Dune fight: NJ filing eminent domain lawsuits against beachfront property owners
We're approaching the fourth summer season since Sandy made landfall in New Jersey and took a sizable chunk out of the state's beaches. But the battle lives on between the state and oceanfront property owners who are opposed to a government-run beach replenishment project along their property.
Gov. Chris Christie last week said it's hard to believe he's still discussing the issue 45 months since Sandy crushed the shore.
"I never thought people would be that selfish and self-centered like the people in Point Pleasant Beach and Bay Head and Mantoloking who are holding out," he said.
Department of Environmental Commissioner Bob Martin said easements are still needed from about 150 property owners in northern Ocean County, specifically Bay Head and Point Pleasant Beach, in order to move ahead with the protection project in that area.
Several eminent domain cases have already been filed in Point Pleasant Beach, Martin said, and similar action will be taken against Bay Head homeowners in the next several weeks.
Superior Court rulings in March and April said the state has the right to seize private property for beach replenishment. But the judge scheduled a hearing for residents of Bay Head and Mantoloking who argue their own protections are enough and the state's beach replenishment project would be unnecessary.
"By the end of this year, I think we'll have all the properties we need," Christie said during a visit to Jenkinson's Boardwalk in Point Pleasant Beach. "I think the dune projects will be done by the end of next summer."
Thom Ammirato, who represents the Bay Head Oceanfront Property Owners, said they shouldn't be called selfish when they're asking for nothing from the government.
"They pay for their own beach protection, and have done so since 1882, saving taxpayers millions of dollars," Ammirato said in an emailed statement. "How is that remotely construed as selfish?"
Ammirato insisted residents are not against the project because it would disrupt their views of the water, as the governor has suggested many times.
"Most people in Bay Head can't see the ocean from their first floor anyway," he said. "We're not holding out for anything other than the right to protect our property and have the ability to install our own protection the way it's been going on in Bay Head for 130 years without one dime of taxpayers' money."
According to Martin, the beach protection project for northern Ocean County will go out to bid by mid-August.