Senior Correspondent Desirée Taylor
Superstorm Sandy ravaged parts of Long Beach Island. But communities that had completed engineered dune projects, suffered less damage than those with no protection. That’s why the mayor of Long Beach Township, Joseph Mancini, says it makes sense to continue to move forward with a plan to build a 22-foot high dune system along the entire 18 miles of the island. Government funding would pay for about 95 percent of the $160 million project. But the stumbling block, says the mayor, are nearly 100 beachfront property owners who have not signed easements, granting access to their property.
“In Long Beach Township, we have 470 oceanfront homes. So how do you have 300 people signed for the good of the community and their neighbors receive funds?” challenged Mancini. “I can’t do that. And we’re not going to do that. We just have to convince people this is the way to do it, stop being greedy. You know, welcome to LBI. This is what you do here.”
This has been a divisive issue on this island for years and it has led to legal fights. An attorney representing some of the holdouts says his clients aren’t against dune projects, they just want to be fairly compensated.
Attorney Ken Porro said many of the property owners are not wealthy and depend on rental incomes to support the property.
“If you take away their access by putting in a dune, you take away their views, their property values depreciate. But what happens with the dune easements is there’s no compensation for loss of value, there’s no compensation in taxes,” said Porro.
Other shore communities have tackled this problem by using eminent domain to take properties. But Mancini hopes that won’t be necessary because some holdouts have changed their minds after seeing the devastation of superstorm Sandy.
“I signed my oceanfront easement. All my friends signed their easements. It was the thing to do,” Mancini said.
A map in town hall has a list of the property owners who have not signed easements. Attorney Ken Porro says this list is also online.
“When the mayor posts people’s names who are upholding their constitutional civil rights … shame on him,” said Porro.
Mancini responded that “[Porro’s] absolute untruths, lies have cost hundreds of millions of dollars worth of damages because he’s telling people things that are not going to happen.”
The first post-Sandy dune project will likely be in hard hit Holgate. Where the mayor says, there is just one remaining holdout. But previous dune projects will also need replenishing. They mayor believes it is the only way, the shore will recover and survive against another devastating storm.