The New Jersey Business & Industry Association is seeking minor amendments to bills A-4221/S-1074, which seek to codify and expand the reach of New Jersey’s Public Trust Doctrine.

In written testimony submitted today, NJBIA Vice President of Government Affairs Ray Cantor said that the association is strongly supportive of the intent of the legislation. But it has concerns with some of the language in the bills that could return the state to problematic regulations that existed prior to 2010.

“Those regulations had required 24/7 access on beaches and parks, as well as private property,” Cantor said. “They required facilities that were rebuilding a bulkhead to pay tens of thousands of dollars to local communities for their public access ‘payment,’ and they forced homeowners to allow the public to fish in their backyards. 

“These were real requirements. These excesses were largely solved by new regulations, still in place, but may come back under this legislation.”

Currently, there are over 3,900 public access points along New Jersey’s shorelines. The bill not only applies to 126 miles of Atlantic Ocean shoreline, but another 1,800 miles of tidal waters within 231 municipalities in 17 counties. Properties of major industrial facilities and single-family homeowners would fall under the proposed regulations.

Cantor said the language in the bill to require the state Department of Environmental Protection to mandate public access “to the greatest extent possible” exceeds a previous New Jersey Supreme Court ruling that considered the need for public access on a property along with other nearby access points, public demands and burdens to the property owner. NJBIA is seeking the removal of the “greatest extent possible” language.

Additionally, NJBIA has concerns that even minor permits will be forced to comply with public access requirements adding time, complexity, and substantial cost to the permitting process.

NJBIA is advocating that these minor permits be exempted from the requirement to study and provide public access. 

“We believe that our proposed amendments would not at all diminish from the intent of this legislation but would, instead, avoid regulatory problems in the future,” Cantor said.

“Let’s get this legislation right while we have the chance.”

To see NJBIA’s full testimony, visit here.