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Courts begin to weigh in on barrier dune construction p4

3/10/2015 | Real Estate Blog

In law school, students learn persuasive writing and objective writing. A contract is a good example of the latter: The parties want a clear expression of their obligations to one another, remedies and so on. All that text that we skip over when we agree to the terms of a software end user license agreement is objective.

Persuasive writing is reserved for the times when you need to convince someone that you are either right or not wrong. You present facts in a way that makes you look good and the opposing party look not good. The objective is to make the judge stand up, pound the table and say, “By heaven, she must receive just compensation, for the government has taken her property!”

The same rules apparently apply to journalism. The facts are the facts, but journalists may toss in details that will persuade the reader to stand up, pound the table and, in this case, say, “By heaven, the government must have that property before another Sandy strikes!”

When we were catching up on the Margate and Jersey Shore barrier dune project, we noted a tendency to focus on residents who favor the project. An official from a town near Margate offers his advice: Do it. His community was damaged by Sandy, but it could have been much worse without the barrier dunes. A resident in Margate whose home was not badly damaged but who saw what had happened to other communities urges the town to stop the lawsuits and move forward. We didn’t collect data to support our theory, but we had a definite feeling.

Missing from or buried in a number of news stories is that Margate supports a barrier dune project, it just doesn’t support this one. The project as designed is not what Margate needs. The project is, in fact, based on a 19-year-old study. If the town — and the residents involved in the lawsuit — could work with the corps to design a more customized approach, there would be one less argument in the matter.

In fact, there may not have been an argument at all. Gov. Chris Christie signed the executive order in order to speed up the project. Homeowners and communities up and down the shore had raised objections to the specifications of the Army Corps of Engineers project. Rather than go through lengthy negotiations, the governor took a short cut.

That was in September 2013. As one of Margate’s attorneys said, “The ironic consequence of this is the state’s claiming they need to do this quickly and they’ve slowed the whole process down by not following the rules.”

Sources:, “Beach replenishment delays could be costly for taxpayers,” MaryAnn Spoto, Feb. 20, 2015

Bloomberg, “Christie Signs Order to Speed N.J. Sand-Dune Construction,” Elise Young, Sept. 25, 2013