Governor Chris Christie made news on Tuesday when he announced publicly at a town hall-style event in Middlesex Borough that if property owners along the Jersey Shore do not sign the voluntary easement agreements to allow the construction of sand dunes on their property, he was going to start naming them publicly. Specifically, Governor Christie said he would start “calling these folks out in the new few weeks if they haven’t signed the easements to let us build the dunes because they need to be called out and they need to be told that there is something more important than their own self interests.”
Presumably the plan is to pressure these homeowners, who have already suffered numerous visits from state and local officials to their doorstep trying to convince them to allow the dunes, into voluntarily allowing the government to take an easement on their land without providing for just compensation. The current deadline for the property owners to sign the agreements is May 1, but Gov. Christie has indicated that he may seek an extension. The Army Corps of Engineers is supposed to start working in May on 130 beaches; the project is expected to cost $3 billion.
Placing the dunes on these properties will substantially damage the value of the properties by blocking the views of the sea and presenting an unsightly sand dump. Additionally, construction of the dunes where proposed would block access to the sea and interfere with recreational opportunities.
In response to whether Gov. Christie would consider the use of eminent domain to construct the dunes, he stated he would prefer not to. But instead of acknowledging that these property owners have a right to be compensated for the dunes which would not provide protection to to waterfront property but also to people living way from the shoreline (thereby serving a “public purpose”), the Governor chastised these homeowners as being selfish. He stated, “Every dollar that I spend to do that (condemn the lands), in rewarding homeowners who are being selfish, is money I can’t spend on victims who have been harms and so I’m very reluctant to do that.” This egregious and polarizing conduct flies directly in the face of the Takings Clause and offends these property owner’s constitutionally endowed right to just compensation for the taking of their land. It is remarkable that the governor, an attorney pledged to uphold the Constitution, would have so little regard for property rights.
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