The Garden State is forging ahead with rebuilding efforts after Superstorm Sandy devastated the Jersey Shore last October. One of the largest proposed projects is a $3 billion dune-replenishment project set to start May 1. This proposed coastal protection system would create 22-foot-tall dunes along the coast, forming a natural barrier against storms to protect inland homes and lower the impact of erosion.
Because waterfront property boundaries along the coastline often extend to the tide mark, officials are seeking the cooperation of homeowners to allow access to the dunes on private beaches.
But beachfront property owners are reluctant to sign easements allowing public access in perpetuity. The homeowners are also concerned about property values, which can dip dramatically when an ocean view is blocked.
If the homeowners do not relent, the government could also resort to using eminent domain, which allows it to take private property for public use if the homeowner is justly compensated.
This, however, could become prohibitively expensive. A recent New Jersey appellate court decision affirmed a $375,000 award to homeowners whose view was blocked by a two-story sand dune built by the borough. The local government took the property under the power of eminent domain, after the couple refused to consent to an easement. Oral argument in front of the New Jersey Supreme Court is scheduled for mid-May.
Some state politicians aren’t waiting for the high court’s decision. Recently proposed legislation would amend the state’s eminent domain laws to require consideration of the increase in property value that comes from the dune’s protection when calculating just compensation.
See the text of the proposed bills here: