Beach Access is a Universal Right protected under the Public Trust Doctrine. It gets a little tricky here in NJ since in addition to the Public Trust Doctrine, we also have “home rule” whereby the state allows the towns to govern their own affairs. Here are a few key court cases regarding beach access in NJ – Cape May Case, Spring Lake CaseAvalon NJ DecisionSea Bright – Surfrider Club Settlement.

We have taken several towns to court including Deal, NJ for their restrictive ordinances against surfing. Here is the complaint against Deal in that case. DEAL COMPLAINT public trust-surfing And here is a NY Times article from 1994 about how that case was settled.

Our Chapter is dedicated to preserving beach access up and down the coast. Recently, we have battled with Deal over restrictive parking ordinances and beach fee policies.

In October, 2015, soon after the beaches were enlarged with federal tax-payer’s money, the Borough of Deal proposed Ordinance #1124 which sought to restrict parking on six oceanfront streets from May 1 through October 31 during the hours of 8:00 am to 8:00 pm.[1] Only Deal residents located on these streets would have been issued permits. This Ordinance was tabled after overwhelming public opposition because of the Ordinance’s clear intent to keep the general public away from the newly restored beaches. Similarly, in June 2016, the Borough proposed Ordinance #1134 which sought to restrict beach access by implementing permit parking on one side of those same streets.[2] This Ordinance was also tabled.

In April 2017, the Borough proposed Ordinance #1143 which sought to require permit parking during the summer months on those same streets with vital beach access points for a cost of $100 (season) or $50 (per month).[3] The Ordinance would have given preferential treatment to thirty-two beachfront residents with ample parking. This Ordinance was merely another attempt to keep people away from the newly restored beaches, paid for with public funds. Ultimately, Ordinance #1143 was tabled.

In May 2017, the Jersey Shore Chapter filed an ethics complaint with the Division of Local Government Services against the Deal Mayor and a Commissioner. The basis of the complaint is a transaction involving the Mayor’s charity, The Deal Endowment Fund. The complaint alleges that the beachfront homeowners in Deal donated $112,000 for a beach screener to clean the beach. However, the money was not donated to the Borough. The money was donated to the Deal Endowment Fund, a 501(c)(3) that is operated by the Mayor and Commissioner. For their donations, the beachfront homeowners received tax deductions and, as the complaint alleges, a promise from the Borough that an ordinance would be passed to keep the public from accessing “their” beaches. The complaint alleges that this amounts to an unethical “quid pro quo” in violation of ethics laws. That complaint is still under review.

In June 2017, the Borough passed Ordinance #1152 which created a municipal beach at Hathaway Avenue.[4] Prior to the passing of this Ordinance, the Borough did not allow swimming and there were no lifeguards on duty. The Borough began selling seasonal ($150) and daily ($8/$10) passes for access and use of the newly lifeguarded beach. On November 8, 2017, the Borough passed Ordinance #1160 which creates a second municipal beach at Darlington Avenue.

In December 2017,  the Mayor of Deal admitted at a public meeting that certain private beachfront residents were permitted to have free access to municipal beaches during the prior summer.[5] Mayor Cohen had essentially advocated for private citizens to violate the Borough’s own Ordinance: he told them to break the law. Unfortunately, as told News 12 in January 2018, “there are no plans to change the policy.”[6] However, our Chapter fought back and on January 31, 2018, the Asbury Park Press reported that Deal would stop giving a free pass to private beachfront residents at their municipal beaches.[7]

The Chapter remains vigilant with eyes on our coast. If you see a beach access issue brewing, please feel free to contact the chapter with your concerns.

 

[1] “Jersey Shore town looks to restrict public parking near beaches” – October 5, 2015, http://www.nj.com/monmouth/index.ssf/2015/10/ordinance_looks_to_restrict_parking_near_jersey_sh.html

[2] “Shore town looks to restrict parking near beach – again” – June 28, 2016, http://www.nj.com/monmouth/index.ssf/2016/06/shore_town_looks_to_restrict_parking_near_beach_–.html

[3] “Deal’s war on outsiders: $100 fee to park near beach” – April 12, 2017, https://www.app.com/story/news/local/communitychange/2017/04/12/deal-parking-plan/100374792/

[4] Wealthy Jersey Shore town looking to charge at some of its free beaches – June 2, 2017, http://www.nj.com/monmouth/index.ssf/2017/06/wealthy_jersey_shore_town_looking_to_charge_at_som.html

[5] Borough of Deal Meeting Minutes, December 4, 2017, http://www.dealborough.com/downloads/minutes/17Dec4RegMtg.pdf

[6] Deal mayor faces backlash for providing free beach access – Jan 24, 2018, http://newjersey.news12.com/story/37344046/deal-mayor-faces-backlash-for-providing-free-beach-access

[7] Deal says it will stop with free pass to public beach – January 31, 2018, https://www.app.com/story/news/local/2018/01/31/deal-nj-surfrider-foundation-beach-access/1082777001/