Some waterfront property owners in Cape May County are saying thanks - but no thanks - to a plan that eventually would replenish area beaches.
They are being asked by Strathmere Township to sign easements that would permit public access to their property, a requirement for the multimillion-dollar beach-replenishment project to go ahead this winter.
Some residents aren't convinced.
"The easement covers the entire lot in its entirety forever," Bette Jean Yank told the Press of Atlantic City. "You essentially sign away all your rights. If regulations should change or if the configuration of Strathmere should change [through natural or man-made circumstances], your hands will be tied."
The newspaper said the township was pursuing taking the land under eminent domain if homeowners resisted. Yank said the township's offers were low, asserting she had been offered about $2,300 for her 11 acres of land.
Bill Shillingford, who inherited three beachfront lots from an aunt, said the township had offered him $1 for one lot and $40 for the other two.
Strathmere Mayor Richard Palombo said that none of the lots could be developed now, and that they soon might be underwater if the beach were not restored.
As in many New Jersey shore towns, beach erosion is a significant problem in Strathmere. The township already spent $750,000 this month to build a rock wall to protect homes and roads.
"At this point, there's no reason to believe the lots are buildable," Palombo said. "If you argue that point, how can you not consider a beach-replenishment project to protect your land?
"Even if they believe the lots are buildable someday, the irony of the situation is, if we don't get the easements, the land they own could be underwater," he said. "That's where I have trouble dealing with the argument."