POINT PLEASANT BEACH - A borough couple was awarded $330,000 Feb. 7 as compensation for the loss of about 60 percent of their oceanfront property to accommodate a federal beach replenishment project.An Ocean County jury awarded that amount to homeowners Dennis and Catherine LaPlante following a four-day trial, according to their attorney, John Buonocore Jr.The case was the second dune compensation case to come to trial; in the fall, an Ocean County jury gave another Point Pleasant beach homeowner $260,620 to compensate for loss of land and decreased oceanfront views.
A $128.82 million project looks to reinforce beachfronts and dunes damaged in Superstorm Sandy on Ocean County's northern barrier island. Thomas P. Costello and Tariq Zehawi, USA Today Network New Jersey
Also in September, a court-appointed panel awarded $2.3 million in compensation to the Bay Head Improvement Association for land that will be used in the northern Ocean beach replenishment project.Leland Moore, a spokesman for the state Attorney General's Office, would not say Friday whether the state intends to appeal the jury awards in the two Point Pleasant Beach cases. Moore said in September that New Jersey would appeal the Bay Head decision.Related: NJ wanted Bay Head land for free for beach replenishment; now it must pay $2.3MWar munitions at the Shore: Jersey Shore beaches get explosive surprise — old war munitionsThe verdicts raise concerns that New Jersey could potentially be forced to pay out millions of dollars to oceanfront homeowners, many of whom fought the dune project for several years."If we have to start paying hundreds of thousands of dollars per property, it’s just going to rip off the taxpayers," said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. "We’d be better off letting nature take its course."Facing such verdicts, the state and federal government could abandon beach replenishment projects, Tittel said."$330,000 just for a little sliver of beach, just to protect their homes, that’s an outrageous number," Tittel said.
But the state Supreme Court rejected the jury's award in a 2013 decision, ruling that the protection afforded by sand dunes and wider beaches must be weighed against the loss of a portion of a homeowner's property, or the loss of ocean views.The Karans eventually settled the case for a symbolic $1 award.A 14-mile dune project — one of the most ambitious undertakings in the history of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — is in progress in northern Ocean County.'Rain tax': NJ residents won't pay 'rain tax,' but there may be fees to solve runoff problemsPot bust: Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office makes major marijuana bust in WaretownCranford-based Weeks Marine is being paid $128.8 million for the northern Ocean County beach replenishment project. The federal government will pay the initial cost of the project, using funds set aside under the 2013 Disaster Appropriations Act after superstorm Sandy.Northern Ocean County's Barnegat Peninsula suffered some of the worst flooding and property damage in the state when Sandy roared onshore on Oct. 29, 2012. The beach replenishment project includes widening beaches and building 22-foot-high dunes along most of the shoreline. Much of the work has already been completed. Watch the video above to see what the beaches look like now.Buonocore said that there are dozens of dune compensation cases in the pipeline.In the LaPlante case, New Jersey had offered $500 in compensation, Buonocore said.Land to be preserved: Ocean County to acquire land in Ocean Gate, Berkeley and ManchesterHe said the LaPlantes were pleased with the jury's verdict. They had asked for $370,000 in compensation."We’re very pleased with the jury’s verdict and their recognition that the Constitution requires just compensation when property is taken," Buonocore said.
Buonocore noted that everyone in Point Pleasant Beach benefits from the beach replenishment, which is aimed at reducing flooding and protecting both public and private property."...But only the people whose property is being taken are being asked to pay a surcharge," Buonocore wrote in an email. "Why? Because the state owes the beachfront owners constitutional just compensation and can hold them up. The rest of the protected public pay nothing extra."Gilmore trial date: Ocean County GOP Chairman George Gilmore has March 29 trial date on federal tax chargesFishing site lost: Fishermen say fishing ground was lost in beach replenishmentBuonocore noted that homeowners would also expect compensation if the government took a portion of their property to build a police station, a firehouse or a school. Why is taking part of a property for beach replenishment any different? he asked.
The Shore's beaches are the centerpiece of the local tourism economy, which injects more than $20 billion combined into the economies of Atlantic, Cape May, Monmouth and Ocean counties every year.But the beaches also provide protection against storm surge from coastal storms. As the first line of defense, a wider beach and a comprehensive dune system can go along way toward protection people and property from the next hurricane or nor'easter.Jean Mikle: 732-643-4050, @jeanmikle, firstname.lastname@example.org
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