North Jersey Senators Demand Free Access to Beaches in Exchange for Assistance at Jersey Shore
Trenton–Two North Jersey state senators last week proposed legislation that would require any towns that receive federal beach replenishment funding to give free beach access. As major portions of Ocean County beachfront communities resemble war zones six weeks after Sandy, the proposal didn’t sit well with Joe Rullo, a Republican from hard hit Ocean County. Rullo, who ran in the 2012 New Jersey Republican Senate Primary election, said the state senators have no legal right to propose such legislation.
“It is not the job of a State Senator to tell a local town what to do after ear marked federal rebuilding funds serve their purpose, and it is clearly unconstitutional,” Rullo said. ” I can’t see any Jersey Shore leaders, officials,or law makers supporting this.”
On top of free beach access, the bill would require shore towns to build and provide free bathroom access on the beaches. Senator Michael J. Doherty (R-23) and Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney (D-3) have introduced legislation that would require municipalities that accept state or federal aid to rebuild storm-damaged beaches to provide beach access and beach restroom facilities to the public free of charge.
“It is likely that state and federal taxpayers will provide hundreds of millions of dollars to repair and replenish New Jersey beaches that were washed away during Hurricane Sandy,” said Doherty. “Considering the massive public resources that will be directed at rebuilding many New Jersey beaches, it only seems fair to ensure that everyone have the opportunity to enjoy free access to the beaches they will support and help rebuild with their tax dollars.”
The legislation, S-2368, would apply to towns that accept grants or aid from the state or federal governments after November 2, 2012 for the purpose of replenishing storm-damaged beaches.
“Senator Doherty spent months going town to town in the Jersey Shore to educate us on school funding, so why would he not be courteous & do the same with educating himself of the ramifications of this bill including us in his discussions,” Rullo said.
Under the legislation, municipalities that accept aid for rebuilding beaches would not be allowed to adopt or enforce ordinances requiring the collection of fees for beach badges or otherwise as a requirement of being allowed to use or access a beach. Furthermore, those municipalities would be required to provide free public restroom facilities to beach goers between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends.
The proposed legislation does not specify how beach communities would recover the beach fee revenue which is primarily used for maintaining trained lifeguards, police and security and beach cleaning programs. A release issued by the office of Steve Sweeney also did not mention whether or not those communities who refuse federal funding could block access, since no federal funding would be used.
“”I believe it is unconstitutional for the state of New Jersey to force local Jersey Shore towns into any conditions not having to do with rebuilding such that of beach fees with money allocated by the federal government for those towns! Additionally, NJ is ranked at the bottom for federal aid over the last several years, while other states recieved their infrastructure, etc,” Rullo added. ”Now we have North Jersey politicians who don’t understand the Jersey Shore nor consulted local towns prior to free beach PR scheme. No town should be forced to provide restrooms & services not offered before at their beaches as suggested in bill. The bottom line is taxes will go up in a majority of the Jersey Shore thanks to this bill and its sponsors from North Jersey.’