New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says he will publicly shame oceanfront property owners who refuse to allow massive sand dunes to be built on their property in the hopes of protecting property from storms like the devastating Superstorm Sandy.
“I’m not going to put up with people that decide their view of the Atlantic Ocean is more important than the lives and the properties of their neighbors,” he said at a recent town hall meeting.
However, property owners say the dunes — some of which could reach 22 feet — will ruin their property values. A number of owners have refused to sign away their rights, saying the governor is bullying them, reports The Record
“A government official wouldn’t dream of attacking you based on your religion and right to speak, and property rights are just as important,” said Peter Wegener, an attorney who represents a couple who was awarded $375,000 last year after the borough they live in sought an easement through condemnation proceedings. “Property rights are the rights of people.”
The couple Wegener represented claimed that a sand dune devalued their property. The case is now headed to the state Supreme Court.
Since towns that had dunes built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers fared better during Hurricane Sandy than towns without them, Christie and other state officials want more of them.
Christie is hoping to use some of the $60 billion federal disaster-relief package toward building the dunes. The Army Corps has wanted to build up the state's beaches for years, but there was not enough money to do so.
Memorial Day, the traditional start of summer on the Jersey Shore, is only two months away, and Christie wants homeowners to sign agreements by May 1. While some residents have signed, others still refuse, and Christie said he has not ruled out legal action to gain access forcibly.
However, he'd rather spend the money on the dunes instead of fighting Garden State property owners in court.
State lawmakers introduced a bill in early March that requires courts to consider increased property values from dune protection when awarding compensation to oceanfront home owners.
However, many property owners are concerned that the easement language is too vague and does not guarantee their property won't be used for public restrooms — or even a boardwalk.
“There are compromises to be made, but the governmental banner of 'sign or else' only brings out the American citizens' fighting spirit to protect one's property from tyranny,” said Ken Porro, who represents about 20 property owners.
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