Proposed Measure Seeks to Increase Monetary Penalties for Dune Disruption

Photo by Jack Reynolds.

The Ship Bottom Borough Council last week unanimously introduced an ordinance that would, once adopted, beef up beach protection, including the removal of dune vegetation. But does it go far enough?

“The maximum penalty is weak,” Councilman Robert Butkus said when 02-2020C was introduced at the council’s Jan. 28 meeting.

The proposal calls for a maximum $2,000 fine for anyone violating or failing to comply with any provision of the borough’s beach protection and bulkheads law.

“It’s the maximum fine allowed,” Kristy Davis, municipal clerk, said at the time.

Currently, the monetary fine is set at no more than $1,000 as well as the possibility of imprisonment for a term not to exceed 90 days or community service not to exceed 90 days, or a combination of the three as determined by the municipal judge. Imprisonment, community service and the discretion of the municipal judge remain the same in the proposed measure.

Mayor William Huelsenbeck said multiple tickets can be given on the same violation for each successive day the situation hasn’t been remedied.

A public hearing on the proposed ordinance is slated for Tuesday, Feb. 25, at borough hall, about 10 days before a clear cutting of dune vegetation at a new construction site on the oceanfront side of 17th Street is scheduled to be heard before Judge James Liguori.

In January, Liguori agreed to adjourn the case, allowing the appropriate parties time to develop and submit a plan to restore dune vegetation. Under municipal code, dune restoration requires an application be made that includes a description of the activities to be performed, the equipment to be used and any other information the borough engineer deems necessary to properly review the proposed work. Restoration work cannot begin until a permit has been issued by the borough. The work must then begin within 10 days and be completed within 30 days unless otherwise approved by the governing body, according to municipal code.

At the Jan. 16 court date, the only individual present on the matter was a contractor, who said his sign was on the property, but he didn’t remove the dune vegetation. The homeowner and any other individual party to the removal of dune grasses and trees were expected to be issued summonses to appear in municipal court on charges they violated Ship Bottom’s beach and dune maintenance laws.

In Ship Bottom, preserving the beach-dune system is the responsibility of the property owner if or when maintenance is necessary on private property, according to the borough’s municipal code. Should the property owner fail to begin or complete the work within the approved time frame, the borough has the right to perform the work. The cost will be assessed to the property owner as a lien and levied as a tax on the land, under municipal code. Restoration work must be finished by May 15 and cannot begin any earlier than Oct. 15 unless approved by the borough council.

— Gina G. Scala

Reposted from The Sandpaper, Feb. 5, 2020