Cleanup Efforts on Island Houses Present Challenges
One resident feeling pressure, he says, to sign easements for beach dunes so he can clean his property.
Brant Beach resident Armando Rienzi just wants to clean his house.
Like many on Long Beach Island, Rienzi has several feet of sand in his first-floor garage, and a lot of work to do before his oceanfront home can be restored to its former pre-Sandy glory.
But unlike a lot of LBI residents, Rienzi is among a group of what he says are about 200 people who have not signed off on easements that island officials say they need to sign before federal tax dollars can be allocated for beach replenishment projects there. Just this week, New Jersey Congressmen Jon Runyan and others requested federal funding for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to continue these beach replenishment projects.
Yesterday, when Rienzi's contractor, John Stancati, asked about whether they could move the sand from Rienzi's home back toward the beach - so they can begin work on the house - they were asked if Rienzi had signed off on the easement.
When they were told no, Stancati and another contractor were told by a township employee that Rienzi could sign off on the easement, and begin work on moving the sand back toward the beach. If he did not sign, according to the township employee, he must first submit a dune restoration plan before moving the sand on his property.
Asked about the exchange, Mayor James Mancini told Patch that the township addressed the easement because before township officials could determine if the sand could be moved back on to the beach, they needed someone to check on it. To do that, they would need to access the property. Officials on LBI are asking that only "clean and pristine" sand end up being taken for recovery.
Rienzi, and his attorney, Kenneth A. Porro, of the law firm, Wells, Jaworski and Liebman felt the easement question was one way to convince Rienzi and others to sign the easement.
"Why does someone who signs the easement can just place the sand on the beach, versus someone who doesn't and wants to place the sand just on his own property. It doesn't make sense," Porro said.
Porro represents a number of oceanfront property owners in the township that claim that granting the permanent easements – and thus, permission to go forward with a beach replenishment project – could lower their property values since their view of the ocean could be diminished by higher dunes and easements through their property.
An appeals court upheld a jury award of $374,000 to Harvey and Phyllis Karan, Harvey Cedars residents who sued that town, claiming their property value was lowered due to their view being diminished since the dunes and beach were larger. Harvey Cedars argued unsuccessfully in state court that the improved sand dunes provided an extra benefit to oceanfront homeowners, whose property would be most-protected by them.
Porro said the court has ruled in favor of residents like the Karans because the dunes protect the island as a whole rather than specific properties. "The issue is not about the dunes. It is about the easements, and about what they can build on those easements, boardwalks, bathrooms, and anything else."
Dune restoration work is one of the many expenditures for which the township can be expected to be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
In the wake of Sandy, state officials have alleviated lengthy permitting requirements that normally come with dune restoration projects.
Mancini noted that contractors who are hired to remove sand or are removing sand themselves should be taken to the Holgate lot (end of Holgate) where it will be recovered.
Residents on the North end (North Beach/Loveladies) can take clean and pristine sand to Tract 1065 (North Beach) and residents of Loveladies can take their clean sand to either Tract 55 or Coast Ave or place it on the beachfront of their legally owned Tract, where it will be recovered.
Residents who have sand with debris must call Long Beach Public Works to coordinate removal. The number is 361-1000 x 349.