By Christine Varno
For at least one resident of the [Long Branch] redevelopment zone, events of the past decade have turned life into a nightmare.
But Denise Hoagland said she won’t stop fighting to save her home from being taken by the city through eminent domain.
“I don’t want to be doing this,” said Hoagland last week. “It’s a horrible situation. I want to go back to my old life; I want to go back to being the ‘World’s Best Mom.’ “
Hoagland, [of] Ocean Terrace, resides in the city’s Beachfront North redevelopment zone Phase II, which has been slated for eminent domain.
Plans call for the 36 properties in the three-street neighborhood — Marine Terrace, Ocean Terrace and Seaview Avenue, known as MTOTSA — to be bulldozed and replaced with high-end condominiums.
“My daughter asked me, ‘Mommy, if we live in a free country, how can they take our home?’ ” Hoagland said. “I answered, ‘We live in a free country and we have the power to say what is being done is wrong. And that is exactly what we are doing.’ ”
Hoagland, 37, and her husband, Lee, 38, bought their beachfront home in July 1993 when the house was vacant, overgrown with weeds, and slated for foreclosure. They fixed up the house, ripped out walls, redid flooring, gutted the kitchen, landscaped the yard and added a deck.
“We did everything,” she said. “There was not anything we didn’t do.”
The Hoaglands decided the house, and by extension their neighborhood, would become their home where they could build a family and raise their children.
For Hoagland, a person’s home is an extension of that person.
“So, your home becomes yourself,” she explained. “It’s a creation.”
Hoagland is raising her three daughters in their MTOTSA home — Daisy, 9, Violet, 7, and Jasmine, 5, and she said the thought of losing their home upsets her youngest daughter the most.
Jasmine was home-birthed because, Hoagland explained, when a child is born in the family’s home, it is welcomed into a caring and loving environment.
“Jasmine is the perfect child,” Hoagland said. “Her middle name is Joy, and she is the epitome of joy, and being born here has done that.”
Hoagland said the threat of eminent domain is crushing her daughter and her family.
“Jasmine cannot visualize the destruction of her home,” she said.
“She asked me if we left [the home], if the city wouldn’t knock the house down. That is how much she loves this place. She would leave it to save it.”
The city signed a binding agreement for developer status with co-developers The Applied Cos., Hoboken, and Matzel and Mumford Corp., a division of K. Hovnanian, Middletown, for phase two in 2000.
The developers submitted plans to bulldoze the MTOTSA properties on Feb. 27. According to Long Branch Mayor Adam Schneider, the plans are consistent with the city’s redevelopment plans.
“Nobody told me [when I bought my house] that in the future my home would be plowed down,” Hoagland said. “There was no notification.”
In 1996 the city began to produce its plans to redevelop the oceanfront and downtown Broadway area. Hoagland said that at that time, she attended a couple of the city meetings because she received a notice that her home was located in a redevelopment zone.
“We looked at the little plastic model of my home with the porch and the detached garage and the gardens, and it was still in the plan,” she said. “It was a revitalization. Our area was slated for infill.”
She said she has dedicated the past year to trying to save her home from what she says is the city’s abuse of eminent domain, and it has cost her money, time and separation from her children.
“This has been extremely stressful,” she said. “I do not work out anymore. I can’t. I have no time. I am not going to take any more time away from my children.”
On May 18, MTOTSA submitted to the city a plan the residents designed to save their homes. The plan calls for keeping their properties and blending the new with the old. It includes a commitment from homeowners to repair, restore and remodel their properties to conform to the city’s plans for the oceanfront.
Hoagland said it has become obvious to her that the city has not taken the plan seriously.
Several attorneys have approached MTOTSA who are willing to represent the residents, according to Hoagland, who said MTOTSA is preparing for the fact that residents will be taking legal action to save their homes.
“My children do not know what it is like to not be able to see the sunrise on the ocean every day,” she said. “Are they fortunate? Yes, but why should that be taken from them for someone else’s gain?”