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    N.J. assemblyman among defendants in eminent domain lawsuits against Brick beachfront owners

     A bulldozer on Long Beach Island moves sand to restore the dunes that were swept away by Hurricane Sandy. (Emma Lee/for NewsWorks, file)

    A bulldozer on Long Beach Island moves sand to restore the dunes that were swept away by Hurricane Sandy. (Emma Lee/for NewsWorks, file)

    New Jersey has filed eminent domain lawsuits against oceanfront property owners in Brick who have refused to sign easements that would allow for the construction of protective sand dunes to hold back storm surges, officials announced.

    Among the seven named in the lawsuits is Assemblyman John McKeon, D-Essex/Morris, an oceanfront homeowner. 

    But in the past, McKeon has said he would sign the easement after being assured exactly where it would be built.

    McKeon is flying this morning and cannot immediately comment, his chief of staff told NewsWorks.

    The state warned last month that officials would file lawsuits if property owners did not comply. Lawsuits are also pending in Long Beach Island, Ocean City, Margate. 

    In addition to Brick, outstanding easements remain in Mantoloking, Long Beach Island, Margate, and Longport. 283 easements, of which 176 are on private land, are outstanding on the Barnegat Bay Island.

    Margate officials have maintained wooden bulkheads are sufficient to protect against ocean flooding, and that most of the damage from Superstorm Sandy in 2012 came from the bay on the other side of town.

    State officials say they will continue fighting to obtain the easements necessary to protect the public.

    “We appreciate that many property owners – clearly mindful of the destruction caused by Superstorm Sandy – have unselfishly donated easements for the greater good rather than engage the state in protracted litigation,” Acting N.J. Attorney General John J. Hoffman said in July.

    “But to those who continue to hold out, our message is that we remain committed to acquiring these easements as expeditiously as possible, and – consistent with a landmark Supreme Court decision issued in 2013 – without paying windfalls at the public’s expense.”

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    The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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