Group files lawsuit to stop sale of beach to private homeowner

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A New Jersey environmental group has filed a lawsuit to stop the sale of a portion of the Jersey Shore to a private homeowner for $1 million.

American Littoral Society says that it wants to stop the sale of the end of the beach at Neptune Avenue in Deal.

The lawsuit comes soon after Gov. Phil Murphy signed a law meant to strengthen the public’s right to beach access. The law also puts the Department of Environmental Protection in charge of making sure beaches stay public.

News 12 New Jersey caught up with some surfers in Deal who say that the town often caters to the wealthy homeowners rather than the public.

“Because you built a great, big house doesn’t mean you own the beach behind it,” says surfer Corie Ferrentino. “The beach was made before you build the house.”

RELATED: Gov. Murphy signs law protecting public beach access 

Tim Dillingham with the American Littoral Society says that the governor’s law is a step in the right direction.

“It’s going to give us new tools to help protect public access to the shore, put out new places to get to the water and make sure the public's rights to the shoreline are respected and taken care of,” he says.

But Jeff Tittle of the New Jersey Sierra Club says the law does not go far enough. He told News 12 New Jersey that language changed in the law before Murphy signed it will likely mean more court challenges. Tittle says that it also doesn’t give the DEP enough authority over the shore communities, leaving room for more public-restricted access.

The borough of Deal has often been involved in battles to restrict beach access to the public. In the 1980s and 1990s, Deal vacated easements on streets ending at the beach. In 1994, the town tried to restrict surfing on all of its beaches. In the fall of 2015, Deal proposed new parking restrictions. In the spring of 2017, more parking proposals were planned and then dropped. That winter, the town offered to give beachfront residents free access to the beach, which was also later rescinded.

The lawsuit between the American Littoral Society and the borough of Deal is scheduled to go before a state judge in July.

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