NJ Supreme Court Rules Shore Protection Trumps Scenic Views

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Property owners along New Jersey's shoreline who receive protection from sand dune projects should say "thank you," according to the New Jersey Supreme Court.

In a case closely watched by seaside communities and their residents, the appeals court ruled that the benefits of dunes —namely storm protection — should be considered when determining compensation for partial takings related to dune construction. In so ruling, the state Supreme Court reversed a $375,000 judgment in favor of oceanfront homeowners who claimed that newly constructed sand dunes diminished the value of their property.

As a practical result, the court's decision will make the recovery from Superstorm Sandy much more affordable for town and municipalities that must rebuild the shoreline. Under NJ eminent domain law, owners of partially condemned property are entitled to be compensated "not only for the value of the land taken but also for any diminution in the value of [the] remaining land which may be attributable to the taking." More specifically, the value of special benefits may be subtracted from the compensation owed, while general benefits may not. General benefits arise from the fulfillment of the public object that justified the taking. Meanwhile, special benefits arise from the peculiar relation of the land in question to the public improvement.

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