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Courts begin to weigh in on barrier dune construction

2/25/2015 | Real Estate Blog

Towns along the Jersey Shore are still arguing with Gov. Chris Christie, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the Army Corps of Engineers about the proposed — or, to some, mandated — construction of barrier dunes along the beaches, on land owned by the town or, in some cases, individuals. The dunes would protect the beaches and beachfront communities from extensive damage from a major storm. Over the past couple of years, the project has struggled to overcome its own barrier dunes.Yes, this is the post-Sandy project that we wrote about in June 2014 (the multi-part series is titled “Dune look now: Public and private interests clash on Jersey shore”). There has been progress in the past few months, but the corps has not started construction and, in fact, vows not to until every community is on board.

That is actually one of the primary issues for the city of Margate in Atlantic County. The corps has taken a “one size fits all” approach to the dune project, city officials say, even though the communities have different needs and different vulnerabilities in a storm. The corps will construct dunes on the oceanfront, where Margate’s existing barrier system is enough, the town says, as Sandy illustrated: The beaches on the bay suffered more damage.

Margate and individual homeowners also believe the barrier dunes could be just a little lower and a little narrower, so they did not block the view or encroach on the beaches. Home values would take a hit if their views were affected, and everyone would take a hit if the beaches weren’t wide enough to attract legions of tourists.

Most of all, though, the city and two homeowners objected to the state’s decision to seize the land through executive order. The governor and state authorities decided that the fastest and least expensive way to get the dunes in place was to bypass the eminent domain process (condemnation then compensation).

That order was the first domino to tumble, and it set off reactions in a number of different directions.

We’ll continue this in our next post.


Philadelphia Inquirer, “As Margate dune battle goes on, one mayor’s advice: ‘Do the project’,” Jacqueline L. Urgo, Feb. 23, 2015

Insurance Journal, “Federal Judge Allows N.J. Town’s Dune Construction Plan to Proceed,” Wayne Parry, Jan. 21, 2015