Beach Front Property Owners Beware

The dog days of summer have arrived, and if you are like most Garden

Staters you will be seeking relief somewhere along the lovely

stretches of New Jersey’s sandy coasts. But for those retreating to

their own shoreside properties, there may be a fly in the suntan oil:

It is just possible that you do not own what you think you do.

New Jersey has a Byzantine – and surprisingly unknown – set of

ownership regulations governing its tidal lands. These riparian rights

date back to England’s King Charles II, who in l660 proclaimed that

all land from the ocean right up to the mean high tide mark belongs to

the state. Private property begins behind that line. As the English

settled the continent, the concept stuck and remains with us today –

along with each state’s own confusing legal overlay, of course.

To help make sense of just who owns and is responsible for what along

the shore, the New Jersey Institute for Continuing Legal Education

presents "Understanding Tidelands Regulations" on Thursday, July 27,

at 9 a.m. at the Holiday Inn in Toms River. Cost: $159. Visit

(www.njicle.com) Stuart Lieberman, an attorney with Lieberman &

Blecher of 10 Jefferson Plaza off Route 1 South (732-355-1311), a firm

specializing in environmental law, moderates. Other panelists include

William Anderson, deputy attorney general; Stephen Giocondo,

supervisor of the New Jersey Bureau of Tidelands Management; William

Kresnoski, north region supervisor of the Bureau of Tidelands; and

Barbara Trought, vice chair of the Tidelands Resource Council.

Lieberman has been practicing environmental law for more than 20 years

ago, and has helped shape law in what has become a major issue of our

age. A native of New Milford, he earned his bachelor’s degree in

economics from Rutgers University in l979, followed by a law degree

from Capital University in Columbus, Ohio. When Lieberman was deputy

attorney general, and Deborah Poritz, currently chief justice of the

New Jersey Supreme Court, was attorney general, he was seeking

something more exciting than the work in which he was then engaged.

"I remember her advising me," Lieberman says. "She said, `Well you can

either go into pensions, or you may want to try this new enviro

stuff.’" Lieberman selected the latter. He took his legal skills to

New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection and in 2000 moved

into private practice.

New Jersey defines tidelands (also riparian lands) as "all those lands

now or formerly flowed by the mean high tide of a natural waterway."

This includes lands adjacent to lagoons and tidal marshes. Simply put,

the state owns these lands and they are subject to CAFRA – the Coastal

Areas Facilities Review Act. Keeping these lands out of the private

sector means that everyone – at least in theory – has access to them.

Under the law, an individual may stroll along the shore, at or below

the mean high tide line, from Cape May to the Palisades without

trespassing on anyone’s lands – or paying beach fees.

For the home or commercial shoreside owner, these tidelands

regulations mean that they may have built on commonly held ground.

"Just because your house has stood there for three generations, does

not mean you own it," warns Lieberman. "And it is wise to establish

exactly where your ownership stands." The law, of course, provides

many options and variances.

Playing it safe. If a property owner is afraid that his land might be

on a tidelands, he can phone the Bureau of Tidelands Management at

609-292-2573. The property in question is reviewed by the Land Use

Regulation Program, and if the owner is in luck he will receive a

Statement of No Interest. This letter officially states that the

government holds no claim to the property in question. Pop the

champagne.

Another tack is to just never pursue the ownership question and keep

on enjoying your beach house, hoping the state will not come knocking.

This will probably work until you try to sell the property, obtain any

development permit, or pass title on through a will. If any of these

events fails to catch the government’s eye, a feuding neighbor may

also turn you in. (To anonymously report suspected land misuse, call

609-292-1240.)

"We are talking tens of thousands of dollars in back rent once you are

caught," says Lieberman. "I have witnessed people owing 15 years back

rent totaling to $100,000." While the land in question may be a swamp,

the value is determined relative to the adjoining land. Thus the

property value – and rental bill – is typically equivalent to pricey

shore front lots.

The golden grant. If the state does claim ownership of your property,

some tenancy or purchase agreement must be reached. By far the best of

these is a tideland grant. Under such a grant, the state sells the

land to the individual in a once and final transaction. In accordance

with the old riparian rights custom, the owner of the adjacent

property or the individual with a structure currently on it gets first

crack at the sale. Unfortunately, purchasing a state grant is not

likely to net you that beach front you’ve always wanted. Typically,

the state only sells off as grants those tidal areas that are

currently filled in.

