Laurel Lake Fair Share Q&A

Need information? email FairShare@LaurelLakenj.com 

Your Fair Share Dollars at Work!


As part of the ongoing maintenance and upgrades of the Dams, the NJ DEP required that all trees and woody vegetation be removed from the dams.

The LLPOA was required to start by removing all trees from the earthen dam and fill all erosion. That work has been done. There is still a lot of expensive work to be done, but a great start has been made. Maintaining the dams benefits theentire community by providing recreation and swimming opportunities to the ENTIRE community (not just members) as well as providing the ONLY nearby accessible source of water for protecting our homes from fire. Not to mention the beauty and increased property values that the lakes provide. While the cost of EVERYTHING continues to rise, the LLPOA has maintained the Fair Share at just $50 per year again for 2017.

Major Upgrade coming to Lower Dam this Spring
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Major upgrade set for Lower Dam Work will soon begin to replace the broken low-flow gate on the lower dam, part of the state mandated updates and maintenance projects paid for through the Fair Share Assessment. This work is being done to meet state requirements to bring the dams up to current standards. You may have already noticed the removal of all trees and brush from the dams-- also a safety maintenance requirement of the NJ DEP. The replacement of the low flow lift gate will enable the water level to be controlled, aiding with the ongoing maintenance of the dam embankments. It will also allow the lake to be lowered in the event of an emergency
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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What is the Laurel Lake Fair Share?

The Laurel Lake Property Owners Association needs your help. Costs to maintain the lake are rising steeply. Fair Share is a way for the entire Laurel Lake community to ensure that the beauty and the benefits of the lake are preserved.

Do I have to pay?

Yes. The Fair Share is MANDATORY for all property owners in the boundaries of the original tract of Laurel Lake.

Why am I required to pay it?

All residents of the original tract of Laurel Lake, as developed and deeded in the 1920s, have, guaranteed through their property deeds, the right to join the Laurel Lake Property Owners Association, and by such membership fully share in the enjoyment of the Lake. This right, granted through the original deeds creating the lake and the adjacent community, carries along with it the responsibility of providing for the ongoing maintenance and upkeep of the lake, its property and its two dams.

What gives you the right to do this?

The courts of the State of New Jersey have recognized—and upheld—the need for lake communities to help pay for the ongoing maintenance and expenses of maintaining lakes and dams throughout the state.

Insofar as the state-mandated maintenance and repair far exceeded the LLPOA’s ability to spread the expenses among its limited membership, LLPOA instituted FSA in 2007, incorporating the holding Lake Lookover Property Owners Assoc., Inc. v. Olsen,  348 N.J. Super. 53 (App. Div. 2002), wherein the court found that a lake association that did not have the benefit of mandatory membership could nevertheless assess all individual property owners in the lake community for the cost of the repair of the dam.

                        The monies collected have been strictly segregated and maintained in separate CD’s and interest bearing accounts and the proceeds strictly used for inspection, maintenance and upgrades to the dams.  An accounting of the monies is displayed on the LLPOA website.

Court Upholds Fair SHARE

                        In 2008 a  non-member resident of the LLPOA tract challenged the LLPOA’s authority to collect FSA in Cumberland County Small Claims Court (Coverdale v. LLPOA).  Judge Farrell upheld the validity of collecting FSA finding that the intent of the original deed transferring land to the LLPOA was to convey common areas and have the LLPOA benefit its members by conveying all public works and common areas for benefit of all present and subsequent members of the original tract in the 1929 deed.  Judge Farrell held that because there is a benefit to all inhabitants of the LLPOA tract, all inhabitants of the tract were required to share the burdens, including contribution to dam upkeep as owners in the tract. Judge Farrell upheld the validity of LLPOA’s collection of annual FSA for dam maintenance. 

What can this money be used for?

Fair Share funds may only be used for those costs associated with the common community aspects of the lake, for example: Dam Maintenance and Inspections, Maintenance of other common areas such as beaches open to the public, Insurance and Taxes.

When did  this start?

The Fair Share started  in 2007.

I pay my taxes, don’t they support the lake?

No. Laurel Lake is maintained by the LLPOA—your neighbors here at the lake. We receive no tax dollars to help meet the responsibilities for maintaining the community assets.

 

I'm  confused... Can you explain how to figure out how many shares I owe?

It is a bit complex, so we have spelled out all the possibilities here How Many Shares Do I Owe?

I have lived here for years. Why is this just coming up now?

For the past 80 plus years, the directors of the Laurel Lake Property Owners Association— a non-profit corporation guided by your neighbors here at the lake—  have been able to manage the lake solely on membership dues. However, recent events with dam failures at other lakes has caused the State of New Jersey to require all dams to undergo periodic inspection and maintenance— costs that far outstrip the Association’s ability to pay. Additionally, ever escalating property taxes and insurance costs have put a further strain on the Association’s budget— which up to now has been entirely funded by membership dues. 

