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Dune look now: Public and private interests clash on Jersey shore p4

6/19/2014 | Real Estate Blog

Philadelphia may not have ocean views, but it does have the Delaware River. That means that the city may be just as vulnerable to storm surges during tropical storms as coastal properties are. Superstorm Sandy generated the third-highest storm surge on record here. We are vulnerable.

We are not, however, involved in a protracted legal battle over protecting beaches from further erosion in storms like Sandy. New Jersey, on the other hand, is. The government wants property owners along the coast to allow the Army Corps of Engineers to build barrier dunes as a stronger first line of defense for the beaches and beachfront properties. Rather than using the power of eminent domain, though, the government has asked for easements — the use of the property for a specific purpose.

One problem for these property owners is that the easement is not clearly defined. They say that the government will have unfettered access to their private property for an unspecified number of years and for whatever purpose the government decides on. If the request were not quite so broad, perhaps the property owners would let the project move forward.

For example, the homeowners want to make sure the beaches are maintained to their own meticulous standards. The corps may maintain the new dunes, but the beaches will still need to be cleaned and graded.

Giving a little on the control of the property may be the key to settling the matter. The members of at least one homeowners association have agreed to grant the easements in exchange for the right to keep the beaches up to snuff.

Still, it does not look as if the tension between public good and private use will ease up any time soon. More than 350 property owners have yet to sign on for the project.

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