Shore Towns Take First Step Towards Eminent Domain [AUDIO]
Several shore towns are introducing ordinances aimed at taking legal action against holdouts of easement needed to build a protective dune system along the coast.
Toms River, along with Mantoloking, introduced measures at council meetings on Tuesday which authorize the municipalities to acquire the property needed through negotiation, purchase, condemnation, or eminent domain.
"This ordinance is the first step in authorizing the municipality into entering into eminent domain to take position of the properties we need on the barrier island to build the dunes," says Toms River Mayor Thomas Kelaher
It comes of the heels of Governor Christie's executive order calling on the Army Corps of engineers to move forward with construction of dunes along 127 miles of coast in New Jersey.
Toms River introduced approved a resolution on July 23rd urging all municipalities from the Manasquan Inlet to the Barnegat Inlet to voluntarily obtain easements. Kelaher says even if the current ordinance passes, the process of reading the property won't be quick.
"We have to make a good faith offer and that's going to take some time because they have so much time to answer, so we're talking about months. It's not just going to happen overnight."
However, Kelaher notes residents shouldn't expect a windfall for their property in the case of eminent domain, especially on the heels of the Supreme Court's decision to award a Harvey Cedars one dollar for the loss of their view.
"We have more than enough evidence to show that this is being done in connection with public safety. The damage wrought last year by Superstorm Sandy is more than enough evidence to show how important dunes are," Kelaher explained.
He says the ordinance will allow easement holdouts to still voluntarily sign.
Additionally, the township will begin demolition of homes that have been abandoned since Sandy hit. Currently, homes that are damaged severely and haven't been touched since last October are marked with a yellow sticker.
"We're winding up getting complaints from adjacent neighbors, for example, they haven't seen the property owners since the Saturday after the storm, they know the person had financial problems, but the place is overgrown and unsightly."
Kelaher says they're taking all precautions to try and contact owners before any demolition is done.
The Mayor points out the township suspended code enforcement for the year after the storm since many people had trouble coming up with money to make repairs, but now they will carefully begin to remove some of the dangerous and blighted homes if they are still neglected.