Seaside Park Is Handed a Legal Victory Over Riparian Swath
January 23, 2019
TRENTON, NJ – A New Jersey appeals court on Tuesday ruled that Seaside Park owns a disputed 10-foot-wide strip of riparian land in Barnegat Bay and therefore can block construction of a proposed dock at the site.
The court found the borough has legal title to the strip, there was no reason to disturb the conveyance and the public’s access to the water was not jeopardized by the borough’s objection to the dock.
“The borough has full ownership of that land, and it has no legal obligation to permit any adjoining property owner to build a dock, pier, or other similar structure on the borough’s property,” the court held.
“It was clear that Seaside Park owns the property and that is backed up by maps and other evidence,” said Paul Schneider, a shareholder with Giordano, Halleran & Ciesla in Red Bank who represents the borough.
At issue is property owned by James D. Ralph III and Diane G. Ralph in a 45-lot subdivision, Berkeley Quay, developed by Berkeley Point in 1966 and located on a peninsula of filled land in the bay.
The Ralphs, who acquired their lot in 2002, applied to the state Department of Environmental Protection to build a dock running from the development’s wooden bulkhead and the state’s pierhead and bulkhead line, and continuing for 60 feet into the bay.
But the borough opposed the construction, claiming it owned the property.
The Ralphs then sued Seaside Park, Ocean County and the state, claiming that the strip, adjacent to their property, had been conveyed to them through deeds in the chain of title.
Ocean County Superior Court Judge Francis R. Hodgson, Jr., sided with the borough, concluding that the Ralphs property ended at the bulkhead on the bay, not at the pierhead line.
The appeals court upheld Hodgson’s decision, finding “the plaintiffs’ property does not include any part of the adjacent ten-foot-wide strip of tide-flowed land in Barnegat Bay.”
The Ralphs also argued that Berkeley Point conveyed the strip to the borough in 1990 in error because Berkeley Point no longer had title to it. The Ralphs also said the conveyance was invalid because it was done by Charles T. Kline Jr., and John L. Ricketts, the sole surviving shareholders of Berkeley Point, rather than in the corporation’s name.
But, the appeals court noted that, at the time of the conveyance, Berkeley Point was practically defunct. In addition, it had “filed its last annual report in 1986, its charter was declared ‘inactive/revoked’ in 1988, and a receiver had not been appointed for the corporation.”
Kline and Ricketts, members of the corporation, had the authority to ratify their actions on the corporation’s behalf, the appeals court found.
The appeals court also disagreed with the plaintiffs’ contention that the borough’s opposition to the dock is inconsistent with the public’s right to use the waters.
Any right “to use the waters does not include the right to construct piers and docks on the tide-flowed land,” the court said.