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Council President: If Easements Are Not Granted, Property Owners Should Strengthen Dunes

Dune rebuilding must be completed while nation is focused on Sandy, council said

If beachfront property owners don't want to grant an easement for the construction of more robust dunes on their land, they should be made to pay for the sand structures, Toms River's Council President said this week.

"If you want to have a private beach and you don't want to give an easement, then build a dune to the required height — the required dimensions as the [U.S. Army] Corps of Engineers are going to build them. You'll see how fast that turns around when they find what the cost is. Maybe then we'll get some cooperation," Council President George Wittmann said when the governing body met this week.

Township officials plan to appeal to state and federal representatives to create rules requiring that protective dunes are built by the property owner should they not want to grant an easement that would allow the Corps to complete the work.

As a condition of the easement, Toms River requires property owners to grant the township public access to the beach between the dunes and the Atlantic Ocean in perpetuity. According to Business Administrator Paul Shives, one easement has been granted thus far. 

"My way of thinking is, right now the nation is still focused on Sandy. If we drag this thing out with easements for 2-3 years, people's memories are very short," said Councilman Mo Hill. "If we go to the Army Corps of Engineers three years from now, if all the easements take that long, we may not be a priority. Right now, I think everybody agrees, if we get these easements in a timely manner we are a priority and the Army Corps of Engineers will come here."

Property owners have been hesitant to grant the easements and have spoken before the council before to express their concerns. Some have asked for an open forum, having said that the township will not discuss the issue with them.

A few members of the council attended a discussion on beach replenishment last week. There, a professor and coastal engineering expert told them that, had the dunes been in place, Sandy's surge in the Barnegat Bay would have been reduced by three feet.

"I'm sure anyone living in the bay area, whether it's Gilford Park or the Silverton area, that made the difference between flooding and not flooding. We have to get past this parochial issue of 'it's my house, my property and I'm not going to put a dune on it,'" Wittmann said.

The council president said that the township must "push" federal and state representatives to require property owners build dunes if they do not want to grant an easement. 

A resident asked if the township can increase the size of the dunes on its own, without relying on help from the federal government.

"We can certainly consider that, but in terms of dollars I'm not sure we're going to be able to do that," Wittmann said.

The enhanced dunes must be completed along a great stretch of the Jersey Shore if it is going to work, Hill said. 

"This plan really needs to go from Barnegat all the way to Manasquan," he said. "You can't do it piecemeal, it's not going to give you adequate protection."

"It wouldn't make sense to do that if it's discontinuous anyway," Wittmann said. "I think the answer has to be a more comprehensive program. To build the dunes up on three streets and then stop, and then go another three streets and stop isn't going to help the situation. The water can go through the breaks."

Other shore towns are trying to get easements to allow for the Corps to come in. According to the council, the agreement would allow for 50 years of replenishment, with engineers returning every five years for beach maintenance. 

Debbie Bury January 26, 2013 at 04:03 PM
Everyone who has a home in ortley beach should attend this meeting lets stop posting let's start reacting instead. pass this meeting information on Facebook and call all your neighbors and friend in ortley .See everyone their
Alex Simon January 27, 2013 at 05:01 AM
If this was actually about protecting the people from future storms...then you know what Toms River Would do? Anything they can to make it work. They wouldn't be playing this age old game to try and steal beachfront property owners land. Last year it was one story (nothing to do with dunes). This year it's a horrible tragedy that affected the lives of so many and they are trying to use that to suot their PR personal agenda. Toms River, if you want to protect the people so much. Get in there...get the dunes up. If you need to raise or lower people's property taxes to do it. Take meetings...make it happen. If the homeowners want to replace the dunes by themselves, they have every right and they need to. Focus on that. Stop trying to hand off some sand and think it entitles you to the land they have paid taxes on and maintained for a very long time. Your actual priorities are not veiled at all to anyone who is watching closely.
Alex Simon January 27, 2013 at 05:03 AM
Unfortunately...no one is saying their don't want dunes. Toms River is trying to manipulate the public to believe that. It is NOT true. EVERYONE wants dunes. Toms River is saying the ONLY option is for them to put the sand back and when they do...homeowners have to GIVE them their land. Homeowners want the dunes, they will pay more taxes, or they will put them up themselves. Homeowners will not hand over their land permanently to keep. And with the property taxes these beachfront families take...TR is foolish for truly biting the hand that feeds them. The town could never afford eminent domain. There is no money in TR for that so anyone who suggests this needs to move on...
Michelle V February 07, 2013 at 03:32 PM
This story is old news and whoever just wrote this obnoxious remark should know what is going on first. SCHOA has a private beach and we rebuilt our dunes at our expense already; high and strong enough. We also had dunes prior to Sandy which protected our homes from floating away. People on the mainland should not be worrying about the private beaches, they should be screaming at TR for NOT BUILDING DUNES prior to Sandy which caused all the damage to the island and the mainland. Mr. Councilman and anyone else that has something to say, get your facts straight. TR should be paying ORTLEY for all of our damage! They were negligent, not the private beaches.
Robert March 12, 2013 at 08:46 PM
I live in Ocean Beach 3 or I did pre Sandy.. The developer of the Ocean Beach property is refusing to sign an EASEMENT. If you want to know why, the developer JOHN M'DONOUGH has a lease with the HOA which makes them responsible. He has to pay nothing. He does not seem to care about the damage that has happen and will happen to us. Toms River should use EMINENT DOMAIN

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