The Toms River Township council unanimously passed an ordinance on final reading Tuesday night that will empower township attorneys to hold hearings to determine the fate of homes that are "unfit" or dangerous.
Code enforcement officers began inspecting properties in areas damaged by Superstorm Sandy on Monday "to determine if violations exist that must be addressed," the township said in a statement hours before the meeting.
Those whose homes do not comply with the township's property maintenance code, or whose homes are structurally unsafe, will be sent notices urging them to work with the town to take corrective action. Those who do not respond, or will not take action to repair or demolish their homes, will be subject to a hearing before the township attorney to determine what should be done.
That determination, officials said, could include removing debris from a lot or even demolishing a home that is unsafe.
"We anticipate over 100 of these cases will appear over the next year," said Township Attorney Ken Fitzsimmons. "Though we anticipate many of these things will be resolved by speaking with the people and working out a program to rectify the situation."
The inspectors will zero in on properties that are " loaded with debris, or posing a hazard to the public," said Council President George Wittmann.
In the pre-Sandy era, such hearings were conducted by the township zoning officer, but the expected volume prompted officials to reconsider having one person – who is otherwise very busy – having to shoulder the entire case load. All of the hearings will be conducted by in-house attorneys; no third party attorneys from the township's legal services pool will conduct them.
Councilwoman Maria Maruca said the inspections will begin in the northern beaches, then Ortley Beach, followed by the mainland bayfront.
Officials said over 200 homes have been torn down town-wide already as part of the township's federally-funded Private Property Debris Removal (PPDR) program.