N.J. proposes rule changes for coastal development

     This Sept. 14, 2013 photo provided by John Paynter shows his house after it was raised in Long Beach Island, N.J. Paynter's vacation home now stands 13 feet higher than it did before Superstorm Sandy. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) says floods are the No. 1 natural disaster in the U.S., with insurance claims totaling on average more than $3 billion annually from 2003 to 2012. (John Paynter/AP Photo)

    This Sept. 14, 2013 photo provided by John Paynter shows his house after it was raised in Long Beach Island, N.J. Paynter's vacation home now stands 13 feet higher than it did before Superstorm Sandy. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) says floods are the No. 1 natural disaster in the U.S., with insurance claims totaling on average more than $3 billion annually from 2003 to 2012. (John Paynter/AP Photo)

    For the first time since Superstorm Sandy, the New Jersey DEP is planning to revise regulations on how homeowners and businesses can build along the Shore.

    For the first time since Superstorm Sandy devastated parts of the Jersey coast, the state Department of Environmental Protection is planning to revise regulations on how homeowners and businesses can build along the Shore.

    Lawrence Hajna, a spokesman for the department, said the goal is to streamline the process and make common-sense revisions.

    “In New Jersey, we have a lot of red tape in our coastal areas that really burden the home owner and the property owners,” he said. “But they don’t really add environmental value or benefit. So, we’re trying to eliminate a lot of this red tape while still achieving the same protection that we always have enjoyed.”

    Among the proposed changes, marinas will be allowed to build restaurants, and part of the permitting process will go online and be instantaneous.

    Critics of the plan argue that encouraging development in vulnerable places along the Shore is foolish.

    “Sea level’s risingm storms are anticipated to get worse,” said Tim Dillingham, Executive Director of the American Littoral Society, a national coastal conservation organization based in New Jersey. “We should be trying to move out of those areas. So even if we do it one house at a time or one restaurant at a time, it still puts more people and property at risk and impacts negatively on the environment.”

    In particular, Dillingham is concerned about development along the dune systems, beaches, and back bays. These areas, he said, were hit hardest by Sandy — and should be protected as much as possible.

    The state will hold three public hearings in June and July to hear from residents on the proposed changes, and the public commenting period will close Aug. 1.

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