ENVIRONMENT

Long Beach Township Mayor Blames Misinformation for Blocking Dune Projects

On Tuesday, Gov. Chris Christie told a town hall crowd in Middlesex that he would publicly call out the names of beachfront property owners who stand in the way of beach dune projects. Backing Christie on his position is the mayor of Long Beach Township. Back in February, Joseph Manicini told Senior Correspondent Desirée Taylor that, in light of superstorm Sandy, it makes sense to build a 22-foot high dune system along the entire 18 miles of Long Beach Island. Back then, he said there were nearly 100 property owners who had not signed easements, granting access to their property. But he told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider the number of holdouts now has gone down to 85.

While the vast majority of the 470 owners have signed easements, Mancini said the remaining holdouts are not converting fast enough for the project to move forward. Christie has threatened to name names, but Mancini said that’s already been done in his town. He said holdouts’ names have been posted on the town’s website because homeowners who have signed easements want to know which neighbors didn’t and why.

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“Their neighbors want to know who they are, not for intimidation, but to ask them why — is there something we can help you with, what don’t you understand, this is for the good of the community. This isn’t strictly about individual property rights.”

According to Mancini the underlying cause for the holdouts is due to a campaign of misinformation. Back in February, he specifically targeted attorney Ken Porro for what he called “absolute untruths, lies.”

“One individual attorney signed up 80 people, retained them, telling them that there was going to be boardwalks and bathrooms on their dune,” said Mancini. “Unfortunately, 15 or 20 of those people that he retained … didn’t even own the beach.”

So what is the truth? Manicini maintains that the dune project is simply about putting sand in front of oceanfront homes, all at the expense of the federal government.

“[The federal government] passed a beach replenishment bill about 10 years ago that would last over 40 years and it will give us an engineered beach, the full length of Long Beach Island … and they’re going to pay for it,” explained Mancini. “So we’re now down to the end where the money has been offered to us if we can deliver the beach easements for the remainder of Long Beach Island. Currently there’s only about 17 miles that have been completed and we’re in desperate need after Sandy to get the rest of the island completed.”

At this point, Mancini said eminent domain is not an option, as it would be unfair to the property owners who’ve already signed easements.

“How do you do eminent domain and you see current figures at $375,000 when close to 400 of your neighbors have signed it voluntarily and have received no compensation?” he said.

Asked if he was in favor of FEMA’s new flood maps, Mancini said he couldn’t get on board with the new rules until the underlying data gets corrected. He said he’s requested more information from FEMA but has yet to receive anything.

“We never received it because the data was never completed. So the problem with the new V zones [is that] they have this magical three-foot wave on the baysides that unfortunately go through bulkheads and homes and everything else. The data is totally incomplete. The elevations we don’t have a problem with. I think it’s a good idea. However the V zones are nonsense.”


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