Margate wins court battle vs. state
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -- A shore town just outside Atlantic City won a round Thursday against New Jersey in the ongoing battle over the seizure of beachfront land to build protective sand dunes.
A federal judge in Trenton sided with Margate's assertion that the state Department of Environmental Protection should not have used an administrative order to obtain easements giving government the right to carry out the work.
U.S. District Court Judge Renee Marie Bumb extended a temporary restraining order that bars the state from awarding a contract for the beach protection project until Dec. 17, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Voters in Margate twice passed a referendum opposing a dune for their town, which wants the state and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to exclude them in its dune project. Margate argues that its existing bulkhead system is sufficient, and that the worst flooding from Superstorm Sandy came from the bay on the opposite side of town.
Margate officials praised the ruling, saying they can prove the state's "one size fits all" plan is arbitrary.
"The bottom line is there will be no bulldozers on the beach," said Robert Andrews, the former U.S. representative who has been hired by Margate in its battle with the state.
But that assertion appeared to be premature. The judge's ruling does not bar the state from proceeding with the project; rather, it suggests the state condemn Margate's land in state court.
New Jersey officials say any delay jeopardizes the entire project.
"We and the DEP will continue to take all steps necessary to ensure the protection and preservation of the affected communities, including, if necessary, the filing of litigation in state court," said Lee Moore, a spokesman for the state attorney general's office. "To be clear, the adjournment of today's proceedings did not include a decision on the merits, and will not prevent these projects from being constructed."
Gov. Chris Christie insists that a statewide dune and beach replenishment project will be built, with or without the consent of property owners or local governments. If necessary, the state will use eminent domain to acquire the land after paying fair compensation for it.
Towns that had protective dunes fared much better during Sandy than towns that did not.
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