Collester, Lynch and Michels. The opinion of the court was delivered by Michels, J.A.D.
This is an appeal from the approval by defendant Richard Sullivan, Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection, of a decision of the Natural Resource Council of the Division of Marine Services of said Department ("Council"), establishing the sum of $127,000 as the consideration to be paid by plaintiff Evelyn LeCompte for two riparian grants.
In 1968 plaintiff purchased a spit of land known as Dutchman's Point, in Brick Township, Ocean County, New Jersey. This land was to be improved and developed as Mantoloking Shores, Sections 7 and 8. The plans submitted by plaintiff to the Council indicate that she intended to bulkhead and fill the perimeter of Dutchman's Point thereby increasing its width, and creating sufficient land to subdivide into 34 building lots of approximately 85 x 160 feet each. The development
was divided into two sections. Separate applications were filed for each section, the first (No. 68-182) in June 1968 and the second (No. 69-24) in January 1969. Separate hearings were held on each application. The result of Council action in both cases was to establish a total consideration of $50,460.60 for both grants based upon a formula price of $15 a front foot for the frontage along Barnegat Bay and Long Island Cove.
It was customary, at that time, for the Natural Resource Council to rely on an informal procedure which, although it had no basis in statute, was available to all applicants. That procedure involved payment of one-half of the consideration specified by the Natural Resource Council in contemplation of a grant being made. Upon receipt of one-half of the consideration a permit would issue from the Division of Marine Services (or its predecessor in designation), which would permit the applicant to pursue the contemplated construction activities without waiting for the final issuance of the grant which could take some many months. In accordance with said procedure plaintiff paid $10,425 on account for No. 68-182 and $10,000 for No. 69-24 and received permits to bulkhead and fill only, in accordance with plans and specifications submitted with the application for the grant. These permits expressly provided:
The granting of this permit shall not be construed to in any way affect the title or ownership of property and shall not make the Department of Conservation and Economic Development, Division of Resource Development or the State a party to any suit or question of ownership of property.
The granting of this permit shall not affect any title the State or any municipality or county has or may have in any lands or property.
The granting of this permit shall not relieve the permittee from the necessity of his observing any and all laws and ordinances.
Plaintiff proceeded to bulkhead and fill the land. Thereafter, upon approval by the Planning Board of the Township of Brick, but prior to receiving the grants from the Council, plaintiff subdivided not only the upland previously owned,
but also the riparian land which was to be the subject of the two grants applied for, and sold eight of these lots. Water and sewer systems, roads, sidewalks, curbs and other improvements were made on the subdivided land. The remaining 26 lots have not been sold and remain in plaintiff's ownership. Of the eight lots sold, seven have structures erected thereon of a substantial nature and appear to be occupied by their respective owners.
In February 1969 Anthony C. Scoppetuolo, Supervisor of Grants and Leases, notified plaintiff's attorney by separate letters with respect to each application that the Council had voted to issue a grant ...