2021 update: As we end 2020 and enter the new year it is clear that a handful – perhaps five or six – of the long term residents will stay at Money Island and the expansion of infrastructure investment that we saw this year will continue and expand in the year(s) ahead. The rest of the residents will eventually complete the buyout process. It is still unclear what, if anything, will happen with many nonresidential underwater properties (those mostly below the mean high tide line). That makes up the majority of the properties here. We presume that nothing will happen with them soon but we see increased interest in working waterfront by the aquaculture and energy industries. The strategy of the few remaining residents is to keep a low profile, avoid any redevelopment work that requires government permits, and wait for currently planned government actions and commercial infrastructure redevelopment to evolve over the coming years. We expect that the marina will eventually be redeveloped but that that may not happen until around 2030.
We were a bit concerned by this lopsided coverage by the Atlantic City Press this week where the reporter included five comments by the mayor about how his local government will be hurt by the property buyouts but not a single comment about the devastating financial impact on the residents and property owners here who have already suffered the loss of their homes and much of their property value.
The state apparently announced expansion of its local buyout offer of the Money Island hoes to now include the commercial docks but we do not have any confirmation from any dock owners yet. We own several of the commercial docks in the target area and haven’t received any notice yet.
There were only two comments from Money Island residents in the AC Press article. Jeanie is, well, our beloved unique neighbor and it’s fair to say her life view is different from most. She has been clear, just like her well-respected mother years ago, that she intends to remain here no matter what. Meghan, the other resident who offered comment, is always diplomatic and politically correct as is appropriate for her role as leader of the regional recovery effort. But what about the 60+ other property owners here, mostly hard-working local people, who have already lost homes collectively worth millions of dollars attributable to the rising water?
Just to repeat, we still have no word on the state’s intent for the marina or the docks. The news reported that the buyout offers have extended to Money Island’s commercial docks but we own several of them and we have no indication yet that the state is interested in acquiring the properties. In early 2012 (before Sandy) a formal offer was made to gift these properties to the state and then lease them back. This is the way Fortescue Marina and many other marinas around the state operate and all people at DEP the Tony spoke with agreed that it was a good plan.
But then the state apparently lost focus after Sandy and we haven’t heard anything since then on the status of the plan. The informal word is that the offer is still being considered but through channels outside of the Blue Acres program because Blue Acres is for acquiring open space, not meant for sale/leasebacks. All informal indications are that state government wants the marina to remain in business; we just don’t know how that will be financially possible without a sale/leaseback.
For now we are just waiting and will postpone any new major capital expense projects until we have clarification from the state. As far as we know, planned improvements to the boat ramp, pump out station, seawall, shoreline restoration, etc. that are already in motion will continue to move forward (slowly as always) at Money Island. The marina will continue forward with planned dock improvements this season.
Our best guess, based on collected comments of residents and government officials, is that the marina and commercial harvesting businesses will remain at Money Island for perhaps a decade or two, but that most of the other remaining Money Island residents, about 15, will be gone within the next five years. Tony reminds owners that historically about 8 out of 10 people who receive an offer from NJDEP Blue Acres do eventually accept the buyout. It’s not that they want to sell but rather that they run out of other options.