N.J. appeals court rules against homeowners in dune fight

     A South Seaside Park dune in 2015. (Image: Justin Auciello/for NewsWorks)

    A South Seaside Park dune in 2015. (Image: Justin Auciello/for NewsWorks)

    A New Jersey appeals court has ruled against homeowners in a dispute over beach replenishment projects.

    Owners of about two dozen properties on Long Beach Island claim the state doesn’t have the authority to take private property for the purposes of beach replenishment after 2012’s Superstorm Sandy.

    The court ruling Thursday disagreed and also held the public can be given access to those beaches.

    An attorney for a group of homeowners in the lawsuit told Courthouse News Service that his clients “are obviously disappointed” by the ruling.

    Since Superstorm Sandy, New Jersey officials have sought and obtained around 4,000 property easements from beachfront property owners necessary for beach replenishment and dune building projects.

    The state has since obtained the vast majority of the easements, but some remain, especially in northern Ocean County.

    The state Department of Environment Protection announced in March that easements were still outstanding in the South Seaside Park section of Berkeley Township, Bay Head, and Point Pleasant Beach.

    Critics of beach replenishment and dune building claim local projects already provide enough protection, while others argue that dunes will reduce prime beach real estate and push down property values.

    Related: Beach replenishment not yet scheduled in N.J. community lauded for extensive protective dunes

    Related: Some Bay Head homeowners sue to get out of New Jersey protective dune plan

    In July 2015, the state filed its first lawsuits against non-compliant property owners in Ship Bottom and Ocean City. 

    “Owners of beachfront properties up and down the coast have overwhelmingly stepped forward and done the right thing,” DEP Commissioner Bob Martin said at the time. “Unfortunately, a few holdouts continue to refuse to provide easements, forcing us to seek condemnation of portions of their properties so we can move forward with projects that will protect lives and property.”

    Gov. Chris Christie similarly has had choice words for those continuing to battle beach replenishment.

    In January 2016, he said projects shouldn’t be held up by “very selfish homeowners” that use a “fake excuse” of the state planning to take property to build “a ferris wheel or a hot dog stand” on their land.

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    The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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