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Thursday, February 29, 2024
Courthouse News Service
Thursday, February 29, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

NJ Court Throws Out Beach-Access Rules

(CN) - A New Jersey appellate court tossed a set of rules requiring cities to provide unfettered public access to all beaches in the state, which could have included building new parking spaces and restrooms.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection issued the rules in 2007, requiring all municipalities to obtain permission to close beaches for virtually any reason, and forcing them to build parking spaces and restrooms in order to receive state money.

The Borough of Avalon provided street access, parking and restrooms along its four-mile stretch of coastline, but not at a concentration to the environmental department's liking. Avalon responded by challenging the rules.

The appeals court agreed with Avalon that the rules infringe on municipal powers. Because municipalities are responsible for ensuring public safety at beaches, they are in the best position to assess safety risks for possible closures, the court ruled. The court also rejected the department's reliance on the public trust doctrine to mandate a certain number of parking spaces or restrooms.

Judge Skillman quoted Justice Pashman, saying that "although 'a municipality holds public property in trust for the public ... there is no requirement that such property must be made available for public use at all times.'"

If the Legislature hasn't delegated a power to an administrative agency, local rule still reigns, the appellate court concluded.

The court nullified the environmental department's beach-access rules.

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