“Dozens” of legal complaints condemning would-be easements along the beachfront of Ocean County’s northern barrier island will be filed in the next 30 to 45 days, Shorebeat has learned.
The filings will include plots of sand in Brick and Mantoloking whose owners have refused to sign easements allowing dunes to be built and maintained on slivers of their property that dot the oceanfront landscape up and down the barrier island.
“We expect to be [filing] dozens of more complaints in the next 30 to 45 days,” said Bob Considine, spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection. “Those actions will be for some properties in Brick and Mantoloking, as well as others on Long Beach Island and in Margate.”
Brick Township Attorney Kevin Starkey has said the state attorney general’s office will be handling the condemnation proceedings, though his office is keeping abreast of the situation.
The filing of formal condemnation complaints will likely represent the final step in securing access to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to hire contractors who will build 22-foot-high engineered, vegetated dunes and at least a 200 foot-wide beach berm in Brick and neighboring island communities. The project, designed to similar specifications as a dune-building operation in Long Beach Island that protected communities there from breaches during Superstorm Sandy, is estimated to cost $86 million and will be paid for by way of federal funding earmarked after the storm struck.
Some homeowners who privately own a portion of the dune line have refused to sign easements allowing the work to get underway, leading to delays in the project, which was already supposed to be completed. The homeowners have cited a multitude of reasons behind their objections – from fears that public access would be increased, to the potential loss of ocean views from their homes, to the fact that the easements would be granted in perpetuity.
Last week, the DEP confirmed it had filed 87 condemnations in Margate, though those takings differ from those in Ocean County. In Margate, the municipality itself owns the beach and has refused to cooperate with the state on the project. In Long Beach Island, replenishment is already underway and will be completed island-wide by mid-2016. There, the first replenishment and dune-building operations began in 2006 in Surf City.
“The bottom line is we’re going to see many more filings in the coming weeks and months in all of these locations as we wind down the eminent domain process with the holdouts,” Considine said.
After a recent nor’easter led to a small breach and $800,000 worth of emergency sand deliveries and police and public works overtime in the Ortley Beach section of Toms River, officials there this week called on the state to quickly begin the condemnation process.
“It’s now time for the state to step up and invoke eminent domain on the outstanding easements and the people who won’t sign,” said Toms River Councilman Maurice “Mo” Hill. “It’s time to protect life and property, and not ocean views.”