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Margate Homeowners Suit vs Dunes Goes to Federal Court

Posted on November 22, 2016

By Michelle Brunetti,

A federal court will hear a lawsuit that five beachfront homeowners in Margate filed to stop an Army Corps of Engineers’ dune-building project.

The suit contends the plan to create 12.75-foot elevation dunes about 20 feet out from Margate’s bulkhead would create drainage problems on the beach block, allowing water to pool behind dunes and in street ends.

U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman, who represents the Army Corps, requested the switch from New Jersey Superior Court to federal court because the Army Corps is a federal agency, spokesman Will Skaggs said.

There is a hearing set for 11 a.m. Nov. 30 in Camden before Judge Renee Marie Bumb, according to the attorney representing the homeowners, Jordan M. Rand, of Dilworth Paxson in Philadelphia.

The suit is against the Army Corps and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, a partner on the project to build new dunes in Longport, Margate and southern Ventnor and to replenish other dunes in Ventnor and Atlantic City.

The homeowners allege the project’s current design for Margate would create health hazards, odors and standing water at their doorsteps.

Questions about drainage and accessibility to the beach were major concerns of the city in its failed lawsuit to stop the project, Mayor Michael Becker has said.

State and federal officials have said the project will start this fall and be finished sometime next summer.

The low bidder on the entire project from Longport to Atlantic City was Weeks Marine Inc., at $63.1 million for the base and $76.1 for all the options, including additional sand and work on outfall pipe extensions, Army Corps spokesman Stephen Rochette said.

He said Friday no contract has been awarded, but he could not comment further because of the pending litigation.

The design calls for a dune elevation of 14.75 feet and a 200-foot berm in Atlantic City, and a dune elevation of 12.75 feet and a 100-foot berm for Ventnor, Margate and Longport, according to Rochette.

The homeowners involved in the suit all live on the beachfront. They are Steven Erlbaum, of South Barclay Avenue; Frank Binswanger Jr., of South Iroquois Avenue; John Turchi, of South Sumner Avenue; David Boath, of South Fredericksburg Avenue; and Ron Cohen, of South Argyle Avenue.

The case had been handled by Superior Court Judge Julio Mendez, who also heard the city’s suit and was familiar with the case, until it was moved to federal court.

Becker has said the city’s street ends drain onto the beach and the Public Works Department digs trenches to the ocean to allow the street water to drain after significant rains.

A dune system would prevent the city from trenching, and the water would pool at the street ends and between the dunes and bulkheads, he has said.

The dune construction would be paid for by the federal government, while the replenishment part of the project in Ventnor and Atlantic City will require the typical split of 65 percent from the federal government, about 26 percent from the state and about 9 percent from the local government, Army Corps spokesman Steve Rochette has said.


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