To the Editor:
I appreciate the article that appeared in the Cape May County Herald’s Jan. 6 edition – “Petition Seeks to Speed Riparian Process.” However, I need to set the record straight.
Indeed, my initial intent was to focus on speeding up the riparian process. However, I have since learned that the State of New Jersey inappropriately charged property owners in the Ocean City Homes Development to the tune of about a half-million dollars, and I was apparently in line to become one of their next victims.
Recently, I was having trouble sleeping, so I turned to reading past minutes from the Tidelands Resource Council (TRC) meetings… Yawn. The TRC meets monthly to approve riparian grants.
In the minutes, I discovered a grant that was approved for the house across the street from my property. In that discussion, there was mention of a 1978 grant to Ocean City Homes, Inc.
I called the County Clerk’s Office and got a copy of the grant. As I read the 1978 grant, I was in disbelief. To my amazement, the language and intent of the grant were clear: This grant to Ocean City Homes, Inc. “assigns forever - all that tract of land now or formerly flowed by tidewaters situated in” the entire Ocean City Homes Development.
What was also clear in the grant is that the state was the party responsible for determining “the boundaries thereof and determining the price.”
With respect to the state’s responsibility, they pretty much blew it. Only about 10% to 20% of the originally identified tidal flows in the 1978 grant actually overlap with the state’s current tidal flow claims.
In addition, the state’s current claims are for less total acreage than was granted in 1978.
I think that it is important to shed some light on what is going on at the state Department of Environmental Protection, Bureau of Tidelands. Apparently, the state has been reexamining old grants to look for former tidal flows (little side spurs) that weren’t identified at the time those grants were approved due to limited technology.
To clear your title of any newly identified tidal flows, you have to purchase an additional grant. While I believe that this is morally wrong, they, apparently, have been getting away with it. However, I think that this practice will be found to be illegal with respect to the 1978 grant to Ocean City Homes, Inc. since it clearly granted all formerly flowed lands and delegated the responsibility of identifying them to the state.
The state’s failure to abide by the 1978 grant represents a serious burden to every property with a claim. If you try to sell your house or refinance, you will be required to put 1.5 times the value of the claimed land into escrow. This can be many thousands of dollars.
If the property is deemed to be covered by the 1978 grant, then you may end up getting all but $1,000 back. However, it took an average of over 2.5 years to process a grant in 2020.
I have reached out to the chief of the Bureau of Tidelands Management regarding this issue and presented my case to him. It is unknown as to when and how this issue will be resolved.
Ultimately, the buck stops with Gov. Murphy and the time has come for him to get this portion of his house in order.