Real Estate

Lacey Township, N.J.: A Waterfront Community With a Working-Class Vibe

As he opened up the throttle of his new 23-foot motorboat, Casey Quinn boasted that he might get from the dock in the back of his home in Forked River, N.J., to the Barnegat Inlet in lower than 18 minutes. A heavy chop on the bay, and a lower than seaworthy passenger, compelled him to decelerate a bit, so the journey out to the Atlantic Ocean took about 20 minutes as an alternative.

Ready waterway entry is a main draw for this Ocean County waterfront — however not beachfront — neighborhood. Also, it’s separated from the Atlantic coast seashores by the bay, so housing costs are considerably lower than these in areas fronting the ocean.

Defined by the three branches of the Forked (pronounced FORK-id) River, and the quite a few channels off these branches, the Forked River space of Lacey Township is paradise for boaters, those that prefer to fish or clam, and anybody who gravitates towards the water.

“It’s on the map now,” stated Mr. Quinn, 29, a actual property investor and gross sales agent whose grandfather got here right here within the Nineteen Sixties. “I see the population changing, and it’s a little bittersweet. But you can’t blame anyone. It’s really everything you want, at an affordable price.”

When they determined to mix their Howell, N.J., households this spring, Angela Viviani and Robert Chambers have been thrilled to find that they might afford a waterfront residence giant sufficient to accommodate seven youngsters in Lanoka Harbor, one other neighborhood in Lacey Township. In April, they closed on a 3,000-square-foot home with 5 bedrooms and a loft, with a money provide of $665,000 that was $20,000 above asking value.

“It’s just so beautiful and relaxing,” stated Ms. Viviani, the advertising director for an impartial dwelling facility. “When you go to bed at night, you see the lights on the water, and the stars. I’ve never been so at peace and happy.”

Thomas Zemaneck, an avid fisherman, found the world two years in the past whereas searching for a summer time getaway from his residence in Montville, N.J., about 100 miles north. He discovered a three-bedroom ranch home with a dock in Forked River, which he purchased for $337,000. Most weekends, he and his son, Thomas Jr., take one in all their boats out to the ocean to catch tuna, striped bass and even shark.

“I come down on a Friday night, and I can be out on the ocean early Saturday morning,” stated Mr. Zemaneck, 63, a crane operator in New York City. “Everybody’s so nice and down to earth here. It’s like a working-class town, with a real homey feel.”

While there are million-dollar-plus properties dealing with Barnegat Bay, farther inland there are rather more modest bungalows and ranch homes, and lots of now function owners’ main residences. Jeff Connell, a actual property dealer with Coldwell Banker, stated that when he first got here to Lacey Township as a little one, about 20 p.c of the inhabitants lived there year-round. Now, he estimated, it’s about 60 p.c.

“At that time, the only way to make a living here was out on the bay, or in the woods,” stated Mr. Connell, 64, referring to the fishing and looking that formed life within the township earlier than expanded roadways introduced commuters from North Jersey and New York City, and earlier than the 1969 opening of the Oyster Creek nuclear energy plant introduced 1000’s extra to the world. The cooling tower on the south finish of Forked River is a bodily landmark, however the nuclear reactor was shut down in 2018 and is within the strategy of being decommissioned.

“Now you’ve got people who come here to retire, plus families and working people — nurses and mechanics,” Mr. Connell stated. “It’s an inexpensive place to live, with a lot of people who are just normal.”

Covering practically 100 sq. miles (greater than 82 of them land), Lacey Township contains three communities: Forked River, the place three quarters of the township’s 28,000 residents reside, stated Veronica Laureigh, the township administrator; Lanoka Harbor, one other bay-front space north of Forked River, the place 20 p.c of the inhabitants lives; and Bamber Lake, within the Pine Barrens, the place fewer than 1,000 folks reside. Almost two-thirds of the township is within the protected Pinelands, and a lot of the residential neighborhoods are east of the Garden State Parkway.

The north, center and south branches of the Forked River and quite a few tributaries present ample alternatives to personal waterfront properties, from elevated shoreline colonials constructed after Hurricane Sandy to the few remaining fishing shacks constructed by the developer Charles Pearl within the mid-Twentieth century.

A totally different kind of waterfront dwelling will be discovered within the neighborhoods that encompass the three Cedar Lakes west of Route 9, the place homes are extra modest and residents can stroll to the freshwater seashores to swim or fish.

