New Jersey beachfront homeowners threatened with eminent domain

A plan by state officials in New Jersey to use eminent domain to build sand dunes on privately owned, oceanfront beaches is encountering stiff resistance from affected property owners, who see the action as nothing less than a government land grab.

New Jersey’s 127-mile coastline is dotted with private beaches. The area was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, and since then the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have determined that sand dunes will limit the damage wrought by future storms. But seventeen oceanfront property owners are suing the state, arguing that the DEP lacks the legal right to use eminent domain to seize beachfront property for the proposed sand dune project.

“Protected by the Constitution’s Bill of Rights”

“The government’s power of eminent domain is is an extreme power that must be Eminent domain grabcarefully and properly used because of the ramifications,” Anthony Dellapelle, one of the lawyers for the homeowners told the Associated Press. “Private property rights are fundamental rights protected by the Constitution’s Bill of Rights.”

Up and down the Jersey shore – in places like Mantoloking, Brick, Margate, Bay Head, Jenkinson’s Beach, Point Pleasant Beach, and Long Beach Island – oceanfront property owners see the state’s sand-dune plan as a pretext to seize more private land. Once the land is owned by the state, they fear, there will be nothing to stop construction of boardwalks, public rest rooms, and even Ferris wheels near their homes. Furthermore, property values, which are linked to oceanfront views, will suffer accordingly. And lower property values will result in less revenue for cash-strapped local governments, they add.

For their part, Garden State officials say sand dunes offer coastal communities the best protection against flooding and insist on using eminent domain to bring the privately owned beaches under their control. Local property owners dispute this, pointing out that wooden bulk heads and rock walls – both financed by oceanfront homeowners — are more effective than sand dunes.

Multiple Suits Filed

Opponents of eminent domain have already had some success in the courtroom. The Washington Times (Jan. 22) reports that plaintiffs in Margate, just outside of Atlantic City, have prevented construction of sand dunes in their seaside community. Similarly, residents of privately owned Jenkinson’s Beach have tied up the DEP in court and are now in settlement talks with the state. So far, the state has filed condemnation cases against 86 oceanfront properties.

Eminent domain is a power tool; it allows for the taking, albeit with compensation, for what is said to be for the public good. It enabled the construction of the Interstate Highway System, but it has also been used by government to favor one private interest over another. No one wants to limit the damaged caused by storms coming from the Atlantic more than oceanfront property owners. Along the Jersey shore, homeowners are willing to spend their own money to protect their homes from whatever Mother Nature serves up, and they are right to stand up to bullies in Trenton.

Categories

About the Author: Bonner Cohen, Ph. D.

Bonner Cohen, Ph. D.

Bonner R. Cohen, Ph. D., is a senior policy analyst with CFACT.

  • Sim Dunn

    Why is anyone “Surprised”, people “out West” are being “Murdered” trying to stop the government from doing the same thing.

    • Dano2

      No one is being murdered. Them gov ain’t doin the same thing.

      Best,

      D

  • jameshrust

    I am trying to remember who the Governor of New Jersey is? I think it is a Republican named Christi that is running for President of The United States. You would think he would be for limited eminent domain. People who vote should look carefully at what the candidates do. Fox news reported Christi spent millions of state tax dollars trying to bail out a Casino in Atlantic City which failed. He then claimed he was trying to create jobs. All this behavior seems like what Democrats do.
    We don’t need another Democrat in the Whitehouse in 2017.

    • Christie is the worst kind of law and order Republican, the antithesis of Ben Franklin.
      He wants you to trade liberty, property and privacy for a little temporary safety and security.
      Completely unfit for the top job.

    • Fat Clemenza

      Agreed! Christie would not win NJ again because conservatives like me know he’s just another RINO like Rubio and Kasich. As a NJ resident, I cheered that CC was going to “lower property taxes” and “take on the teachers unions.” My taxes are up 38% in 3 years and the teachers’ only issue is that their co-pay went from an absurd $5 to a similarly absurd $10. What a “reformer!” Entertaining tough-TALKING blowhard.

