The Toms River Township council on Tuesday unanimously approved an ordinance on final reading that will allow for the taking of dune easements from oceanfront property owners who refuse to allow slivers of land to be used for bulked-up dunes.
The township's acquisition of the small parcels of sand would allow a protective dune to
be built over the length of Toms River's oceanfront by the U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers. The plan is aimed at preventing ocean breaches in
storms and widening the beach to about 200 feet from its current
approximate width of 50 feet.
"It's regrettable that we had to get to this point, that we didn't get the cooperation of everybody … but we're ready to proceed," said Mayor Thomas Kelaher.
The township is still trying to convince some property owners to sign easements and avoid condemnation proceedings, said Township Attorney Ken Fitzsimmons.
Toms River officials squarely placed blame for the destruction seen in its barrier island and mainland bayfront neighborhoods during Superstorm Sandy on ocean breaches, especially the one in Mantoloking that engineers have said was responsible for a quick rise in bay levels.
"This is the most important ordinance, in my opinion, that we're going to pass this year," said Council President George Wittmann. "It's for the protection of everyone on the barrier island and people on the mainland by the bay and on the river too."
"Had this been in place, the bay level would not have been able to rise four to five feet, which caused most of the flooding," said Wittmann.
Kelaher said Gov. Chris Christie has ordered that the condemnations be completed by March.
In Harvey Cedars, the place where a condemnation case that made its way to the state Supreme Court originated, an oceanfront holdout behind the legal battle recent settled with the borough for $1.
Toms River's primary holdout is Jack McDonough, who controls most of the oceanfront in the Ocean Beach sections, including that used by neighboring private homeowners associations.
McDonough has repeatedly said he'll refuse to sign an easement.