The Jersey Shore suffered an enormous amount of damage during Hurricane Sandy, and in an effort to prevent another weather event from demolishing the area, New Jersey towns have been attempting to build protective coastal dunes. But they need private land in order to build those dunes, and officials have been attempting to seize small strips of private property from landowners. Unsurprisingly, not everyone is happy about this.
The land-seizing has been sanctioned by Governor Chris Christie, who signed an order in the fall permitting towns to "to commandeer ...any privately owned property"; previously, towns requested landowners sign easements, but about three quarters of the 2,000 property owners whose land was needed refused to sign. The towns plan to seize the land under eminent domain.
"A selfish and short-sighted group of people are going to cost this town a lot of money," Steve Gillingham, a Councilman for the town of Mantoloking, told USA Today in April. "We're moving from the friendly persuasion approach we've been taking to some assertive legal action." Town officials say homeowners will be compensated for the land in part financially—most will be offered well under $1,000 in exchange for a small strip of land—and in part for the long-term protection offered by the coastal dunes. Though that's not enough for all landowners. "I can't get past the point the government wants to take my property. You can't take people's property without compensation," Arlene "Barrie" Callahan, a homeowner in Long Beach Township, told WSJ. "If they're taking half the yard maybe they should pay half the taxes? That would at least be something."
The Army Corps of Engineers is expected to start construction on the coastal dunes come early 2014, and the towns say homeowners who refuse to give up their land are fighting a losing battle. "Once it becomes clear that legal proceedings are going to be filed against them, we expect most homeowners will focus and think about whether they want to get in the way," Christopher Porrino, Christie's chief counsel, told the WSJ. Officials say Jersey Shore towns with protective dunes fared far better during Hurricane Sandy, while all 521 homes in the dune-less, affluent town of Mantoloking, for instance, were damaged or destroyed.