From the Jersey Journal:
City officials are looking to embark on an aggressive new plan to ensure homes are compliant with local zoning rules.
But the measure, up for initial approval at tomorrow night’s Planning Board meeting, would be a “disaster” if implemented, according to critics who say it would bring the city’s real-estate market to a standstill.
The plan would require most property owners to obtain a zoning certificate of compliance before they can sell their properties, obtain building or demolition permits or perform any kind of site improvements. The certificate would be issued by a zoning officer who certifies that the property complies with city zoning codes.
Ward B City Councilman Khemraj “Chico” Ramchal is pushing for the measure, saying it would help the city to locate illegal apartments and other code violations, as well as offer consumer protection for home buyers.
Ramchal told The Jersey Journal the plan would halt what he says is a widespread practice of home owners duping buyers into purchasing homes without telling them about code violations like illegal parking spots or rental units.
“If John is selling a house to Tom, John must not misrepresent himself or what he’s selling to Tom,” he said.
Each certificate would cost $150. City spokeswoman Jennifer Morrill declined to answer when asked how much revenue the city believes would be generated. Ramchal estimates the added revenue would exceed $250,000 annually.
Real-estate agents are hoping to halt approval of the measure, saying it would create an unacceptable “lag” during a house sale.
“It would reduce the number of sales in Jersey City by maybe 25, 30 percent,” said Hottendorf said.
Both Hottendorf and Laura Skolar, Liberty Board’s president, also doubt that the city’s outdated record-keeping will help. A certificate of compliance may not be issued quickly enough to prevent a mortgage commitment from expiring, they said.
“Using the sale of a property to trigger this sort of thing creates problems,” Skolar said.
Mayor Steve Fulop is a supporter of the measure. Asked to comment, Morrill said “there is no reason that someone should make money by breaking the law.”
“Chico has been a strong voice against illegal apartments that can put a tremendous drain on residents of the city,” she said. “His proposal is consistent with what is done in other cities.”