April 25, 2013
Re: Senate Environment Committee Advance Several Sandy Related Bills
Earlier today the Senate Environment and Energy Committee advanced several Sandy related bills, including:
S-2598, which provides limited exemption from local land use restrictions to allow certain existing structures to be raised to new FEMA base flood elevations, was amended and unanimously passed by the committee. While we appreciate the sponsors’ intentions, S-2598 usurps local planning and oversight and is opposed by the League. The bill, as amended, provides an exemption from any local land use restriction prevent the raising of an existing structure to the highest applicable flood elevation standard, whether it is set by FEMA or the DEP. The exemption would apply only to the minimum extent necessary to meet the elevation standards. The sponsors argue this is necessary because of federal flood insurance requirements. The amendments limit the application of this exemption to exclude any alteration of a structure initiated before new standards were proposed by FEMA or adopted by the DEP.
S-2599, which requires consideration of increased property value due to dune construction in determining compensation provided for condemned beachfront property, was amended and unanimously passed by the committee. S-2599, as amended, would amend the Eminent Domain Act of 1971 to provide that just compensation for a portion of beachfront property condemned for the purpose of acquiring an easement for dune construction or beach replenishment must include consideration of the increase in value to the entire property due to the added safety and property protection provided by the dune or beach replenishment, as well as any diminution in value to the property attributable to the condemnation. We support S-2599. Dunes provide protection not only for the beachfront property owner but their neighbors as well. In Superstorm Sandy we witnessed first hand the protection provided by dunes. S-2599 is good public policy as it provides just compensation for the lost of property while recognizing the value that a dune system and beach replenishment creates for beachfront neighborhoods.
S-2601, which permits fifth and sixth class counties to assume control and responsibility for operation and maintenance of beaches bordering the Atlantic Ocean, was amended and passed 4-0-1. S-2601, as amended, authorizes a county to establish a uniform beach fee and beach tag system within the county as well as a uniform policy with respect to beach improvement, maintenance, and dune construction for the protection of properties near the beach. Fees collected by the uniform beach tag system must be used to improve, maintain and police the beaches and to protect the beaches from erosion, encroachment, and damage by sea or otherwise, provide facilities and safeguards for public bathing and recreation, including employment of lifeguards. If the county adopts an ordinance or resolution to assume responsibility and control of the beaches within the county, a municipality may adopt an ordinance reserving to the municipality all such responsibility and control over beaches within their municipality, including the collection of beach fees. When a municipality adopts an ordinance reserving municipality responsibility and control, the county ordinance or resolution shall not apply in that municipality. We are currently reviewing the amendments to see if they address our initial concerns with S-2601.
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Very truly yours,
William G. Dressel, Jr.