  • Engineer On A Mission

    Both extremes are appear to me to be wrong. As with most things, the best approach is somewhere in between. Construction of sand dunes in these seaside communities would reduce storm damage to all residences along the shore. Rather than outright purchase of the property through eminent domain, purchase of a limited (conditional) right of way for the sole purpose of constructing sand dunes for reducing storm damage would protect the interests of both sides. Engineers are trained to FIX things. Lawyers are trained to LITIGATE things. Politicians are trained to TALK about things. Let’s DO something productive rather than just litigating and talking.

    • VACornell

      WOW…..isn’t this way great?
      Vern Cornell…Tierrasanta, San Diego

    • VACornell

      Notice its sole purpose…

  • 2packs4sure .

    One thing that bugs me is calling Sandy “Hurricane Sandy”.
    That’s why they named it Super storm Sandy because it never made landfall as a hurricane.
    Just keep the facts straight and use the language properly Cohen…………
    That will make things more better!

    • Fat Clemenza

      12% of the sheeple voted Obama in 2012 because of his “handling” of SS Sandy (nature provided a Dem October Surprise), “handling” being little more than a photo op.

      The hug therefore elected Obama since he beat Romney by far less than 12% of voters. Way to go, Chris! Moron.

  • The only words of caution I have here for the homeowners are these:
    If you took the Federally subsidized flood insurance for your beautiful but risky locations, you can’t be too surprised when the government wants to limit its risk.

  • daveveselenak

    Communists always confiscate private property so this explains what is happening here and out West as the BLM continues to gobble up private property! Their plan is to herd all of the dumb-(m)asses into cities and live in little cubicles as they live like kings and queens as they are currently doing! REVOLUTION will be the SOLUTION, Armr=========================?, you will be needing them and that is why this communist NWO regime is using all of these false-flags as excuses to confiscate our only means of seeing that hardcore tyranny will not be able to be implemented – that is the straight skinny, like it or not! mInr, NSA!

  • marlene

    NJ voted for the wrong governor and the wrong mayor. Nevertheless, the reason for this beachfront land grab could be a foreign investor wanting it and a crooked politician willing to sell it to him, for a kickback of course.

  • Bill Drewien

    Now you know how the western states feel with the fed owning 50 percent plus of all the west.
    You would think they would be happy with all they have, but No they want more and more each year. The sad part is the tax payers must subsidize their mismanagement. How in the world could you be responsible for managing 100’s of millions of acres of prime forest land, rangeland, mineral rich areas and loose money? What is even worse our game herds, Sandhill cranes, ducks, geese nesting pair on the USF&W refuge system are in a major decline.
    I sympathize with your issue and wish you the best of luck.

  • Dano2

    This sort of thing has been upheld several times at the USC before. Did some lawyer con them into parting with their money? That’s the real story: con man takes rich people’s money without getting thrown in jail like Madoff.

    Best,

    D

  • RT

    If the properties have Federally subsidized flood insurance then I don’t see how the homeowners can really refuse. Same thing happens where I live. Wealthy people put huge expensive houses a stones throw from the ocean and then have Govt insurance to cover it? Why are my taxes paying for their houses? I don’t necessarily agree with the eminent domain argument but I do think the Govt could simply insist that it must be done to protect from future storms. It should be pretty easy to specifically state what is being done, project scope, etc. to allay fears of boardwalks, etc. Sand dunes are a terrible idea anyway. Riprap is what we use here and it works much better, way more permanent.

  • AllenBarclayAllen

    And Govener Christ Cristy is running against Donald Trump ,the eminent domane violater ,for President yet has nothing to say for his people? Why this is extraordinary, anyone else see a problem with this President kisser not protecting his people from Obama,s eminet domane land grab?

  • Oilfart1

    Sorry, but dunes are the most effective method to PREVENT damage to oceanfront homes.