MANTOLOKING, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Three Jersey shore towns are giving themselves authority to seize beachfront land from owners who are blocking the federal government from building a protective dune system a year after Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc along the shore.
Mantoloking, Ocean City and Toms River gave themselves final approval Tuesday to seize the remaining seven easements it needs for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to do the work.
The votes authorize the towns to acquire small strips of land by negotiation or by seizing it under the power of eminent domain. Any land seized would have to be paid for.
Mantoloking Mayor George Nebel said his town will soon have what it needs to proceed with the dune project.
“We are ready to go,” he said. “I’m optimistic we can get them (voluntarily), but I don’t care; we’re going to take them one way or another.”
Borough spokesman Chris Nelson said Mantoloking is prepared to begin negotiations with the recalcitrant owners.
“I put `negotiations’ in quotes,” he said. “You have to offer something. Our offer is not going to be very good. It’s not going to be much money, and they (owners) are going to reject it. You have to go through that first.”
Towns that had dunes fared much better during Superstorm Sandy than those that did not. Mantoloking, which did not have dunes, was devastated, suffering the worst damage of any community at the Jersey shore. Of the 521 homes that existed in this barrier island community before the storm, every one was either damaged or destroyed.
Toms River needs to get 16 easements from holdouts. Mayor Thomas Kelaher cited the damage to Mantoloking, as well as his own township, in supporting the dune program.
“Everybody knows the better the dune, the safer the municipality is going to be,” he said. “When the ocean came through in Mantoloking, there was nothing but devastation and sand. It’s regrettable that we had to get to this point, but we’re ready to proceed.”
Ocean City’s easements are in the south end of town, which sustained damage from Sandy. It still needs about 18 easements to clear the way for the dune project.
Mantoloking voted Tuesday to demolish its Borough Hall and build a new one; the old building was damaged beyond repair.
The state wants to build dunes along its entire 127-mile coastline.
Next week is the anniversary of last year’s storm.
(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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