June 10, 2012

“A 'Thank You,' from a Builder to an Associate”

Today's guest blogger is a builder from New Jersey, Bill Asdal from American Micro-Homes, LLC. Bill is a past president (1995) of The Community Builders & Remodelers Association, Whippany, NJ, and was a past officer of The New Jersey Builders Association (2000-01). Bill is a life director of NAHB and chaired NAHB's Remodelers Council in 1996. He also chaired the NCHI (Leading Suppliers Council) in 2002.

Bill's national awards are as follows:

2006 NAHB Green Advocate of the Year
2007 NAHB Remodeling Hall of Fame
2012 NAHB Instructor of the Year

I have known Bill for many years; he is as dedicated to our industry as they come.

“A Public Thank You, from a Builder to an Associate”
                                                                      by Bill Asdal 
Bill Asdal
American Micro-Homes, llc
Builders and Associates are foremost citizens of this great country.  We are watching before our eyes the continued erosion and intentional destruction of property rights and outright theft of asset value from land owners.  One associate stood up and expressed his frustration challenging a local board to stop the takings.  He lost the vote of the board but we all won a new appreciation for one individual standing in the face of takings and trying to stop it.  He is a solid citizen and his actions can be held high for all to see. 
Last week my wife and I were at a Zoning Board hearing in Califon, NJ for an interpretation of whether there existed two lots or one lot associated with a property we had under contract for purchase. The listing, and hope, was there were two lots so we could restore the existing home and build a micro-home on the second half acre lot. These small homes may just be the next generation of housing to fill America’s dreams while consuming nearly no energy and a tiny footprint. Our prototype in NY cost just $19.00 to heat in January! 
We look and work for solutions that can make better lives. The board seemed open minded but the municipal planner, engineer, and attorney all have clearly been steeped in the past decades of “application negativism” and had honed skills of finding the worst scenario while casting off responsibility to “law”, “DEP”, “precedent”. To say the least, two of the professionals were arrogant. 

Multiple times the board attorney cited the demeaning “these board members would simply not understand this issue”. Really? The planner continually and pompously professed legal opinions well beyond her qualifications.

Without replaying the case, let it stand that the seller (estate) bought two lots in 1950 and 1955, built a home and raised a family there for the rest of their lives. The extra lot had a municipal lot and block assigned, a deed, a tax assessment, and the borough collected taxes every year. We made our case. The feeling in the room was dark with the professionals attacking the existence of the second lot with statute and verse, case and law saying it had been merged with the main lot by a “doctrine of merger” unbeknownst to the owners for 53 years and somehow escaping the tax collectors grasp that it was gone to regulatory confiscation.

As the final vote was nearing, the public was granted time to speak on the question at hand. The attorney for the estate made his points that the family held the lot for financial emergencies, that it was not maintained as lawn or used for the main home. Then a gent  from the back row arose and asked to be recognized. He is 70 years old and told the board he has been in the real estate business for over 37 years. He said he has watched laws take property from owners. He said citizens write off as impossible the hurdles to change the ways of the federal government. He said most surrender to the regulations of the DEP and the Highlands and are vanquished by the often illogical regulations. He said but HERE we have local citizens volunteering for local service who have a chance to protect a local residents family. The parents are gone. The heirs are at risk. He said before my very eyes tonight I am watching a “takings” of land occur. He asked the board members to think hard about their vote. He asked if there could be notice to all others in similar situations to protect their land and family holdings. He asked them to take a first step in defending rights at the local level for a local family. He asked they not be silently compliant in the collapse of remaining property rights. It was clear he moved some board members. On his conclusion the man sat back down.
The board attorney dismissed the emotion in the air and remanded the board to vote NO to the existence of the second lot. He told them they had no choice according to the law.
The vote recognizing the two lots went down by a vote of 2-6. The family lost their savings. I can find no answer to who benefits to this denial.

I am moved to chronicle these 90 minutes of hearing to recognize the man who pulled at the heart strings of the board. He didn’t need to stand. He didn’t need to be heard. He may have taken the last step in defense of any property rights of the land owner. I think hopefully that he may have taken the first step in a broad citizen rejection of our surrender of rights to government.
Sig Schorr was this last man contributing to the public discussion. Sig is a good man. He is the real deal. He is a contributor to a better society. I hope his steps to the front of the room and plea for sanity of our citizens will be a small candle to illuminate the way for others to step forward. Those with seats at the table should be guided by such strength. We need to cultivate more citizens like Sig Schoor. Thanks Sig for the wisdom, effort and reluctance to retreat from the country we were raised in. It was inspirational.

Submitted by:


Ann Garvey said...

unbelievable that this is happening... and thank you for an eye opening story!

Dianne Beaton said...

I am going to share this with some very influential people in my state...wow!

Carol Sapp said...

It is unfortunate the situation you have described is reality in more communities then most would imagine. As a frequent participant in property rights issues I am afraid the issue of "takings" is often witnessed "because they can." I admire this individual, and would encourage our members to support each other when we personally can make a difference. If we are to succeed in developing quality housing and communities in our nation -- there must be many Sigs in the audience. Excellent example!