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Woodbridge Homeowners in Sandy-Devastated Areas Just Can't Catch a Break

If it's not the requirements you rebuild your flooded home to 13 feet over grade, then it's the tax increases you get on the improvements that's bleeding Woodbridge residents dry.


Homeowners in Woodbridge Township who live in flood-prone areas had a lot to say about the cost of being hit by both FEMA, flood insurance increases, and hurricanes, and it's not pretty.

Residents of the perpetually waterlogged Watson Avenue in Woodbridge Proper vented on Woodbridge Patch's Facebook page, after reading a story that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has increased the Advisory Base Flood Elevations - the height from grade from which devastated homes can be rebuilt - from 9 feet, before Hurricane Sandy, to the current 13 feet. 

For these homeowners, it's another disaster.

"We are having so much trouble with our insurance just for repairs, that I have no idea how will we pay to raise our foundation now," said Debbie Wherrity Smith.

"It is all so ridiculous and unfair.We now have to evaluate if we are going to rebuild or walk away."

For some homeowners, they just can't win. Justin Kooy's home raised his rebuilt home after Hurricane Irene's destruction in 2011.

"They revised that map in 2010 for Woodbridge, [for the] first time since the 80s," Kooy said.  "My insurance went from $2,500 to $320 when I elevated [my home] after Irene.

Then, because of the improvements on his rebuilt home, Kooy said, the township "raised my taxes $3,000 a year, so it all equalled out. [It's] not fair."

Christina O'Learny said that even if she raises her home to her area's new 14 foot high elevation, she will still have to pay "crazy high" flood insurance rates.

"If we don't raise the house, we will be paying $9K a year... How are we supposed to pay that along with taxes, mortgage and other daily bills? We are completely screwed!" O'Leary posted.

Politicians from towns with Hurricane Sandy damage have gone out of their way to hold open town meetings and keeping in touch with residents to help them survive and rebuild.

Some of the Watson Avenue and area homeowners said that's not been the case in Woodbridge.

" I have never been contacted. It's very frustrating because Woodbridge has never seemed to really care about the flooding. Nothing ever gets discussed or is done about it, yet we pay District 1 property taxes," Kooy said.

Debbie Wherrity Smith got an upsetting letter from the township. "The only thing we have received from Woodbridge was a letter stating that we had 30 days to repair our house or have it demolished," she posted.

Christine O'Leary had to call to get help. "I called the building dept when I heard about the elevation number being raised and they sent me a pack 'Answers to Questions about Substantially Damaged Buildings'," she said.  

"I think they should have sent these packs out without taxpayers having to ask first."

