NJ Supreme Court Rules In Dunes Case

By Phil Gregory, WBGO News
Trenton. July 8, 2013

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A ruling by New Jersey’s Supreme Court has cleared the way for beach restoration projects that help protect the shore from future storms.

The Justices ruled the protection dunes provide might offset the loss from blocked ocean views.

Ocean County Freeholder John Bartlett welcomes the decision that overturns a $370,000 award given to a Harvey Cedars couple who complained about a protective 22-foot high dune behind their home.

 “If you had to pay that for every property owner up and down along this coast, you wouldn’t have any pump-in projects at all. None.”

Bartlett says the ruling is a game-changer that will help shore towns move ahead with beach restoration projects.

“Under the old rulings, under the old concept if you will, it would have been financially impossible for oceanfront municipalities to condemn the easements they needed to condemn from homeowners who wouldn’t grant them out of their own self interest or the goodness of their heart.”

Long Beach Township Mayor Joe Mancini says the ruling may convince oceanfront property owners to grant easements for dune construction.

 “I think it’s a real reversal for these holdouts thinking that their lottery ticket is coming in.”

Chris Nelson is special counsel to the Mantoloking mayor and borough council. He says only five of the 128 oceanfront property owners there have not signed easements for beach replenishment and hopes the ruling helps to obtain them.

 “So we’re going to work with the state to figure out what we need to do to move things along as quick as possible. We’re working with our lawyers, and we’re still talking with the homeowners too, and hopefully they’ll come around.” 

Governor Christie wants a protective dune system to be built along New Jersey’s entire 127-mile coastline.                         

He says the court’s decision should be a clear message to oceanfront homeowners who have not signed easements to allow the projects.

 “You’re not going to wind up getting paid for these easements because if the court concludes that the protective nature of the dune saves a multi million dollar house from being destroyed, I don’t know how that the view could be greater than the sum of protecting a house. The fact is we need to get going with building these dunes and protecting our shoreline and if you were hoping to get some six figure payment for the loss of your precious view, I think the Supreme Court put a stake in that today.”

New Jersey Sierra Club director Jeff Tittel believes the decision means government can do other things that benefit the public without having to worry about speculative property values.

 “Had this gone the other way then somebody would complain and say well there’s a bike path going past my house and I hear noise of the cycles so compensate me. There’s a river walk in front of my property and my views gets blocked because there are people walking on it.”


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