Long and short shore. The second most advantageous link in the

tideland ownership chain is obtaining a lease. Typically given for 20

years, the tideland lease works well for a business or individual

property owner. But such leases are not garnered without a fair share

of legal maneuvering, says Lieberman. First, the leasing candidate

must search out and clear up any liens and other title claims.

Secondly, he must pay for an appraiser.

Even after these steps have been completed, the lease may not be all

the business or homeowner would like. The state might not lease all

the property necessary. "But generally the state is willing to work

with owners," says Lieberman. "Many of my Mercer and Middlesex clients

have been able to hold and enjoy beach front summer homes that way."

Shorter term tideland use may be obtained in the form of a license.

For the dredging company that needs to build a platform or the boat

owner seeking to set out a dock, this provides a convenient, lower

cost form of land use without the encumbrances of actual ownership.

Double disaster. "Probably the greatest number of tideland fee

scofflaws come by their crime unwittingly," says Lieberman. Virtually

every shoreside resident along New Jersey’s coast erects some sort of

bulkhead to keep the waters at bay. When the storm rages and the waves

rise, both natural and legal disasters frequently occur.

The bulkhead crumbles, the ocean encroaches, and the beach front

dweller’s sand washes south. He owns less property than he once did,

and the same wave that took his sand has moved his house – not

physically, but legally. He is now residing on a tideland – state

owned land – on which he now owes rent. Neither life nor law is always

fair.

It was joked of King Charles II that he never said a foolish thing and

never did a wise one. Yet giving the public access to its own

waterways was certainly one of the sharpest moves any politician ever

made. The concept of time-limited, revokable use of coastal lands

enriches trade and public enjoyment. This free access may frustrate

shoreside land owners, but it extends enjoyment of priceless state

assets to all.

– Bart Jackson

Keeping the D&R Greenway Green

Princeton-area entrepreneurs and shop keepers have been trading on

their good looks for years. By setting up shop in a town surrounded by

ample wooded open space and clean flowing streams, they have taken

created a powerful customer magnet. Having the D&R tow path nearby has

proved as great a lure for distant shoppers as any enticing array on

Nassau Street. In short, people buy where they feel comfortable.

Aware of the maxim that business benefits from its environs, Princeton

Regional Chamber of Commerce members are working hard to preserve the

area’s lovely natural settings. To mix a little environmental

education in with some networking, the chamber is holding its monthly

"Business After Business" meeting on Thursday, July 27, at 5 p.m. at

the Johnson Education Center, at the edge of Princeton. Cost: $25.

Visit www.princetonchamber.org

To add edible greens, and other savories, to the verdant scene, chef

Juan Villasenor will contribute refreshments. Villasenor is the chef

for the soon-to-be-renamed Doubletree Hotel (formerly a Radisson

hotel) in South Brunswick, and is winner of the Executive Chef of the

Year award.

In 2001 the D&R Greenway Land Trust launched a massive public/private

campaign to purchase the 60-acre Johnson estate for $7.4 million.

Funding came from the state, Mercer County, Princeton Borough,

Princeton Township and a host of private parties, including special

consideration from the Johnson family, and the estate was preserved as

the Greenway Meadows Park.

Opened this past April, the Johnson Education Center at this park is

an environmental forum in the most literal sense. Housed in the

circa-l900 barn on part of General Robert Wood Johnson’s Princeton

estate, the renovated structure serves as a hub where governmental,

non-profit, and grassroots groups can gather and work on land

preservation policies and projects.

The D&R Greenway Land Trust makes its headquarters in the Johnson

Education Center. Chamber visitors may tour the five surrounding

acres, which Greenway owns outright and is converting to landscaped

gardens, during the July 27 meeting.

Sitting on a hilltop overlooking Stony Brook, just off what is now

Rosedale Road, the Johnson Center originally served as the main barn

of Edgarstoune dairy farms. The designers of the renovations, Ford 3

Architects, a firm with offices at 32 Nassau Street, opted to keep the

lofty character and barn profile, while adding light into its several

rooms.

