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Dune look now: Public and private interests clash on Jersey shore p2

6/15/2014 | Real Estate Blog

New Jersey could be losing patience with property owners in communities along its coastline. The state has asked for easements, but the property owners are balking. The easements would give the Army Corps of Engineers enough room to erect barrier dunes along the beaches, dunes that would protect homeowners and businesses during a storm like Sandy. The dunes would also block the property owners’ views of the beach, or so they argue.

The situation almost came to a head last year, when Gov. Chris Christie signed an executive order authorizing the state attorney general’s use of legal actions to force the property owners to consent. For the governor, the issue is a no-brainer. The corps will build the dunes and will be responsible for their maintenance until about 2065. The dunes would protect the state’s 127 miles of shoreline — and the residents and businesses nearby — for a good long time.

The state could resort to eminent domain, but the state would have to find the money to compensate the property owners. Under the law of eminent domain, the state may take private property for a public purpose, but it must also pay the property owner the reasonable value of the land. Easements, on the other hand, would cost the state nothing.

According to an attorney for a number of holdouts, the issue is more complex than the loss of the view and the affect that would have on property values. The state has asked for an easement that would grant the corps of engineers and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection unlimited access — for both construction and maintenance — to private beaches.

The real surprise is that the government was surprised the property owners didn’t agree right away.

We’ll continue this in our next post.

Source: USA Today, “Jersey Shore dunes fight may be near end. Or is it?” Nicholas Huba (The Asbury Park Press), June 3, 2014