An Ocean County jury has decided that a Harvey Cedars couple who wanted $800,000 in compensation for a dune easement should only receive $300, the state Attorney General's Office said.
Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman praised the jury's decision and called it another important legal victor the the state's coastal protection efforts
“This represents an important legal win for the State’s beachfront protection efforts, for our vital natural resources along the coast, and for the citizens of New Jersey,” Hoffman said in a release. “Last year, in its ruling in the Borough of Harvey Cedars v. Karan matter, the Supreme Court made plain that property owners should not expect and will not receive windfalls at the public expense.”
Harvey Cedars residents Victor
and Carolyn Groisser said in court documents the easement was
worth approximately $200,000, and that they also should be awarded more
than $600,000 in damages.
But the jury disagreed after a four-day trial in Ocean County before Superior Court Judge E. David Millard in Toms River. The case was tried under the Karan standards, the Attorney General's Office said.
“This jury’s decision supports the State’s position that protecting homes and entire communities is more important than individual ocean views," state Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin said. "As we continue our commitment to building a full coastal, post-Sandy protection system for New Jersey, this decision will help expedite that process and allow us to better protect our residents and visitors at the Shore.”
Harvey Cedars has been working with the DEP since 2005 to obtain easements needed for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to build a shore protection project. The project consists of a 22-foot-high dune and a 125-foot-beach berm, and construction was completed in 2010, the release states.
Although most property owners
voluntarily donated easements in recognition of the storm risk reduction
benefits they would obtain, the Groissers did not.
The borough filed a lawsuit in April 2009 to condemn the easement area on the Groissers' property. The case was tried and appealed, then remanded for a new trial after the Supreme Court’s decision in Harvey Cedars v. Karan.
The Supreme Court
rejected the argument of Harvey Cedars property owners Harvey and
Phyllis Karan – successful at the trial and appellate levels - that
storm protection provided by the sand dune benefited the entire
community, and could not be considered an individual
special benefit that boosted the value of their property.
The court ruled that quantifiable storm protection benefits provided by sand dunes and beach replenishment must be factored into the fair compensation equation.
The Supreme Court ruling overturned a $375,000 jury award to the Karans that had been upheld by the Appellate Division, and the couple soon afterward settled with the state for $1.