On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Atlantic County, Docket No. L-2837-05.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Kestin, Graves and Lihotz.
On April 29, 2005, the plaintiff, City of Brigantine (City), obtained an order to show cause requiring defendants Anthony Sentore and Evelyn Sentore to show cause why it was not authorized to exercise its power of eminent domain to obtain an easement over a portion of defendants' vacant beach-front property, which is designated as Lot 1.03, in Block 101 on plaintiff's tax map. Both parties filed briefs and exhibits prior to the return date of the order to show cause on June 6, 2005. Defendants appeal from an order entered on June 20, 2005, granting the City "an irrevocable, perpetual, permanent and assignable easement" over a portion of defendants' property for "beach nourishment/re-nourishment, maintenance or replenishment projects." The order also appointed condemnation commissioners to "fix the compensation to be paid by the plaintiff for the taking of said easement interest." After reviewing the record and applicable law in light of the contentions advanced on appeal, we affirm.
In a comprehensive thirty-one page written decision, the trial court determined the easement was necessary "to complete a beach nourishment project" in conjunction with the State of New Jersey and the Army Corps of Engineers. The court found that the City had participated in various beach protection and preservation projects with state and federal authorities in an attempt to fortify the beach in the area of defendants' property. The court also stated a "significant portion" of defendants' property "extends into the Atlantic Ocean and is underwater. The land portion of [defendants' property] is comprised of a public seawall, and a beach which although privately owned by the Sentores, is used and traversed by the public." Finally, the court described the proposed beach replenishment project and the easement area as follows:
The City estimates that for no longer than a four-week period of time, there will be pipes and equipment in the easement area on [defendants' property] in order to facilitate the movement and placement of sand. The [p]roject will involve the pumping of sand from the inlet between Brigantine and the next island north of Brigantine onto the [p]roperty, as well as the 35 block-long stretch of beach.
[Defendants' property] is approximately 100 feet wide running from north to south. It extends approximately 2,500 feet from west to east into the Atlantic Ocean. The western border of the [p]roperty consists of a public promenade which is known as the Brigantine Seawall. The easement area which the City seeks to acquire by condemnation, consists of 100 feet in width at the boundary of the seawall and extends 750 feet eastwardly in the direction of, and into the Atlantic Ocean.
On appeal, defendants present the following arguments:
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN HOLDING THAT THE CITY'S FAILURE TO COMPLY WITH THE STATUTORY PREREQUISITES SET FORTH IN THE EMINENT DOMAIN ACT, N.J.S.A. 20:3-16 AND N.J.S.A. 20:3-6, WERE TECHNICAL VIOLATIONS NOT WARRANTING DISMISSAL OF THE VERIFIED COMPLAINT.
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN HOLDING THAT THE APPRAISAL REPORT PREPARED FOR THE CITY BY MICHAEL J. LANGE WAS NOT SO WILFULLY OR PATENTLY INADEQUATE OR DISTORTED SO AS TO VIOLATE THE BONA FIDE ...