High court ruling on dunes a victory, N.J. officials say

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 $375,000 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,” said Bartlett. “None.”

Governor Chris Christie says the ruling is a decisive victory. “I think this should be a clear message to the 1,400 or so folks who have not yet given easements along the 127 miles of New Jersey’s coastline,” the governor said. “You’re not going to be paid a windfall for your easement.”

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Only five of the 128 oceanfront property owners in Mantoloking have not signed easements for beach replenishment, according to Chris Nelson, special counsel to the borough mayor and council. He said Monday he 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,” Nelson said. “We’re working with our lawyers, and we’re still talking with the homeowners too, and hopefully they’ll come around.”

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

“The fact is we need to get going with building these dunes and protecting our shoreline,” Chrisitie said. “And if you were hoping to get some six-figure payment for the loss of your previous view, I think the Supreme Court put a stake in that today.”

The decision, said Sierra Club director Jeff Tittel, means that 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 get blocked because there are people walking on it.'”

The ruling may convince oceanfront property owners to grant easements for dune construction, said Long Beach Township Mayor Joe Mancini.

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

Bartlett Monday pronounced the ruling a “game changer.”

“Now towns that have four or five holdouts on easements can go in and condemn the construction easements, the work can begin, and the values can be sorted out in court,” he said.

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