N.J. AG announces settlement over sand dune easement

By Bryan Cohen | Sep 26, 2013

TRENTON, N.J. (Legal Newsline) -- New Jersey Acting Attorney General John Hoffman announced a settlement Wednesday related to compensation for the partial taking of a couple's Harvey Cedars beachfront property to construct a storm-abating sand dune.

The Borough of Harvey Cedars used its power of eminent domain to acquire an easement from Harvey and Phyllis Karan to build a 22-foot-high dune on a portion of the Karans' lot. The parties were unable to agree on fair compensation and ended up in court.

The settlement will compensate the Karans one dollar for the easement.

The New Jersey Supreme Court decided that homeowners who are subject to property-taking on behalf of public projects are not entitled to a windfall.

The implications of the agreement will help New Jersey's attempts to fortify its coastline and protect shore communities from wind damage and flooding through the legal acquisition of small portions of beachfront property easements to construct sand dune systems.

The settlement will guide all future settlements and disputes.

"This settlement represents an important outcome for the citizens of New Jersey, for our precious natural resources along the coast, and for the rebuilding of our Jersey Shore communities," Hoffman said

"It is to the Karans' credit that they were willing to put a halt to this protracted legal dispute following the Supreme Court's decision."

While a trial jury originally placed the value of the easement at $375,000, the state Supreme Court overturned the jury award on July 8 and ordered a new trial.

Under the terms of the agreement, the borough agreed to reimburse counsel's out-of-pocket litigation costs in the amount of $24,260. The reimbursement for litigation costs was appropriate because the Karans' original complaint predated the recent law change by the Supreme Court.

No post-Superstorm Sandy cases going forward will be treated the same in this respect, Hoffman noted.

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