I’m not a member of the Association. What benefit do I get?

Although Laurel Lake (as well as the upper lake, known as Beach Club Lake) are privately owned, by virtue of your deeded rights, you have the right to join at any time. This is a valuable right, whether you choose to exercise it or not. Additionally, the LLPOA has donated it's property  to our fire departments for  standpipes into the lake which have been used  as a  vital source for water that our fire companies use to protect all of our property from fire;-- LLPOA members and Non-members alike. When the dams were breached in the 1950s, area newspapers reported that many homeowners wells went dry.  More pragmatically, whether you live one block or 20 blocks from the water, owning property near a lake— especially property that carries the deeded right to membership—  gives all our property a premium  value—which has been estimated as high as 20-30 percent by local real estate professionals. This is especially true for CURRENT PROPERTY OWNERS-- The price you paid for the property already included the fact that it was "water influenced" Take away the lake, and you lose that valuable asset--and your property value DECLINES. Look at the for sale ads: any property sold in the area always includes the lake as a reason for moving here.

What does the LLPOA do for the rest of the community?

The LLPOA maintains beaches that are open to all members of the community, whether you choose to exercise your right to Join the LLPOA or not. These beaches, accessible via an annual beach tag  are open to everyone. Additionally, the LLPOA has for decades hosted holiday parties at Christmas and Halloween open to ALL children in the area. 
LLPOA donates to area youth sports teams
LLPOA opens its facilities up at no charge to a wide variety of youth groups including Cub      Scouts, Girl Scouts, and area church and civic groups.
LLPOA has donated its property to to the Fire/Rescue squads for standpipes for drawing water to fight fires and for a boat ramp to allow the squads access to the river in an emergency

Will paying this Fair Share make me a member of the Association?

No, the Fair Share is a recognition of everyone's legal right and responsibility to share in the benefits of the Lake as well as the costs. However, everyone who owns property in the original tract, created in the 1920s and upheld by the NJ Courts  in 1958 and  again in 1972,  has the DEEDED RIGHT to join the Association. This DEEDED RIGHT granted in the  master deeds when the community was created and subdivided in the 1920s, is the very basis for the Fair Share. However, we welcome you to help build up your community by joining the LLPOA

Are the dams in bad shape, are they going to fail?

No. The dams are in good shape. The state is requiring periodic inspections and maintenance, as well as some improvements to bring them up to current standards. It has been estimated that the cost to perform this work is $200,000 per dam—and the LLPOA maintains two dams bringing the total needed to $400,000.

How much is it going to cost me?

Since the expenses will be split equally among everyone who benefits from the lakes, the annual costs will be very small. The only items that can be included in the Fair Share are those expenses that impact the entire community, such as dam maintenance and repair, taxes and insurance. The goal is not to raise enough funds to pay for all the costs in one year, but to ensure that, through all of our neighbors contributing their Fair Share, the ongoing needs can be met as they arise.

A few extremists are saying just drain the lakes. What about that?

Facing rising costs and dwindling resources, the Trustees, Directors and Members of the LLPOA considered all options, one of which was draining the Lakes. However, nothing in New Jersey is free, especially when dealing with the State. If the lakes were to be drained, the state would require extensive remediation to the property to restore it to its previous condition-- just like is now required of sand mines and other operations. The cost of this remediation work,  estimated to be many  hundreds of thousands of dollars,  would  still be shared by the property owners because of the rights and responsibilities granted through the original deeds, and would  be CONSIDERABLY MORE than the Fair Share, since much of the cost for the dams is already paid by the LLPOA members.

In the meantime, residents would be left with a stinking, fetid , mosquito-infested swamp and eyesore putting a huge drag on property values, instead of one of the cleanest most beautiful lakes in the state. Anyone remember what it was like when the dam broke in the 1950s? Imagine trying to sell your property then--or trying to get a home equity loan and finding out that since the lake is gone, your property is now worth 40 percent  less than you thought.

Laurel Lake clean???  Isn't the water dirty?

No... the Lake is among the cleanest in the state. How do we know that? Because as swimming facility open to public use, the Lake water is regularly tested by Cumberland County. It's true, the water is dark, but that is due to natural minerals and the beautiful cedar trees surrounding the water. Remember--it is a NATURAL body of water.

I'm not in the  tract. Could you expand it to include me in the Fair Share? 

The Fair Share applies only to those properties in the ORIGINAL TRACT from the 1920s, as decreed by the courts in 1958. Only those properties covered by the original MASTER DEEDS can be included now and forever. It is not possible to expand this area. What you may have heard is that the tract for MEMBERSHIP was expanded, to allow more of our neighbors to join to help keep the Fair Share costs low.

Honestly...how is this being received in the community?

