New Jersey

Progress in Settlement Talks Over Private NJ Beach Eyed by State for Protective Sand Dunes

Efforts to settle a lawsuit brought by the owner of a popular beach against New Jersey's plan to build protective sand dunes are making progress, and a court hearing has been postponed to allow the talks to continue.

In a filing made Nov. 20, U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman told a federal court judge that settlement talks between Jenkinson's beach, the state, the borough of Point Pleasant Beach and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have been making progress.

Fishman noted that a final settlement has not yet been reached, but the judge granted a delay in the case until Dec. 23 to allow talks to continue.

Jenkinson's sued last year, claiming the project would transform its privately owned beach into a public one. The lawsuit seeks clarifications on just what the government can do in its efforts to carry out the dune project along the state's 127-mile coastline.

The state says its sole aim is to protect lives and property from future storms.

"We are optimistic that the matter can resolved in a manner that achieves all parties' legitimate objectives," said Jack Buonocore, an attorney for Jenkinson's.

Gov. Christie began a push to erect dunes along the entire coastline after parts of the Jersey shore with dunes fared much better during Sandy in 2012 than those that didn't. The work is being carried out by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as part of a beach replenishment project.

Buonocore said at the time the lawsuit was filed that the documents the company is being asked to sign would give the state Department of Environmental Protection ownership of what would become a public beach. The state says it has no interest in changing the privately owned character of the beach.

The case is only one of several fronts on which the dune wars are being fought in New Jersey. Margate is fighting the state's efforts to build dunes there, arguing that its oceanfront bulkheads provide enough protection, and a judge is expected to rule soon whether the city is entitled to another hearing to challenge the dune project. In Bay Head, a group of oceanfront homeowners who are among those that spent $5 million of their own money on a protective rock wall are suing to be exempted from the state's dune project.

Two weeks ago, the DEP said there were 283 easements still outstanding on the northern Ocean County peninsula.

The state has filed eminent domain complaints seeking to seize strips of disputed land in Margate, Long Beach Island and Brick, and plans additional filings soon. The property owners would be compensated for their land.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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