Beach replenishment at the Jersey Shore got a big boost this week when the State Supreme Court overruled a $375,000 award in a Harvey Cedars beach replenishment case, saying the project in fact provided benefits to the property owners. A state appellate court had ruled last year that the borough pay $375,000 to the couple to compensate them for having a portion of their property taken for the Army Corps of Engineers beach replenishment project, partially obstructing their ocean view.
The Harvey Cedars beach project was completed in 2010. But in other towns on Long Beach Island there are still property owners that refuse to sign easements for beach replenishment, thereby stalling these efforts.
Even staunch defenders of property rights have cited this case as different in that these homeowners' actions placed the public and property at risk.
However, when the matter was at the Superior Court level the judge ruled that the project represented a general benefit for the entire community. As a result, the Judge prohibited the jurors from considering whether the homeowners received any special protection from the project. The appellate court upheld that ruling.
The NJ Supreme Court reversed that decision and ordered a new trial in Superior Court. The Justices said the lower court ruling required the jury to disregard “even quantifiable storm protection benefits” resulting from the public project that increase the fair market value of the property.
The state's highest court said in part:
“The borough should not have been barred from presenting all non-speculative, reasonably calculable benefits from the dune project – the kind that a willing purchaser and willing seller would consider in an arms length transaction. Those benefits are part of the fair market equation, regardless if they are enjoyed by others in the community. The jury in this case should have been charged that the determination of just compensation required calculating the fair market value of the...property immediately before taking and after the taking (and construction of the 22-foot dune).”
“In short, the quantifiable decrease in the value of their property – loss of view – should have been set off by any quantifiable increase in its value – storm protection benefits. The [property owners] are entitled to just compensation, a reasonable calculation of any decrease in fair market value after the taking. They are not entitled to more, and certainly not a windfall at the public’s expense.”
In the wake of Super Storm Sandy Ocean County's state legislators said, "It was readily apparent that those municipalities where beach replenishment projects were more recently completed were able to withstand the Storm better than those municipalities in need of beach replenishment. This is a testament to the overall success of the beach replenishment program, when projects are actually completed."
If you'd like more information on real estate at the Jersey Shore, contact Little Egg Harbor REALTOR® Laura Giannotta at 609-384-6121. Surf City completed dune replacement prior to Sandy, take a look at before and after!