Many people had questions. Some were unhappy or angry. No one likes paying any more than they have to for anything. But most people recognize the value they derive from the lakes and are willing to pay their FAIR SHARE.  In fact ALL of the major property owners have recognized their responsibility to pay their Fair Share.


 

Fair Share Updates...

  • Fair Share for 2017 remains at $50, unchanged from the first year.
     
  • Anyone who did not pay prior years' Fair Share is also still liable for their past due balance plus late fees and any administrative costs.
  • Fair Shares and fees will continue to accrue until they are paid.
     
  • LLPOA Board of Directors has agreed again this year to provide beach permits at the  Public Beach off Lakeshore Drive on the Commercial Township side  to allow everyone who has paid their Fair Share to use the beaches.  The pass which will be mailed to everyone upon payment of their Fair Share and must be carried while using the beaches, just like regular beach tags.

What are you doing to collect from the property owners not paying?

 

The Laurel Lake Property Owners Association reserves all legal  means and rights to collect the Fair Share.
T
he Board is still evaluating potential legal remedies for those property owners who are delinquent, and in the meantime is keeping track of how much money is owed by each so that back payments can eventually be collected at a time when the amount collected will be worth the cost to collect it.

Of course, specific legal courses of action we may take are privileged between the LLPOA and its attorneys and until such specific action is taken, remain confidential.

 

Where are the expenses for this program? Printing costs for invoices and postage. 

 

Until August, 2010, printing and mailing expenses have been paid for solely by the membership of the LLPOA and have not been Fair Share Fund expenses. Starting in September, 2010 and going forward, postage and mailing expenses will be paid for through the Fair Share.

 

All disbursements of Fair Share funds will be posted
on a regular basis to the LLPOA website.

 

How many homes are in the original track and receiving invoices each year? 

 

The basis for the Fair Share is that all property owners have a right to share in the benefits of the LLPOA, and therefore have the responsibility to pay their fair share of expenses to maintain those benefits. As such, Fair Share is based on PROPERTY ownership, not homes. The requirements for determining if a property in the tract is subject to Fair Share are spelled out on the LLPOA website. This number can and does change based on property transfers, subdivisions among other events. As of 2015,  there are approximately 1000 properties in the tract subject to Fair Share. Please note that this does not correlate to invoices created and mailed, as multiple Shares may be invoiced and mailed together.

 

When do you anticipate doing any improvements, repairs or maintenance on the dams with this money? 

Work has already begin on the state-mandated repairs and upgrades required to bring the dams into compliance with CURRENT safety standards. A new engineering firm has been retained and specific work has been done, with more being planned for the coming months.

In addition, the LLPOA had been proactive in seeking donations and grants to help pay some of the cost and to keep the burden on residents as low as possible.  PLEASE NOTE that since 2007 the Fair Share has NOT BEEN INCREASED!
The Fair Share is designed to provide for repairs, ongoing maintenance, and other expenses for the common property. These things are constantly underway. These items include regular maintenance, repairs and the periodic state-mandated inspection of the two dams, property taxes and associated insurance. Whenever possible, the LLPOA seeks to do as much of this work using volunteer labor as possible.

It may also interest you to know that, striving to keep the Fair Share expenses to a minimum, the LLPOA is working with the state-approved engineering firm to reclassify the upper dam, thereby reducing the frequency of these rather expensive periodic inspections and related costs.


FAIR SHARE HARDSHIP CRITERIA...
 For 2017 there are approximately 40 hardship waivers granted. The requirements for waiver are the same as the municipal hardship requirements.

1.Only totally disabled people will get full exemption.

2.Senior citizens with an income of less than $10,000.00 (INCLUDING SPOUSE INCOME) after permitted exclusions of SS OR disability benefits will qualify for a rebate.


3.The person will need to present their original tax bill, payment receipt, and paid up status as evidence in order to get equivalent Fair Share forgiveness.
Enacted November 4, 2007


LLPOA Fair Share upheld
in court decision

A Small Claims action was brought by a party that questioned the LLPOA's right to collect the Fair Share Assessment. The matter was mediated and pursuant to a Stipulation of Settlement between the parties, the Association's right to collect the assessment was upheld. By the terms of this Agreement the LLPOA was directed to continue collecting all Fair Share Assessments and to post online ongoing information pertaining to the assessments, an accounting, and the criteria for hardship exceptions to the assessment.
The LLPOA is currently working to put this information online.

Below is a copy of the Settlement Agreement.




Fair Share Account Summary

Expenses from Fair Share Account    

 Fair Share accounting for 2016 is being finalized and will be posted as soon as it is available..

 


Need information? email FairShare@LaurelLakenj.com 

Fair Share Criteria... How Many Shares do I owe?

Think it's not your concern? Click  HERE

Laurel Lake is owned and maintained by the members of the Laurel Lake Property Owners Association
 for the benefit of and with the support of the surrounding community in Millville and Commercial Twp., NJ.
LLPOA: PO Box 1314, Millville, NJ 08332