It’s a Deal! Shore town, coastal group agree on beach access
DEAL, N.J. (AP) — Deal has made a deal.
And it just might satisfy everyone who had been fighting about public access to a beach in this wealthy Jersey Shore enclave in a lawsuit that had been bouncing around the legal system for three years.
In a settlement announced Tuesday evening, the borough of Deal, the American Littoral Society, and an oceanfront homeowner agreed to create a public access point to the beach at the end of a street the borough wants to sell to the homeowner.
Under the settlement, a set of stairs will be built “and maintained in perpetuity” down a rocky cliff where surfers and others had long clambered down onto the sand.
It also will be maintained as a visual access point, meaning nothing can be built or planted that would block the public’s view of the ocean from the street.
It also allows the sale of the street end to homeowner Isaac Chera to proceed. Deal approved the sale of the property to Chera for $1 million in 2018; it could not immediately be determined if that remains the price.
Deal’s mayor and borough administrator did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment Tuesday evening after borough hall had closed for the day.
“It truly is a win for all parties,” said Tim Dillingham, executive director of the Littoral Society, the coastal environmental group that sued Deal over the proposed transfer. “There will be a nice set of stairs leading down onto the beach so that people can safely get onto the beach. And the public’s view of the ocean from the street will remain.”
The Littoral Society, which has long fought to preserve public beach access, said when it filed the lawsuit that it feared the Deal transaction could have set a precedent of shore towns selling street ends to private parties and eliminating traditional beach access points.
Deal maintained that the end of Neptune Avenue was never an official beach access point, and that it is listed on a state government inventory of beach access points as a visual access-only spot.
But the public has long used the spot to get onto the beach, which is particularly popular with surfers, who would make their way down a line of boulders onto the sand.
The street end sale was just one of numerous instances in which beach access advocates have accused Deal of trying to restrict public access to their shoreline, which has undergone repeated widenings as part of government-funded beach replenishment projects.
Other proposals have involved trying to limit parking on streets near the beach to residents-only, which were withdrawn after prompting public outcries.
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