SEA ISLE CITY –– During hearings held for four landlords whose tenants had at least two convictions for noise violations during a 12 month period, Hearing Officer Michael Donohue imposed bonds from $500 to $5000 on the landlords.
Assisting in the presentation of the cases for the city were City Solicitor Paul Baldini and Police Capt. Michael Cook. The hearings began at 7:00 p.m. and lasted until 11:30 p.m.
During the hearings, Donohue gave the landlords the opportunity to show what they had done to eliminate violations by their tenants and then heard descriptions of the noise and trash conditions from neighbors, some of whom had traveled 300 miles to participate in the hearings.
There was a large turnout by neighbors who described conditions that made it impossible for them to enjoy their homes and to even have their families with young children visit because of the noise, foul language, drunkeness and riotous parties.
The first case, 379 43rd Place, Unit A, owned by Bruce and Susan Leighty, had three incidents and were ordered to place a $500 bond for one year with the city because of their efforts to evict the tenants and their response to letters from the police department.
Jeffrey Donohue, owner of 138 39th Street (front unit) received a stiffer penalty because of his lack of action to alleviate the problems. His bond was for $5000 for four years. There were four incidents that resulted in four convictions, two for noise and two for stockpiling trash and not having proper receptacles. There were many more calls to police; however, only the four resulted in convictions. The hearing officer said that since the owner rented to five underage girls, he should have known that there would be problems. He said all the calls to police and appearances of police at Municipal Court resulted in an enormous cost to the city.
William and Catherine O'Brien, owners of 325 56th Street (East Unit), had two incidents resulting in convictions. They were ordered to place a $2500 bond for two years because they were not concerned landlords, despite the fact that they illegally evicted the tenants and were sued.
The final case, 21 40th Street (Apt. 3, 2nd floor) had two violations that resulted in convictions; however, there were actually five substantiated complaints within the 12 month period. The owner, John Pflugfelder, was ordered to place a $3000 bond for two years with the city. Hearing Officer Donohue said it was unfortunate that because of the lateness, 11:00 p.m., none of the neighbors who wanted to testify were able to remain.
The owner of 3820 Central Avenue, Donald Hatton, whose property has four rental permits, was invited to attend although there were not two convictions during the 12 month period in one of the units. City Solicitor Baldini said the city wanted the owner to know that the city was going to amend the noise ordinance to cover not individual rental permits for each unit but for the total property, a recommendation made by members of Town Watch/Town Pride. Baldini put the owner on notice that his property was one of the worst in the city and unless there was a change in the kinds of tenants he had, he would be before the hearing officer next year.
By the end of the hearings, it was "loud and clear" that Sea Isle City was sending out a message that the city would not tolerate properties that made it impossible for neighbors to enjoy their summers, said Baldini.
Photo by Irene Jameson: Sea Isle noise violation hearing officials following a hearing in Sea Isle City for four landlords whose rental properties had two violations with convictions over a twelve month period are (seated) Hearing Officer Michael Donohue, Police Captain Michael Cook, and City Solicitor Paul Baldini.