In response to the decision by the State Supreme Court in the Borough of Harvey Cedars v. Harvey Karan and Phyllis Karan, 9th District Legislators Senator Christopher J. Connors, Assemblyman Brian E. Rumpf and Assemblywoman DiAnne C. Gove issued the following statement:
“The recent state Supreme Court’s landmark decision overruling a $375,000 jury award in the Harvey Cedars beach replenishment case is welcome relief, especially after the catastrophic devastation caused by Super Storm Sandy. The thought of beachfront homeowners receiving windfalls of cash from taxpayer-paid dune replenishment projects immediately drew the public’s extreme ire, absolutely infuriated local officials and exposed a deeply disruptive flaw in our beach protection policy.
“During our respective tenures in public service, we have always respected and fought for individual property rights. The case involving the beachfront property owners in question, however, is unique and distinct in that these homeowners’ actions directly placed the public and property at risk. The protracted holdouts who stubbornly refused to sign easements were, for a time, a source of aggravation and annoyance: That was until Sandy struck. Local residents and officials, collectively, conveyed an overwhelming sense that they were being held hostage.
“Public sentiment quickly turned against these homeowners following Sandy and only intensified once the state’s recovery and building effort began. The fact that the number of easement holdouts are relatively few as compared to the overall number of beachfront homeowners in the state only drew more supporters to the legal challenge of the initial ruling in Harvey Cedars case in which money was awarded.
“In accessing the overall damage caused by Sandy, it was readily apparent that those municipalities where beach replenishment projects were more recently completed were able to withstand the Storm better than those municipalities in need of beach replenishment. This is a testament to the overall success of the beach replenishment program, when projects are actually completed.
“On a larger scale, it is important to consider the serious implications that easements would have on federally-funded beach replenishment projects. With the ability to essentially stop beach replenishment projects in their tracks, easement holdouts provided members of Congress not representing a coastal state with a compelling and simple argument to derail federal beach replenishment funding.
“When considering the legal implications involved, this is a matter that must be addressed in the courts. Ultimately, common sense prevailed at a critical point in our state’s history as we work to rebuild all that was lost.”
The 9th District Delegation is currently sponsoring companion legislation, S-2618 and A-3896, with the 10th Legislative District to supplement the state’s eminent domain law in order to provide that just compensation for an easement over a portion of beachfront property condemned for the purpose of dune construction or beach replenishment must include consideration of the increase in value to the entire property due to the added safety and property protection provided by the dune or replenished beach. The measures are presently awaiting action by the Environment Committees of their respective Houses of origin.