SAVING NEW JERSEY’S COAST
Hurricane Sandy made a direct hit on New Jersey just over a year ago, killing 34 people and devastating much of the state’s Atlantic coast. Now, communities that want to build sand dunes to provide protection when (not if) another storm hits are being thwarted by landowners who have refused to allow the dunes to be built on their property. Areas with dunes fared better in the storm than those without them.
As of last week, the state needed 2,889 property owners along the coast to agree to easements for the dunes. About one-fourth, more than 700, were holding out, many of them concerned about losing their views.
Because their resistance is likely to make conditions less safe for everyone, the state and some local communities are threatening to seize parts of their property — essentially part of their front yards — by eminent domain and build the dunes anyway; public safety is a legitimate reason to exercise eminent domain. It is unfair for a few to jeopardize the lives and property of so many others.
Gov. Chris Christie, once skeptical about using eminent domain to commandeer private property, changed his mind in this case, a spokesman explained last week. And once he made that decision, he put the full force of his office behind it. “We are building these dunes, OK?” Christie said at a meeting of homeowners last spring. “We are building these dunes whether you consent or not.”
There might have been more diplomatic ways to put it, but the governor was right. In September, he signed an executive order requiring the attorney general to “immediately coordinate legal action” to acquire the necessary easements. It’s past time for the holdouts to do their part to protect lives and property, including their own