After refusing to sign an easement for beachfill work in past years, Edgar and Patricia Newman, owners of an oceanfront home in the Holgate section of Long Beach Township, say they’ve given in to the township’s request after seeing damage from Hurricane Sandy.
“When Sandy came, it became pretty evident (that) as much we were concerned for the future there wouldn’t be any future for the island if we didn’t do something,” Edgar Newman said.
Long Beach Township officials had been battling a segment of the island’s beachfront homeowners for years over their refusal to sign easements needed to undertake beach replenishment projects. But in the aftermath of Sandy, many homeowners are reconsidering.
One thing changing the minds of homeowners, including the seven holdouts in Holgate, is the protection the beach fill projects provided properties compared with areas that had not been built up with sand and dunes.
After the storm, Long Beach Township Mayor Joseph Mancini credited a replenishment project in the Brant Beach section with sparing homes the brunt of the storm. The project was completed in June and cost $16.7 million after contractors pumped 1.2 million cubic yards of sand on beaches between 31st and 57th streets.
Township officials are applying pressure to the holdouts.
Just days after the Oct. 29 storm, Mancini, citing a 1979 ordinance, said oceanfront homeowners who have not signed easements to complete the project would have to pick up the tab to repair dunes at their homes.
The ordinance also contends that until dunes are rebuilt in front of homes, building permits will not be issued to repair the damage to the houses.
"They can't use the excuse that they don't want a boardwalk, showers and toilets anymore. They now have to answer the damage their neighbor's suffered from the storm. There are no more excuses. We have to move on," Mancini said.
Long Beach Township has had issues with holdouts. The township, the largest municipality on Long Beach Island at 12 miles, has 470 oceanfront properties; 170 of those oceanfront homeowners will not sign easements to start a beachfill project.
In March 2009, the Newmans, in an interview with the Press of Atlantic City, were adamant about not signing an easement to grant access to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and state Department of Environmental Protection to complete a beachfill project.
Their objections included the lack of funding at the time for the project and what they believed was a lack of commitment by the township to maintain the existing dunes.
A clause in the contract that granted the agencies permanent access to the beaches in front of their homes, a so-called “perpetuity clause,” was a big concern.
“I didn’t know where technology would take us, and 10 years from now, they may have wanted to put on a monorail along the whole beach, and I don’t want something like that,” Edgar Newman said.
Now, the couple has changed their minds, in part because of the dune system in front of their house that protected it from major damage.
“When we first came back that first day, I just cried when I saw what happened. I guess you could say it was a wake-up call. We had to disregard the future,” Edgar Newman said.
Michael Kudra, of Yardley, Pa., owns a Holgate home with his brother, George, and the two had refused requests to sign.
“We’re going to sign. What happened there is awful, and to just see the devastation ...” Kudra said Thursday.
Susan Smith, of Belvidere, Warren County, is the niece of Anthony Piperata and executor of his estate. She said she is signing the easement. She has been dealing with her uncle’s estate for the last seven years, since he died.
“He just let things go for many years,” she said of her uncle. “I can’t say why he did or he didn’t sign it.”
Neville Kotwal, of Doylestown, Pa., has owned his home in Holgate since December 2010. He said he has never received an easement to sign and was not aware of the issue. He said he has not received mail at the address for weeks and has not been able to return to the island because of work in Pennsylvania.
“Of course I will sign,” Kotwal said Thursday. “I almost lost my home in the storm. Anyone who doesn’t sign is an idiot, and they deserve for their home to be washed away.”
Thursday, a man answered the phone at the home of Holgate oceanfront homeowners Edward and Marilyn Kaufman in Naples, Fla. The man said the Kaufmans would not comment on signing their easement.
Owners Robert Libauer, Mary S. Phillips and Marianne Van Volkenburgh could not be reached for comment.
Bill Kunz, chairman of the township Beach Replenishment Committee, said it is disappointing to know there are still homeowners in Holgate who refuse to sign easements.
“One of them said to us, ‘Just call our attorney.’ And to think they could live and know they didn’t sign this. It’s a little beyond my comprehension,” Kunz said.
Holgate business owner and resident Bill Hutson is among a group of nonoceanfront homeowners who are considering filing a lawsuit against the oceanfront owners for damages. Nobody in the group, however, really wants to sue, but the oceanfront holdouts have pushed them to do it, Hutson said.
“Not only were they fools for not signing before, but now they’re really fools,” Hutson said. “If they don’t sign we have no choice. We have to do this. They better sign, or if we start this we’ll literally be looking to seek hundreds of millions of dollars worth of damage.”
Every day, township Municipal Clerk Teri Sgro and Mancini call the seven homeowners and work to get them to sign and send in their easements, he said.
"I'm confident that we'll have all but maybe two sign, and then we will go from there,” Mancini said. “The state has given us permission to pursue eminent domain in federal court, to see if they will honor special benefits are that they will take into account the cost of the sand and the protection it is to the property.”
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