TOMS RIVER - A New Jersey Superior Court judge ruled this week that the state can use eminent domain to take a part of private beachfront property to make way for new, federally funded sand dunes.
The ruling comes as more than two dozen property owners tried to block the state from taking the land. They called the state’s takeover illegal.
The beach protection project would span from Point Pleasant Beach down to Toms River, where a rough winter took a toll on the coastline.
Rachel Abenilla of Ortley Beach says that her neighborhood was badly damaged during Superstorm Sandy and several other storms, so she is happy with the ruling.
"I don’t understand how some people can be so selfish,” she says. “Not only did they lose their own property but also their neighbors…I can’t believe people are holding out. Just ridiculous."
Toms River Mayor Tom Kelaher says that he is also happy with the ruling. He says that this January’s blizzard cost Toms River about $1 million in damage.
"I'm optimistic for the eight holdouts we have here in Toms River. Hopefully that will be the incentive for them to get on board,” Kelaher says.
A spokesperson for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection says that the judge's decision will encourage other Northern Ocean County holdouts to provide their easements voluntarily so the project can finally go out for bidding.
The judge also agreed to hold a future hearing for several residents of Bay Head and Mantoloking who claim a rock wall provides adequate protection and would not need to give up part of their land.