Monday, August 23, 2010

Neighbor Against Neighbor on Long Beach Island

Long Beach Township, NJ, on Long Beach Island, has posted the names of property owners that have not signed their easements to relinquish their property allowing the replenishment project to go forward. Unfortunately, the Township did not learn from the Borough of Harvey Cedars, also on Long Beach Island, where neighbor was pitted against neighbor and things got ugly. A "Mob Rules" mentality took over the pro-replenishment crowd and it got to the point that non-easement signers were afraid to go out to the store.

See the website

The list of homeowners is not buried somewhere on the site. It is right on the homepage, under the smiling picture of the Mayor.

This news story mentions residents sitting down and "talking" to these holdouts in the near future. I am not hopeful that will go smoothly. More here

The truth is there are hundreds of people in Long Beach Township who have not signed their easements, but the town is focusing on these few because they plan to replenish a small section of town first. In fact the NJ DEP changed their beach access rule in 2007 specifically for Long Beach Township which has four non-contiguous sections of town on one island. Instead of requiring signed easements for the whole town before a beachfill was possible, the state decided a string of signed easements in a given section was enough for replenishment in that section.

Without attending the meeting I can tell you what they are going to talk about. Here are people's main problems with the easements.
1) They are permanent.
2) They are assignable
3) They make you give up the rights to part of your property but you still pay taxes on it and you still have liability on it.

What's sad is that despite everything you've heard, there is no written requirement by the Army Corps to obtain permanent easements. Temporary ones have been used before in other Army Corps projects. Saddest of all is that the whole project could have been configured so that easement were not necessary or they were easily obtained.

Friday, August 20, 2010

NJ Gov's Plan - Make Taxpayers Pay Twice

NJ Governor Christie wants the taxpayers of NJ to pay twice. NJ taxpayers (and every taxpayer in the country for that matter) have already paid to build a beach and protective dunes in Atlantic City. These dunes protect the pubic infrastructure of the boardwalk, and the private property landward of it. But Christie's DEP wants to lower the dunes so people can see the ocean. That's when you'll pay twice. When the ocean over-tops these dunes in a storm, your tax dollars are going to clean up the mess. The Press of Atlantic City covered the effort to lower the dunes today, complete with secret meeting between DEP officials and local legislators.

This author lives in a town where dunes block the ocean view from much of the boardwalk. Our dunes were built by the town, at the town's expense. They were not built by the Army Corps when tens of millions of dollars were spent filling our beaches. Go figure. We've lost much of our view, and yes crazy people want to lower the dunes and get the view back. Those people did not live here in 1992 when the December Nor'Easter destroyed the boardwalk. Not damaged: destroyed. There were no dunes.

I'd love to be able to see the ocean as a drove down Ocean Ave here. I can't. I'd love to be able to see the waves as I drove down Highway 12 in the Outer Banks. I can't. But don't lower those dunes for my view. I know they provide something far more valuable than a view.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Beachfill Meets Beach Access...Again

The NJ DEP is planning to overhaul the current beach access rules in a way that makes beach replenishment a much greater possibility in many places. Proposed rule here. Let’s be frank, much of the Jersey Shore is easily accessible. But there are a handful of towns that purposefully limit access and another small group of towns where access is limited by geography or the way the town was laid out. In either case, access could be improved especially if the towns got something they really wanted out of it. That something is beach replenishment money.

At least that is how it worked the last time the beach access rules were overhauled – just a few years ago. The rules declared that access meant more than just a path to the beach; it meant parking, it meant some amenities like bathrooms. The current rules set specific standards for these things and allowed flexibility and exceptions to all of them. Best of all they tied these standards to state beach replenishment funding. So towns that really did not want outsiders on their beach and that really did not want to add parking places could keep the status quo. They just weren’t going to get public beachfill money. And towns that desperately wanted the beachfill money but had to take down a few “No Parking” signs and ask the local Wawa to provide a public restroom in order to get it had good motivation to do so. It seemed fair enough.

Of course there was a lawsuit (more on that later) and an election.

The rules proposed by Chris Christie’s DEP do not couple beach replenishment funds and beach access. The proposed rule on beach entryways for example would revert to the US Army Corps of Engineers standard which is one every half mile. The current standard is one every quarter mile (with exceptions where not practicable.)

The current rule has towns adopt ordinances declaring public beach access points as conservation easements. The proposed rule asks the town to submit a Public Access Plan, which is voluntary. There is no penalty to the town if they do not. There is no penalty to the town if the plan they submit has no real public access, and worst of all, by eliminating all the standards for access, DEP will have no power to compel them to alter their Public Access Plan.

Towns that don't meet the current standard of an access point every 1/4 mile, but do meet the Army Corps' standard of an access point every 1/2 mile are essentially getting the green light for beach replenishment soon.

However, this is not a done deal folks. The public comment period is coming. Stay tuned for how to speak your mind.