If this article -- Christie tells beachfront owners to sign easement for dunes or face ridicule -- accurately relays the entire context of the situation, then something is seriously off here.
The article quotes New Jersey Governor Chris Christie as declaring that if shoreline property owners do not voluntarily surrender easements and allow the construction of sand dunes on their land (presumably without compensation) very soon, then he's going to "call them out" and publicly name them:
"We’re going to start calling these folks out in the next few weeks if they haven’t signed the easements to let us build the dunes because they need to be called out and they need to be told that there is something more important than their own self interests," he said during a town hall-style event in Middlesex Borough.
He followed that up with his reasoning:
"I’m not going to put up with people that decide their view of the Atlantic Ocean is more important than the lives and the properties of their neighbors," he said.
Well, let's assume that the science behind his statement is correct, that the building of dunes would prevent or lessen hurricane damage in the future and protect "the lives and properties of their neighbors" (and, presumably, the economic engine that is the Jersey Shore, the protection of which benefits every New Jerseyite). We have no reason to doubt that it would. If that's the case, Governor Christie is actually making the case for compensation, not donation. Because the building of dunes protects everyone -- even those living away from the shoreline -- then the shoreline property should not be forced to shoulder the entire economic burden of this public benefit. As the Supreme Court has repeatedly reminded us, the Takings Clause is "designed to bar Government from forcing some people alone to bear public burdens which, in all fairness and justice, should be borne by the public as a whole." Armstrong v. United States, 364 U.S. 40 (1960).
Govenor Christie acknowledges that he might have to use eminent domain, but would prefer not to: "'Every dollar that I spend to do that, in rewarding homeowners who are being selfish, is money I can’t spend on victims who have been harmed and so I’m very reluctant to do that,' Christie said." But the same could be true in most every other situation where the public might benefit if only it could get the land it needs for free, no? A highway is coming and you don't donate your land? Selfish! Susette Kelo and her neighbors didn't donate their homes so that all New London could thrive? The nerve!
The whole vibe of this seems off to us, especially the part about holding property owners up to public ridicule and shaming if they don't "volunteer" to impress their land into public service. That seems so ... medieval, so McCarthy-esque. Is this really the state of things, where property owners are subject to Soprano-like "suggestions," and public disfavor if they don't cave in? We had hoped for better.
For more on this issue -- particularly the details of New Jersey law -- you can't do better than the blog of our colleague Tony Della Pelle, New Jersey Condemnation Law. There are lessons there for every jurisdiction with a shoreline.