by Phil Stilton
SEASIDE HEIGHTS – Beachfront property owners in Ocean County could have a new obstacle to contend with in their battle to keep their ocean front properties dune free and with a clear view of the ocean: Governor Chris Christie.
The governor issued a stern warning at a press conference in Seaside Heights on Thursday to beachfront property owners who continue to oppose the construction of protective dune barriers on their properties, stating that if he has to, he would seek the use of legislation in order to build the dunes. The job, he added, will get done whether or not they cooperate.
The key sticking point for property owners revolves around an easement they would have to grant their municipalities in order to be eligible for consideration in the federal dune and beach replenishment project by the United States Army Corps of Engineers.
At recent are municipal meetings, residents expressed concerns over the easements for fear that their now private beaches could one day become public, perhaps even with boardwalks. Others quipped about the impact tall protective dunes would have on their view of the Atlantic Ocean.
“I’m not going to have a lot of patience for people who tell us they don’t want to give permission because they don’t want to ruin their view,” Gov. Christie said. “They don’t have a view now because they don’t have a house.”
When asked about moving forward on dune replenishment, he continued, ”I think as a state we need to be moving fast; I hope we do it voluntarily and cooperatively, and if we can’t do it voluntarily and cooperatively, then I would consider all the options I have as governor to get it done.”
But, patience is something the governor said he doesn’t have and time is something that may soon run out for communities seeking federal assistance.
“I’m not saying now [that] we’re going to force people to build these dune systems… because I’m hoping we can do this cooperatively,” he said. ”What I am trying to signal to people is look at the communities that had them and look at the communities that didn’t. Look at the level of destruction in both. There should no longer be any debate about whether or not these dune systems work to protect both the coastline homes and the inland areas and private property there. They work.”
When challenged by a Star Ledger reporter on the legality of forcing homeowners to comply, Gov. Christie responded, ”You can change the laws, as you know, and I’ll be working with the legislature.”
He further emphasized that the wants of a few should not overshadow the needs and security of their neighbors.
“I don’t think it’s advisable for us to permit folks on a case by case basis to prevent the protection of entire communities because they want their view,” the governor stated. “I’ve spoken to the senate president and speaker about this and if we need to pursue legislation to get this done, I’ll do it, but I’d rather do it cooperatively with communities and residents, but if we to pursue legislation, that’s something I will consider.”