Running north to south, Route 9 serves because the business hall of Lacey Township, with big-box shops and supermarkets on the northern finish and diners, nurseries and ice cream retailers farther south on the two-lane street. Most of the marinas lie alongside the northern and southern banks of Forked River’s north fork, which can also be the place among the township’s finest preserved Victorian properties are.

Three new townhouse complexes on the north finish of Route 9, in varied phases of improvement, will add about 400 new models within the subsequent few years, stated Ms. Laureigh, 54, a lifelong resident.

“I’d like to think of us as the sleepy little town we once were,” she added, “but we haven’t been that in eons.”

As in so many suburban communities, the housing market in Lacey Township has heated up significantly for the reason that pandemic struck. In early June, there have been 88 properties on the market, 21 of them in contract. The costliest was a five-bedroom waterfront home inbuilt 1998 in Forked River, with an in-ground pool, listed for $1.6 million; the least costly was a gutted two-bedroom home inbuilt 1955 in Lanoka Harbor, listed for $150,000.

The common sale value by June 1 of this year was $342,045, up from $257,500 throughout the identical interval a year in the past, based on the Monmouth Ocean Multiple Listing Service. Inventory is transferring shortly, with the typical days on the market shrinking from 52 final June to simply 13 days at present.

Although the 800-acre nuclear energy station has been shut down, the state nonetheless pays vital taxes to the township, decreasing residential property taxes by about a third in contrast with these in neighboring cities, Ms. Laureigh stated.

Whether it’s fishing within the bay or swimming within the lakes, an appreciation of water is sort of a prerequisite to dwelling in Lacey. Much of the exercise begins at one of many marinas alongside the north fork, the place some spend the weekend aboard their boats, even when they reside on the town.

The subsequent cease is Tices Shoals, a low-water sandbar in Barnegat Bay, simply off the inland coast of Island Beach State Park. On a sunny Saturday, a whole lot of boats drop anchor there for a floating celebration, with walkable entry to the ocean seashores. By the tip of the day, many find yourself at Captain’s Inn and Tiki Bar, a sprawling waterfront restaurant and bar that occupies either side of East Lacey Road; should you’re fortunate, you possibly can pull into one of many restaurant’s 25 slips.

The lifeguard-protected Cedar Lake seashores are in style, and residents should purchase a seasonal seashore go for simply $5. A new floating playground with slides and impediment programs on Lake Barnegat, referred to as the Wibit, will be loved for a separate payment.

The township gives swimming classes, summer time day camp and different leisure applications at its many parks. Landlubbers have a number of alternate options, from mountain climbing trails within the Pine Barrens to the 7.6-mile Barnegat Branch Trail for biking and mountain climbing alongside deserted railroad traces.

Lacey Township’s public college system has 4 elementary faculties, three of which go as much as fourth grade; the fourth, Mill Pond Elementary, in Lanoka Harbor, contains fifth and sixth grades. Students in seventh and eighth grades attend Lacey Township Middle School, which enrolls about 670 college students, then proceed on to Lacey Township High School, which has about 1,130 college students in ninth by twelfth grades.

In 2019-20, the typical SAT scores at Lacey Township High School have been 545 in studying and writing and 534 in math, in contrast with state averages of 536 in every. High college college students can take part within the College Academy, the place they’ll take as much as 64 credit of college-level programs at Ocean County College and earn an affiliate diploma whereas in highschool.

Private college choices, that are restricted, embrace St. Joseph Grade School, a Roman Catholic college in neighboring Toms River, and Lighthouse Christian Academy, in Manahawkin. Both serve college students in prekindergarten by eighth grade.

Lacey Township is about 80 miles south of New York City. The drive takes about 90 minutes, relying on site visitors.

The solely public transportation possibility is the bus, which takes about two hours and 20 minutes. The journey begins at Route 9 and Lacey Road, on New Jersey Transit’s No. 559 line, and runs to Toms River, the place riders switch to the 319 or 137 line and proceed on to Port Authority. The one-way fare is $22.75; a month-to-month go is $496.

The Forked River State Game Farm was New Jersey’s first state-run sport farm, on property simply off Route 9 that the state’s fish and sport fee acquired in 1912 from a former grasp of a crusing freighter. Every year, the farm would elevate and launch 1000’s of pheasants to be hunted by sportsmen and ladies who visited the farm. In later years, the sport farm’s administration sought the help of residents of the neighboring juvenile rehabilitation middle. The sport farm is now a part of the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge.

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