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Al McDorman January 17, 2013 at 03:14 PM
It sounds like a business opportunity for the powers that be. Drive out the elderly and working poor with upgrade taxes and property taxes, then receive PILOT money from commercial condominium building companies in preparation for the genteel crowd to displace the life-long residents and other sad cases. Then maybe one day Woodbridge will look like Hoboken. Tammany Hall on Main Street always wins in the end, it would seem.
Irina January 17, 2013 at 10:46 PM
Maybe your mayor should've built a retaining wall or dunes. I'm guessing your put-put golf and Colonia golf course is more important. OR maybe he will build both anyway, complimants of the taxpayers because your not paying enough in taxes......MORE TAXES, MORE TAXES, MORE TAXES must be the new norm in Woodbridge.
An American citizen January 18, 2013 at 01:39 AM
More taxes we have to pay because the Indians don't have to pay taxes only the white people do.
Al McDorman January 18, 2013 at 02:54 AM
...and the new businesses are making Payments (up-front) In Lieu Of Taxes (PILOTs). Lowly homeowners, more established businesses, and other commoners must bear the weight, break our backs trying, or leave in disgust.
chuckidl January 18, 2013 at 04:39 AM
Unfortunately, I am leaving Woodbridge after 40+ years because I can't justify the taxes anymore. I have loved living here, but as an approaching single senior, how can I pay 7K (and rising) every year in taxes? My family put 1 child through public school here in three generations. And I'm sure I'm not the only one...
Warren G. January 18, 2013 at 11:27 AM
I moved from New Jersey to California in the 70's. I miss the area, especially Woodbridgemy friends there in school, but I dont miss how excessive the property taxes have become there. My house here in Redondo Beach I bought in 73. Thanks to Proposition 13 my property taxes there are now just over $1200 a year. Although the housing market is down the selling value would be about $500,000. I could only imagine how much it would cost if I were in Woodbridge instead. Would I be able to afford it? NO WAY! Retire & have home ownership? I would be resigned to a rental. I miss you guys and I look forward to each visit but it's things like this make me glad every time I come home here where I can afford a comfortable & somewhat worry free retirement. Warren G. Webb -class of 65 (Sayreville, although it would have been Woodbridge hadn't we moved in the middle of my junior year)
OFFICIAL BUSINESS January 18, 2013 at 01:07 PM
Debbie Wherrity Smith got an upsetting letter from the township. "The only thing we have received from Woodbridge was a letter stating that we had 30 days to repair our house or have it demolished," she posted. Christine O'Leary had to call to get help. "I called the building dept when I heard about the elevation number being raised and they sent me a pack 'Answers to Questions about Substantially Damaged Buildings'," she said. Don't expect to get any straight answers from Woodbridge Building Department, There nothing but a JOKE, They approved the permits for a Condo development and the brick work is falling off. The parking lot Collasped at Burlington Coat factory, They never got a letter to repair or demolish, Nothing been done there. Or even better Since Sandy the roof panels on One Main Street BLEW OFF, so since they havn't repaired that, i guess there going to demolish it and add in to the property taxes. Just remmember the Woodbridge Building Department is nothing but a JOKE.
Gordo K January 20, 2013 at 04:37 AM
“California owes Wall Street more per resident than almost every other state. And it has accumulated a crushing load of debt for retiree pensions and health care, now totaling more than taxpayers spend each year on all state programs combined.” - The Los Angeles Times.
Gordo K January 20, 2013 at 04:45 AM
"It is all so ridiculous and unfair" "[It's] not fair." "How are we supposed to pay that - We are completely screwed!" "had to call to get help. - should have sent these packs out without taxpayers having to ask first." But y'all went ahead and bought those properties knowing full well that they are in a flood zone.
MrsOLeary January 22, 2013 at 01:14 AM
Yes, we bought our home that is in a flood zone. We also got flood insurance like my mortgage company made us get. 3 months later and still no payout. Do you really think its fair that if I don't raise my house to the new FEMA elevation I could pay $9K a year for flood? Do you think its fair that if I DO raise my house then my property taxes rise? Do you think any of us that are HOMELESS thought that our foundation would collapse and we would need to be recused by boats? Do you think that when I purchased my house in 2011 that I would ever find my 1 month old wedding dress floating on my front lawn after half of the house collapsed? Do you think I enjoyed watching all of our personal things be loaded onto a dumpster and then the insurance company says, well I'll give you $6K for whatever you lost, even though you have content coverage? Maybe throwing it homeowners faces that we purchased flood zones homes is unnecessary at a time like this. We pay taxes too, we don't get any 'breaks" or "deals" from our township, so we can complain as much as we want. As long as Seaside Heights gets the relief everyone is happy!
Gordo K January 22, 2013 at 09:57 PM
Accept responsibility for your own actions and oversights, MrsOLeary.
MrsOLeary January 24, 2013 at 12:16 AM
I'm sure you wouldn't feel the same if you were in our situation. I think you are a rude person and shouldn't kick people when they are down. You have NO idea what we are dealing with. I came to this site for help & information, not to have some jerk tell me what I should & should not have done. I pay for flood insurance, I pay my taxes, I should get the help I need when I NEED it.
Irina January 24, 2013 at 12:51 AM
@MrsOLeary Before yor cry anymore about "Seaside Got"...Look what the Mayor of Seaside did for his people, Look what the Ocean County Freeholders did for their people...Then think what has YOUR mayor and Freeholders done for Woodbridge....NOTHING! Not a freaken thing! So stop measuring and place blame where blame is due....at the feet or YOUR ELECTED OFFICIALS.
MrsOLeary January 24, 2013 at 01:20 AM
@Ihavespoken I have been emailing my Mayor and complaining to him almost every day since I lost my home! You think I don't know that my mayor is sitting there on Main street doing nothing? I can't believe how cold-hearted & mean you people are being toards families in a community losing their homes & belongings! We just want help & bring awareness to our Town, like they did in Seaside & manoy other places. And lets be honest, the shore is NJ's money maker, that's why the quickness to help that area first, which I completely understand. But if you are saying I am responsible for my actions why don't you feel the same for the people who built their homes directly on water? I have a marsh area behind my house, not ocean front property. What do you get out of being so nasty to me? Am I taking any money out of your pockets? If so, please explain how.
Irina January 25, 2013 at 12:34 AM
Did you vote for Mac? How about the sitting Freeholders? How about Vitali? They are the ones who are doing nothing. They should be fighting for you. I wasn't being mean I'm being realistic. You sound like a whinning child...."He got one inch more soda then I got" Your grip is sitting at 1 Main Street (or the corner bar). Get together with your neighbors and scream.
MrsOLeary January 25, 2013 at 01:04 AM
I didn't vote for Mac. And I didn't need you to be realistic for me, but thanks! I may sound like a "whining child" but you sound like a giant A-HOLE! Flag as inappropriate, who cares! I'm over trying to get my "community" to help with anything!
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