TOMS RIVER, New Jersey — State prosecutors have scored a legal victory over a southern New Jersey couple that was seeking roughly $800,000 for an easement on their property that was needed to build a sand dune and beachfront protection project.
Acting state Attorney General John Hoffman says an Ocean County jury determined that Harvey Cedars residents Victor and Carolyn Groisser should only get $300. The verdict was handed down Friday following a four-day trial, but it wasn't made public until Monday afternoon
The couple had argued that the easement was worth about $200,000. They also sought more than $600,000 in damages. But the jury agreed with state and local officials who said the benefits of coastal protection outweighed the Groissers' claims for damages, and that on balance the easement itself was worth only $300.
Harvey Cedars has worked with state environmental officials since 2005 to obtain easements needed for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to build a shore protection project, which was completed in 2010. It consists of a 22-foot-high dune and a 125-foot-beach berm.
Hoffman says most property owners voluntarily donated easements. But the Groissers did not, and Harvey Cedars filed a lawsuit in April, 2009 to condemn the easement area. The case was tried and appealed, then remanded for a new trial after the state Supreme Court overturned a $375,000 jury verdict against the borough in a similar case last year.
In that case, an elderly couple went to court after they rejected Harvey Cedars' offer of $300 in compensation for their lost ocean views. The state Supreme Court in July overturned the award and faulted the lower court for not allowing jurors to consider the dune's benefits in calculating property value.