TRENTON – Environmental and municipal forces cheered Monday’s state Supreme Court decision ordering a new trial in the case of compensating homeowners in a beach dune case.
The court ruled a new trial must be held because in the first one, which ended in a $375,000 award for the homeowners, the town was prevented from presenting evidence it claimed would have shown how the property in question was actually enhanced.
The homeowners, a Harvey Cedars couple, had argued at trial their beach view was impeded by the construction of a 22-foot-high dune in 2010. Their home survived last year’s superstorm.
The town had argued that it was improperly barred from preventing evidence that would have shown how their property had benefited.
Jeff Tittel of the N.J. Sierra Club applauded the ruling and said it has wide implications.
“This is a clear victory not only for rebuilding our coast but for projects that benefit the public throughout New Jersey,” he said.
Had today’s ruling gone the other way, “It would have been virtually impossible for towns not only to build dunes and restore beaches, but build bike paths, river walks, storm water detention basins or other things. You’re not going to be able to rebuild the shore without this.”
And Lawrence Shapiro, representing Harvey Cedars, said that at the retrial, “It will allow us to present evidence the jury should have heard the first time. We believe it will be a fair fight. We’ll be able to put in evidence positive aspects of the project.”
The opponents, in part, have argued that what is at stake is the matter of fair compensation, and that properties in addition to the one at the heart of the lawsuit benefited as well from the dune.
The state has been watching the case because it wants to build dunes along the Jersey Shore to offer widespread protection from future major storms.