[HISTORY: Adopted by the Township Committee of the Township of Middle 3-19-2018 by Ord. No. 1559-18. Amendments noted where applicable.]
The Township Committee finds and declares that there are properties located within the Township where nuisances exist and other activities occur which have resulted in the excessive consumption of municipal services.
The Township Committee finds and declares that the cost of the excessive consumption of municipal services relating directly to these nuisance properties should be paid by the property owner and, if applicable, the responsible tenant or occupant, and not by the public at large through taxes.
It is the purpose and intent of these regulations to identify these nuisance properties and provide for the timely payment of the cost of the excessive consumption of municipal services through summary proceedings pursuant to the due process requirements set forth in this chapter.
As used in this chapter, the following terms shall have the following meanings unless the context clearly indicates a different meaning is intended. Those terms not defined herein shall have the meanings attributed to them in other provisions in the Municipal Code:
- EXCESSIVE MUNICIPAL SERVICES
- Any qualifying calls made about qualifying incidents occurring on a property when those calls exceed the number of calls shown on the schedule in § 177-5 of this chapter.
- HEARING OFFICER
- The person selected by the Township to conduct the hearings required by this chapter. The hearing officer shall be a neutral and impartial adjudicator.
- NUISANCE PROPERTY
- Properties on which qualifying incidents occur that result in qualifying calls for municipal services during any sixty-day period in excess of the number of such calls shown on the schedule in § 177-5 shall be considered nuisance properties and shall be subject to the penalties and procedures as described in this chapter.
- QUALIFYING CALLS
- Calls for police services resulting from qualifying incidents occurring on the property. Multiple calls for police services resulting from the same qualifying incident shall be deemed to be a single qualifying call.
- QUALIFYING INCIDENT
- As determined by the Chief of Police and Township Business Administrator, reported violations of law pertaining to:
- A. Distributing, dispensing or possessing controlled dangerous substances;
- B. Aggravated assault;
- C. Criminal homicide;
- D. Disorderly conduct or noise;
- E. Prostitution;
- F. Indecent exposure, including public urination or defecation; and
- G. Code violations, pertaining to the condition of a particular property, including property maintenance, zoning and health code violations.
The Township Business Administrator, or his designee, shall serve as the public officer authorized to follow the procedures as set forth in this chapter.
The Middle Township Police Department is responsible for keeping and maintaining records detailing information regarding the services provided, including the following information:
The exact location of the subject property;
The name and address of the property owners and tenants, if known and applicable;
The date and the nature of the call and services;
The nature of the violation or violations;
The name of each public employee providing the municipal services.
The Middle Township Police Department shall coordinate its responsibilities under this chapter with the public officer responsible for enforcing these regulations.
Properties on which qualifying incidents occur that result in qualifying calls for municipal services during any sixty-day period that exceed the number indicated on the schedule below shall be considered nuisance properties and shall be subject to the penalties and procedures as described in this chapter:
Whenever the public officer, in consultation with the Municipal Chief of Police or his designee, shall determine that any property has become a nuisance property by its consumption of excessive municipal services, the public officer shall prepare a complaint and notice of hearing setting forth the location of the property and the allegation as to the excessive use of municipal services, and a notice of hearing setting forth the date, time and place of the hearing which shall not be scheduled earlier than 30 days from the date of service of the notice. The complaint shall also provide notice:
The complaint and notice of hearing shall be served upon the property owner and, if a requisite number of qualifying calls involve the same tenant or occupant on the property, also the tenant or occupant. Service shall be made personally or by regular and certified mail, return receipt requested, by mailing the complaint and notice of hearing to the last known address of such person.
If the whereabouts of the property owner or the tenant/occupant are unknown and cannot be ascertained in the exercise of reasonable diligence, then service of the pleadings on such person shall be made as follows:
Whenever an individual dwelling unit within a multifamily dwelling has received five qualifying calls within a sixty-day period, the public officer shall notify the property owner and tenant/occupant, in the same manner as provided in Subsections B and C above, of the fact so that the property owner can take appropriate action to abate the nuisance. This notification shall be made even if the multifamily dwelling has not received the required number of qualifying calls within a sixty-day period which would trigger a notice of violation.
The public officer shall present evidence and testify at the hearing and may produce witnesses in support of the allegations contained in the complaint. The property owner and any party of interest shall have the right to appear at the hearing and cross-examine the public officer, cross-examine any witnesses produced by the public officer, testify, produce witnesses, and be represented by an attorney. At least 15 days in advance of the hearing, the public officer shall provide the property owner with all available records pertaining to the qualifying calls, all documents and other evidence which the public officer intends to introduce at the hearing and the names and addresses of any witnesses. The New Jersey Rules of Evidence shall apply to the hearing.
The hearing officer shall determine at the hearing whether the subject property received qualifying calls during the subject sixty-day period in excess of that as indicated in § 177-5 for the type of property being considered. If so, the hearing officer shall adjudge the property to be a nuisance property and shall, in his reasonable discretion, assess a fine in an amount that conforms to the monetary penalty provisions of § 1-15 of the Middle Township Municipal Code, the "general penalty" provision; provided, however, that the fine shall be calculated on the basis of the adjudication constituting a single violation. Any such fine shall be entirely assessed against the property owner unless a requisite number of qualifying calls involve the same tenant or occupant on the property, in which case the fee shall be divided and assessed, in equal parts, against the owner and each involved tenant/occupant.
A copy of the order shall be served on the property owner and, if applicable, tenant and occupant, personally or by regular and certified mail, return receipt requested, by mailing the order to their last known address.
If the whereabouts of the property owner, tenant or occupant cannot be ascertained in the exercise of reasonable diligence, then service of the order shall be made on such person as follows:
Within 45 days of the date of the hearing officer's order, the property owner or interested party may file a de novo appeal to the Superior Court of New Jersey styled as an action in lieu of prerogative writ.
Upon conclusion of the hearing and the hearing officer's determination, the property shall be considered to have no qualifying calls and a new sixty-day qualifying call cycle shall begin. In the event that a property again is deemed, after notice and hearing as set forth above, to be a nuisance property, the hearing officer shall have the discretion to impose a fine in an amount that conforms to the monetary penalty provisions of § 1-15 of the Middle Township Municipal Code.
Upon the failure to comply with the terms of the order for the payment of money owed to the Township by any owner of property against which costs, fee or penalties was assessed in accordance with the provisions of this chapter, the total cost established shall be assessed as a lien against the subject property. The assessment shall be collected and the lien may be enforced in the same manner as real estate tax amounts and liens are assessed, collected and enforced. Such enforcement of unpaid moneys due under this chapter shall include the right by the Township to revoke, suspend or not issue or renew municipal licenses or permits related to the subject property in accordance with N.J.S.A. 40:52-1.2.
Any person aggrieved by an order issued under this chapter may file an appeal with the New Jersey Superior Court, Law Division, within 45 days from the date of the adoption of the resolution in accordance with Rule 4:69 of the New Jersey Rules of Court.