The Greenway hustle. Whoever said that environmentalists can never get

organized never saw the D&R Greenway Trust (www.drgreenway.org) in

action. Founded in l989, this non-profit is a monument to unification

and focused effort. Initially a collaboration of the Stony

Brook-Millstone Watershed Association, Friends of Princeton Open

Space, Regional Planning Partnership, and the D&R Canal Commission,

the Land Trust united under a simple mission. It sought to "preserve

and protect a network of natural lands" from an unplanned, frightening

sprawl.

It is now estimated that if New Jersey goes on developing at its

current rate it will totally be built out in 30 years. This means not

one open lot in the state. While the population remains fairly steady,

50 acres fall each day to fresh development. In the face of this

growth the D&R Greenway Land Trust has to date saved permanently 8,779

acres valued at $193 million.

It has also brought together numerous public and private groups.

Friends of open space in Hopewell Valley, Hunterdon County, the

Sourland mountains, and Kingston have pooled their efforts into

Greenway. Established groups such as Audubon, Private Landowner

Network, and the New Jersey Conservation Foundation have partnered in.

When an organization is lacking, Greenway builds it.

"The environment is a huge, impossible issue," says Jo-Ann Munoz,

Greenway’s communications director. "But at the D&R Greenway Land

Trust we have so many highly energetic professionals honing in on the

one issue of land stewardship, in one region, that an amazing amount

gets done."

Munoz, a fairly fast-paced professional herself, has been enjoying

Princeton’s open space and the Greenway for the past four years. A

native of Long Island, she graduated from Colgate University with a

bachelor’s degree in English, and went to work in advertising. She

worked in Manhattan and in Mexico City for 15 years before leaving

McCann-Erickson, where she had achieved the rank of senior vice

president, and moving to Princeton to raise a family. She began

volunteering in 2002, and in 2003 took over Greenway’s communications

duties full time.

Getting a lot. Of all the D&R Greenway’s 155 preserved lands, 39

parcels are owned outright. The remainder are under easements to

title, keeping them permanently undeveloped. One of the Greenway’s

fledgling projects is its charitable remainder trust program. Under

this program, Munoz explains, individuals contract to deed their

property to D&R Greenway at death, while benefiting from the tax break

immediately upon signing.

The scope of D&R Greenway’s interest spreads far beyond the D&R Canal.

Actually, most of the immediate towpath area and floodplains are state

park, administered by the D&R Canal Commission. The D&R Greenway spans

central Jersey from the Sourland Mountains to the Trenton Marsh, and

from the Delaware River to Crosswicks Creek in Bordentown. While

mostly in Mercer, the organization holds in trust lands in Hunterdon,

Somerset, Middlesex, Monmouth, and Burlington counties (visit the

group’s website for maps).

Enviro central. The central hive for all of this land stewardship

activity is the Johnson Education Center. Only one of only three such

facilities in the nation, the center provides an expert staff and a

library of land management materials. It offers meeting rooms of

several sizes and a 200-seat RWJ auditorium.

In the mere three months since its opening, Johnson Center has proved

itself far more than a tree huggers haven. Already it has hosted

professional workshops for legal advisors and for appraisers on land

management issues. Munoz reports that the center is planning a series

of land owner seminars outlining the most cost effective methods of

land use. "We are here to be inclusive," says Munoz. "We want to have

developers, town officials, and grassroots organizations all here,

working out their problems in the most beneficial manner."

Awareness is an additional strategy. And toward that end the Johnson

Center has played host to a variety of organizations ranging from the

PNC Advisors Group to the Princeton Arts Council. The center has

several meeting areas, including the RWJ auditorium, renting for $200

an hour plus $175 custodial fee, 50-person capacity meeting rooms at

$150 each, and the Marie Mathews Reception Art Gallery at $200 a day.

Call 609-924-4646 for more information.

To save as much land as quickly as possible is the D&R Greenway Land

Trust’s goal. Even for those who are stone blind to the esthetic

benefits of preserved open space, the financial costs of not

preserving are staggering. If just 5,000 acres of the land Greenway

has preserved were to be developed, it would entail the following

costs: $66 million additional in school taxes; additional roads for

the 9.1 million extra car trips made by the new residents; and a host

of other services.

