LAW & PUBLIC SAFETY

NJ Supreme Court Rules Harvey Cedars Couple May Not Be Compensated for Lost View

By Lauren Wanko
NJ Today

Harvey Cedars officials are calling it a win for the Ocean County community. The state’s highest court this morning ruled oceanfront homeowners Harvey and Phyllis Karan may not receive $375,000 in compensation for property seized for a federal beach replenishment project, an enormous sum, compared to the $300 Harvey Cedars initially offered to compensate the Karans for their “lost view.”

“We are really very pleased and … what we thought would be the ruling early on, but we know that the court process takes time,” said Mayor Jon Oldham.

The three-year legal battle began in 2010 when the Army Corps began a beach replenishment project in Harvey Cedars.

“We got 95 percent of our easements and three years ago we went to eminent domain, ” Oldham said. “We took the right to go onto people’s property to put sand on it to protect them.”

Harvey Cedars’ mayor says the Karans insisted protective dunes obstructed their view and decreased the value of their home, while the borough maintained the dunes would shield the Karans’ property along with the other oceanfront homes. Superstorm Sandy did not damage the Karans’ home. Their attorney, Peter Wegener, told NJTV the couple’s disappointed but not surprised. He says the court felt pressure to reach a decision that was politically appropriate.

The neighbors, however, say they’re delighted.

“It’s good for the community, it’s good for the seashore and it will allow other coastal communities to rebuild,” William Woodcock said.

“I’m very happy that they ruled in favor of the borough. Having lived through this past Superstorm Sandy, I saw the damage to neighboring towns and I saw how well Harvey Cedars survived because of the replenishment that we had done in 2010,” said Terry Kulinski.

Neighbor Joe Pieroni thinks his property and others in town increased in value because of the dunes.

“Now, if you’re selling your house in Harvey Cedars, you basically can say we suffered the worst storm in 100 years and we sustained zero damage,” Pieroni said.

There are about 1,300 homes in Harvey Cedars. The mayor says two were significantly damaged by the storm. Now the Army Corps is working on a re-nourishment project on the beach to repair the dunes and sections of the beach that were damaged by Sandy.

Harvey Cedars’ beach replenishment project was completed two and a half years ago.

“Where it will help us now is that hopefully the towns that surround us and rest of the island will receive the project and we’ll be able to now have a total protection contiguously throughout the island,” Oldham said. “I think that people will now realize that they’re not gonna receive a significant amount of money that I think that most people are gonna sign their easements.”

The case is now going back to the trial court. No dates are set at this time.