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

6/13/2014 | Real Estate Blog

Philadelphia took a hit from Superstorm Sandy, but the beaches of New Jersey took a body blow. The storm washed away residential and commercial sites along the coast, leaving everyone scrambling to clean up and scrambling to make sure every home, every business, every town would fare better during the next natural disaster.

Unfortunately, few things are easy where private and public interests are at stake. In theory, at least, the government wants to protect the interests of the community, while individual property owners put their own interests ahead of the community’s, even if only by a slim margin. In some cases, the government can use the power of eminent domain. In others, private residents and business owners can rely on the Constitution to protect their privacy and their right to control their property.

Those rights, however, can be a little amorphous, sometimes hard to define or, according to the opposition, hard to defend. Take, for example, a homeowner’s right to a view of the ocean.

The owner of a beachfront home has a definite advantage when it comes time to sell. Buyers who are attracted to the community in the first place will usually pay a premium for an ocean view and a stretch of private beach. The same is true for businesses — imagine the advantage a restaurant with an ocean view would have over one with a vista of a parking lot. In a resort community especially, the beach is where the value is highest.

That’s true for residents in northern Ocean County, New Jersey, at least. They have been involved in an extended dispute with government agencies over the construction of engineered dunes on their properties. Officials want the Army Corps of Engineers to build dunes that would provide better protection to oceanfront properties during weather events. The residents want to protect their views and their property values. Naturally, the objectives clash.

We’ll explain more 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