Almost twenty years ago, a new neighbor moved in across from Sophie Bubis’ house at 1 Ocean Place in Loch Arbour. At that time, in 1995, the new neighbors, Jack and Joyce Kassin bought the entire beachfront lot consisting of four + acres. Soon thereafter, the Kassins erected an eight foot high sand berm covered with bushes and trees reaching heights of eighteen feet in some areas. All of a sudden, Sophie Bubis could no longer see the ocean.
So, what did Sophie Bubis do? She sued the Kassins to enforce a local zoning ordinance restricting fences heights and a restrictive covenant in the Kassin’s title that restricted the height of fences to four feet. And ten years later, the New Jersey Supreme Court said that Sophie Bubis was right. Bubis v. Kassin, 184 N.J. 612 (2005). (The outcome of the case fell on whether the sand berm/dune was – in fact – a “fence.”)
The Kassins had to remove the berm and trees and comply with the local fence ordinance.
Six years later both properties were destroyed by Superstorm Sandy. But Sophie Bubis has no regrets. As recounted in an article by nj.com: “Despite the destruction that Sandy wrought, Bubis said she has “not an ounce of regret” about her legal battle to remove the barrier.” The article also notes that even if the berm were in place at the time of the storm, it would have been overtopped and Bubis’ house would have been destroyed. LIkewise, the Kassin’s property was severely damaged by Sandy.
And perhaps, in a twist of fate, the bulk of the Kassin’s property was later conveyed to the Village of Loch Arbour by way of settlement in lieu of eminent domain.
Sophie Bubis waged a ten-year legal battle to preserve one of the most important aspects of ownership of shoreline property; an ocean view. And even after having her house destroyed by Mother Nature, she did not regret having waged a ten-year legal battle to maintain her ocean view. And why would she? In real estate it’s all about location. You can always build a new house, but you can’t get a better location to see the ocean.
So when the State comes along to erect an 18-25 high sand dune on your neighbors’ property, don’t be surprised if they expect to be compensated for their loss in value as required by our State and federal Constitutions.