Monroe Township NJ (Williamstown) sold the almost 13 acre Crystal Lake property in July for $250, to a town resident. This was an auction sale and it sold for the minimum bid.
UPDATE: Added a short video of the lake at the bottom!
The lake is in the area of Crystal Drive and Herbert Blvd.
The sale is literally for just the lake and one small access property. The homes around the lake are individually owned and not part of the sale
Town documents state Monroe Township acquired the lake property due to a tax sale and never had an intention of owning the lake.
In turn, the town packaged up a list of dozens of properties for auction with a minimum bid. If you were the only bidder, the property was yours!
And that’s how the lake was sold for $250!
I visited Crystal Lake today. It is mostly surrounded by private homes. At times it is a usable recreational lake, but right now in late summer 2022 it is mostly dried up.
The sale also includes a small access property on Crystal Drive near Herbert Blvd.
To be clear this is not necessarily my normal type of thing to cover.
42Freeway was asked by a resident in the area if I could give her some guidance on who to talk to about the conditions of the lake. I thought I would just be a “good guy” and look up the owner, confirm it was the Town, and then suggest she go to a Council Meeting.
But I was surprised to see the July 25th, 2022 sale to a resident. For $250.
And please readers.. do not send me your local issues to battle for you! I just can’t do it.. time and other factors.
This one actually fit into my core theme a bit though in that I have covered town parks and recreational areas. I 100% plan on covering more (I am editing a video right now on Gloucester County’s first State Park)!
I also have a strong belief in Open Government that the residents have a right to clear information from towns and government of what they are doing and decisions being made.
Crystal Lake Water Status?
Over the years there has been some question about the safety of the lake related to contamination and several community members have been asking questions of the Environmental Commission and Council.
Around 1999-2000 the Crystal Lake community had somewhat regular coverage in local newspapers, connected to ground water contamination which was found in the neighborhood.
On the other side of the Black Horse Pike was the Remcor plant which some residents believed polluted both the ground water and the lake in the Crystal lake area homes.
I could not find conformation via newspaper archives that any agency stated Remcor was at fault for any contamination.
Also, there are headlines that very clearly say “No Contamination Found at Crystal Lake“
But I could have clearly missed the final outcome.
So confident was the town in the cleanliness of the Remcor property tho, a few years later in 2004 a Councilman was quoted by the Inquirer saying he would like to see the property redeveloped as a shopping center.
That being said, a large part of the Crystal Lake community is still referenced on at least one NJ Department of Environmental website… “Currently Known Extent of Groundwater Contamination (CKE)”
Last year Monroe Township’s official Environmental Commission was looking to verify if the lake water was safe or contaminated after a resident submitted questions to a commission member.
For several months in the Spring and Summer the Commission maintained a section of the meeting minutes where one member was researching the lake’s contamination status with the NJDEP. But then I don’t see any meeting minutes past July indicating closure on the matter.
It seems that the commission member at the time, Kate Flaherty, is no longer on the commission. We tried to reach out to Kate but could not located a phone number.
April 2021 snippet:
She spoke with Cncl. O’Reilly to see if the town had received any communication from NJDEP or if the town had any records pertaining to Crystal Lake. The Township only owns Crystal Lake because of a tax sale, it was not voluntary. Cncl. O’Reilly had the Clerk check and there are no records pertaining to Crystal Lake. Kate noted, she has put in an OPRA Request to NJDEP to try and gather more information on the ground water contaminationMonroe Township Environmental Commission – April 2021
May 2021 snippet:
Kate advised that the Remcor case files are closed, while the Crystal Lake contamination case remains open, which poses a concern.Monroe Township Environmental Commission – May 2021
June 2021 snippet:
(regarding Opra request) There a lot of files and due to the size of the files, they cannot be sent electronically, she is waiting for an estimate on the cost to have copies of the files sent to her.Monroe Township Environmental Commission – June 2021
I then don’t see any other meeting minutes referencing the lake property.
Later that same year in September 2021, Monroe Township published a list of properties to sell. The block and lot numbers for Crystal Lake were on the list. Minimum bid was set for $250.
While it did not sell in 2021, the lake resurfaced on the list again for 2022 and this time an area resident real estate agent purchased the property for the minimum bid of $250
I did reach out to the Township for an official comment on the sell but do not have a response yet.
I also messaged the buyer on Facebook and left a message on their cell phone.
Crystal Lake : What’s Next?
One of the concerns of the resident I spoke to was the very low water level right now.
She did say it was much fuller earlier in the year and is now mostly drained.
There is a drought going on coupled with an extremely hot summer, so it seems that is a big impact on the water level.
I’ve also seen mentions in online that the water level has fluctuated like this in the past.
A flickr photo album user shared an image from 2009 where the lake looked very similar today.
So to get a good historical perspective of changes I looked at Google Earth which is the Windows app for Google Maps. A distinctive feature of the app is you can scroll back through time looking at prior year’s satellite images.
Regarding lake levels:
When I say “Very Good” or “Highest Level” it means the water appears to be as high up the banks as possible, and the sand is mostly or completely not seen. I would imagine under those conditions the lake would be very usable for kayaking.
- Nov 2021 : Very Good
- Oct 2020: Highest Level
- Sept 2020: Highest Level
- Feb 2019: Highest Level
- May 2016: Very Good
- Mar 2015: Highest Level
- Oct 2011: Highest Level
- Dec 2010: Highest Level (looks overflowing!)
- Apr 2010: Highest Level
- Aug 2008: Very LOW. Almost as low as now
- Aug 2006: LOW
- June 2004: Highest Level
- Dec 2002: Med/Low
A 2008 drought report says New Jersey was only at 73% of it’s normal summer rainfall
So maybe what is taking place right now with the lower lake levels is simple Mother Nature doing her thing? And maybe it bounces back next year after the snow and rains into spring?
So in the end I present a bunch of information like I always do, and leave it to the readers and residents to run with it as they see fit.
I get that there are still several open questions that residents will have to track down. What does the new owner plan to do with the lake? Any expected improvements? What was the outcome of the Environmental Commissions findings last year?
Links and Locations
Crystal (Spring) Lake
Crystal Dr and Herbert Blvd.