Toms River Mayor Thomas F. Kelaher received the Supreme Court opinion in the matter of the Borough of Harvey Cedars v. Harvey and Phyllis Karan. Mayor Kelaher said, “I’m happy to note that the Supreme Court reversed the $375,000 compensation previously awarded to the Karans, and has remanded the case to the trial court for a new hearing.”
Mayor Kelaher has referred the 51 page opinion by Justice Albin to the Township Law Department for careful review. The Mayor is optimistic that this new ruling will allow Toms River to initiate condemnation proceedings against the property owners along the barrier island who have not signed the easements to allow dune construction. New Jersey’s highest court essentially overturned a previous decision where the homeowners in Harvey Cedars were compensated for their loss of a view due to the dunes without regard to the benefit conferred by the Court. The Court held that the Township is entitled to present evidence of the benefit of the dunes. This project, funded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, will provide dune and beach replenishment from Manasquan to the Barnegat Inlet, for the next 50 years.
While most of the barrier island Home Owner Associations have signed the easements, it is necessary to ensure that all of the properties allow dunes to be constructed, if the dunes are to be of any value. Mayor Kelaher stated, “My first obligation as the Mayor is to guarantee the safety of all residents.” He reminds everyone that the failure to have the proper dunes in the first place allowed the ocean to flood the Barnegat Bay during Superstorm Sandy. The barrier island towns (consisting of Ortley and all of the Northern Beaches) as well as many of the low-lying areas on the mainland of Toms River sustained extensive damage during the Storm.
The Supreme Court ruling is a win for Toms River and other coastal towns. Many towns simply would not have been able to afford the use of eminent domain to take portions of the beach needed to build the proper dune system to the standard of the Army Corps of Engineers.
Kelaher added, “The existence of that award was a stumbling block for us completing our easements. Presently, we’re in touch with real estate experts who will be able to guide us going forward regarding ‘just compensation’ for oceanfront properties. Justice Albin ruled that “The Karans are entitled to ‘just compensation’…They are not entitled to more, and certainly not a windfall at the public’s expense." This means that property owners who may have been holding and expecting a large compensation may just be awarded as little as $200 or $300.
Kelaher says, “We can now move on to our beach replenishment project and ensure adequate protection for the barrier island.”
In Ortley Beach, Mayor Tom Kelaher stands in front of the dunes built on Township property. (Photo credit: Debbi Winogracki)