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Oceanfront Easement 'Poker Game' To Begin in Toms River

No offers made to oceanfront dune holdouts yet, officials say

Small beaches turning large in Long Beach Island, July 2013. (Credit: USACE)
Small beaches turning large in Long Beach Island, July 2013. (Credit: USACE)
Toms River officials have made no announcement on how much they will offer homeowners who refuse to sign easements that would allow for a federally-funded protective dune to be built along the township's oceanfront.

The 16 holdouts, who will have tiny slivers of land in front of their properties taken by eminent domain, are entitled to the market value of the parcels. But like a contestant in a poker game, the township will not show its cards and say how much it has specifically budgeted for easement takings, said Township Council President George Wittmann.

"The attorneys have the ability to negotiate," said Wittmann. "We’re not going to give up our position."

No offers have been made to property owners yet, said Township Administrator Paul Shives. The township has been directed by the state not to make any such offers just yet, he said, but is keeping with its March deadline to have the easements in public hands and away from those who would have prevented the dune from being built and the entire $86 million shore protection project from moving forward.

Wittmann said earlier this week that he expects the compensation to easement owners will be "nominal."

The slivers of land are not able to built-upon as is. And likely, any case owners could make for loss of view due to higher dunes would be challenged against the protection from storms the dunes would provide that would increase the home's value – a legal concept known as a "special benefit."

Indeed, in the test case for New Jersey's oceanfront eminent domain policy in Harvey Cedars, the state Supreme Court this year specifically ruled that homeowners could not collect a "windfall" for having their easements taken. That case – the home at the center of which was spared by Superstorm Sandy, likely due to the dunes that had been constructed there as a result of the easement taking – eventually was settled for $1.

In such eminent domain takings, the township appraises properties and makes an offer to a homeowner. If the homeowner refuses, the negotiations continue under a court's supervision, however the township becomes the legal owner of the land in question during the negotiation process.

Many of the 16 properties remaining are owned by a single man – John McDonough – who owns some of the Ocean Beach communities and the oceanfront areas of some other private communities in the township's North Beach section.

The overall dune and beach replenishment project will begin in June 2014, though the exact schedule as to when Toms River beaches will be worked on has not yet been determined. The project will encompass the shoreline of Ocean County's northern barrier island as a whole.

According to project engineers, the dunes will measure approximately 25 feet high and the beach will be extended by about 200 feet. The enlarged beaches and beefed up dunes will help prevent the type of overwashing and dune breaches that caused thousands of homes both on the barrier island and mainland to flood during Superstorm Sandy, officials say.

On Tuesday night, the township council introduced an amendment to a bond issuance adding $3.5 million to a fund that would include easement payouts, however the same bond will also fund the replacement and construction of various township boardwalks and beaches, and improvements to township parks including all work and materials.
proud December 11, 2013 at 06:44 AM
Mr Potter, tear down that wall!
Mortimer Snerd December 11, 2013 at 07:24 AM
Mr. McDonough, let us build the wall to protect 1000s of Toms River homes, you selfish pig.
Martin December 11, 2013 at 07:26 AM
Here's $16, John... now get out of the way! The next Nor'easter could be my last on earth.
Shelly December 11, 2013 at 08:29 AM
How do you sleep at night knowing how selfish you are being? Is money REALLY that important to you? Karma's going to get you!
Barbara December 11, 2013 at 08:35 AM
Self centered individuals who really do not care about 1000's of others. Shame on them and their high and mighty "me, me, me" lives. Let us hope that another big storm isn't on the horizon. Not for the "holdouts"...but for the hardworking individuals who get up every morning and just try to maintain and survive
Chief Wahoo December 11, 2013 at 08:47 AM
I see theft of private property doesn't mean much to the sorry bunch of collectivist on the Patch. What Constitution ??
JFTR December 11, 2013 at 09:58 AM
^Wipe your ass with your Constitution. This is about the overall good, not selfish creeps like yourself.
Gerard L December 11, 2013 at 11:09 AM
In Greed We Trust !
Puddin Tane December 11, 2013 at 11:52 AM
How about this? With the Harvey Cedars decision, we build the dunes, and bill the owners for the "special benefits", with the cost per owner based on an appraised value of the property saved? Or, just charge them by the foot @ the cost for the whole project?
Cardinal December 11, 2013 at 12:22 PM
Toms River should just prepare invoices ahead of time to be submitted to these homeowners who are preventing badly needed shore protection so that when the next storm hits and when the flooding and damage occurs, these homeowners will be liable for the expenses for all the overtime and emergency beach fill work that's done to keep infrastructure damage to a minimum because of inadequate beaches that are now vulnerable to storms. That might make them more cooperative.
TRWatch December 11, 2013 at 01:06 PM
If 3.5 mill has been set aside for easements and one guy owns most of the properties guess how much he is going after? It ain't going to be $1.00.
TR December 11, 2013 at 07:00 PM
Sooooooooo after the dunes are built and the beaches widened we will have a much lower chance or damage on the inland bayside right? So then all our flood insurance rates should go down not up right? I mean if the insurance companies will now be less likely to pay out then before Sandy my police should go down no? Makes perfect sense to me!
Edward Hotel December 11, 2013 at 08:54 PM
I support Mr. McDonough 100%! Hasn't anyone heard of personal property rights? All the dunes will do is make it difficult to get on the beach, will do nothing to protect me. If Toms River is so sure they will work, they should tell everyone we no longer need Flood Insurance, let them pick up the cost. Money talks, BS walks.
proud December 11, 2013 at 09:57 PM
Then walk @Nation's Innkeeper. You and Mr Potter deserve each other. Go take a long walk off of a short dune.
Martin December 12, 2013 at 06:42 AM
Private property rights, my ass! The 1000s whose properties were flooded (all the way to Silverton and other mainland neighborhoods) have rights, too. -- "McDough" should get no more than the $1.00 the selfish Harvey Cedars oceanfront couple got from the court decision.
proud December 12, 2013 at 07:52 AM
Potter has taken over the bank! He'll pay you fifty cents on the dollar

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