for the sake of the town’s look, but for neighbors who have to look at “these monstrosities.”

“We’ll chip away at the blocks until we get them done,” she said.

A PDF of the report can be downloaded here.