ATLANTIC CITY – At a news conference today at the Atlantic City Convention Center, State Senator Jim Whelan and Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Lisa Jackson unveiled a new licensing fee formula designed to introduce fairness for residential dock owners who’ve been hit by soaring tidelands licensing fees.
“Homeowners on the Jersey Shore face some of the highest costs of living in the entire Garden State,” said Senator Whelan, D-Atlantic. “It seemed patently unfair to pile soaring dock fees onto these already overburdened families. This new formula represents a more rational approach to licensing our State’s tidal lands for private, residential docks owned by families living down the Shore.”
“This new fee formula makes much more sense, providing predictability and stability to property owners along tidal waterways while more accurately reflecting the impact of structures on natural resources,” DEP Commissioner Lisa P. Jackson said.
Under current State law, New Jersey homeowners seeking to build a private dock off their Shore homes are required to pay a tidelands licensing fee to the State of New Jersey. Prior to February of this year, the licensing fee imposed by the State was calculated based on the municipally-assessed value of the homeowner’s upland property – the lot on which their home is built – divided by the square footage of the upland property. However, due to the real estate bubble that took place between 1999 and 2005, property values soared, causing licenses to increase by as much as 600%.
In February, the Tidelands Bureau under the DEP, at the request of Senator Whelan, drafted a new formula to set a Statewide standard rate which wasn’t tied to property values. Under the new formula, homeowners would be charged $.49 per square foot of the submerged tidelands on which their docks sit, for docks which take up more than 700 feet of tidal land. For smaller docks, a sliding scale was established to impose annual fees (see table, attached). The fees would remain unchanged for five years, and would then be adjusted to reflect the cost of inflation over the five year period.
“Shore families were being hammered, first by massive property tax hikes triggered by the real estate bubble, and then by soaring dock fees from the State of New Jersey,” said Senator Whelan. “I first brought this issue to Commissioner Jackson’s attention last summer, and to her credit, we were able to come up with a much fairer formula which doesn’t penalize families for enjoying their homes at the Shore. Through the revised tidelands licensing formula, we were able to balance the needs of the Tidelands Bureau with fairness for Shore homeowners.”