On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Ocean County, Docket No. C-319-02.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Skillman, P.J.A.D.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Argued September 24, 2009
Before Judges Skillman, Fuentes and Simonelli.
This appeal involves a dispute concerning title to an approximately seventy-five foot wide area of oceanfront property that the defendant Borough of Point Pleasant Beach is presently using as part of its municipal beach.
Plaintiffs' claim of title is based on the part of a 1921 deed to their predecessors in title that described the oceanfront lot as including "so much of Lot No. 1 in Block No. 9 as has not been submerged to high water mark in the Atlantic Ocean be the same what it may." Plaintiffs contend that under this description the eastern boundary of their lot extends to the mean high water mark of the Atlantic Ocean. The trial court rejected this contention and entered final judgment in Point Pleasant's favor. We affirm.
This title dispute involves one of sixty-three lots in a seventy-acre oceanfront property that was subdivided in 1920. The filed subdivision map described the property as "70 Acres with Oceanfront." The subdivision included twelve oceanfront lots, one of which was lot 1 in block 9, the lot now owned by plaintiffs.
The subdivision map depicted the eastern boundary of the oceanfront lots as a straight line and gave precise measurements for the lot lines. The subdivision map described the land beyond the eastern boundaries of the oceanfront lots as "Beach."
Plaintiffs' oceanfront lot is an irregular shaped property that is shown as fifty feet wide along its western boundary on a paper street called East Avenue and 72.995 feet wide along its eastern boundary adjoining the beach and ocean. The map also indicates that the lot has a depth of 102.61 feet along one side that borders a street called Maryland Avenue and a depth of 100 feet on the other side.
Plaintiffs' predecessors in title acquired both lot 1 in block 9 and two immediately adjoining interior lots -- lots 1 and 13 in block 10 -- by a single deed dated August 19, 1921 and recorded on January 6, 1922.
Between 1920 and 1923, a total of twenty-four of the sixty-three lots in the subdivision were conveyed to purchasers such as plaintiffs' predecessors in title. Four oceanfront lots were included in those conveyances, including the conveyance of lot 1 in block 9 to plaintiffs' predecessors.
In 1923, the parties who had subdivided the oceanfront property conveyed all of their remaining property to a single purchaser by an omnibus deed that excluded the lots that already had been conveyed.
Plaintiffs filed this quiet title action in 2002. After a prolonged discovery period, an unsuccessful effort at mediation, and the denial of plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment, the court conducted a two-day bench trial in which testimony was presented by the former Director of Public Works in Point Pleasant, plaintiff John Boylan, and title experts for both parties. In addition, the parties introduced the ...