This is one on the prime lessons learned at the Johnson Education

Center: Population may good for business, but overpopulation is not.

– Bart Jackson

How to Take eBay To the Next Level

With over 100 million registered users, if there is anyone left who

has not bought or sold something on eBay (www.ebay.com) they at least

know someone who has. A good number of us have even mastered the art

of finding a good deal or getting a few dollars for the "junk" our

spouses are threatening to throw away.

While searching for a bargain on a new DVD player, some of us have

noticed a mysterious group that moves among E-Bay’s vast community of

average people. They are the Power Sellers, a group that seems to

actually make a living on eBay.

To take some of the mystery out of making a living on eBay, the Small

Business Development Center offers "Start A Successful Business On

eBay" on Saturday, July 29, at 9 a.m. at the College of New Jersey.

Cost: $45. Visit www.tcnj.edu/~sbdc for registration

information.

The class is led by Martin Mosho, who brings over 40 years of sales

and marketing experience. Mosho has also owned a retail business and a

franchise personnel company. He is an instructor at Mercer County

Community College and Brookdale Community College, where he teaches

marketing. He teaches a similar workshop on Monday, August 14, at 7:30

p.m. for the Princeton PC Users Group at the Lawrence Library, Route 1

and Darrah Lane (908-218-0778 or 609-883-5262).

Mosho broke into the eBay business much like the rest of us, with a

few simple purchases and sales. When he looked to do more he found

that the available information was confusing at best. With

considerable research he was able to assemble "eBay Simplified," his

first seminar on the basics of online buying and selling.

Now he is taking us to the next level. We are talking about

supplemental income, or possibly even primary income. Millions of

customers are waiting for you and your product. How are you going to

deliver?

The first step is to find a product you can sell. There are a ton of

sources you can buy from, a number of them can even be found right on

eBay itself. It is not uncommon for someone to buy wholesale lots from

one eBay member and divide them up for resale to other eBay users.

Another source is drop shipping companies. They will handle your

entire inventory. Once you sell an item, you send an order to the drop

ship company and it gets the item to your customer. This is a common

way to operate an eBay store. The advantage is that it is easy. You

don’t have to store inventory, wrap purchases, or make post office

runs. But, on the flip side, you do give up control of your inventory.

Your reputation is on the line if you sell an item that sells out or

is discontinued after your auction starts.

Whichever source you choose, Mosho warns to start small. "If you lose

a little money on a $10 item you will be a little disappointed," he

says, "but with a $1,000 item, you will be more than disappointed."

Pricing. The next step is figuring out what to sell your product for.

Overpricing an item will only result in racking up auction fees

without making a sale, while an under-priced item may sell for less

than you paid for it. A good way to figure out what you can reasonably

expect your item to sell for is to see what it has sold for in the

past. With millions of auctions running at any given time it’s a safe

bet that someone is selling the same thing that you are.

There are many valuation tools available, including eBay’s own

"Marketplace Research," which is available from the auction site’s

home page. These tools can quickly tell you what similar products have

sold for in the last 90 days, as well as providing trend information.

Or you can always do a simple search of recently completed auctions.

Timing. Some products will see a seasonal change in value. Don’t

expect much interest in your Halloween masks during the Christmas

season. Saving them for an October sale should increase your profit.

You will also have some shorter term timing considerations. eBay

buyers tend to get caught up in a bidding frenzy. The desire to find a

bargain quickly turns into a need to win at all costs. During the

final minutes of an auction people rush to bid and drive up the final

price, sometimes higher than retail.

This frenzy is a good thing for the seller, but will be hard to create

when everyone is relaxing at the beach. Even a popular television show

will dramatically decrease the traffic on eBay, and less traffic

equals less frenzy.

Maximize your profits by ending your auctions when traffic is at its

highest. There are plenty of tools available to help figure out peak

selling times, including several from Andale, a market intelligence

firm for online merchants (www.andale.com).

Shipping. Now that you have a new customer, it is time to figure out

how to get your merchandise to him. Shipping companies will often

offer free shipping materials if you use a particular service and your

item falls into one of their standard sizes. It’s worth the effort to

make sure that what you are selling can fit into one of these standard

shipping boxes.

More than money, standardized shipping can save you time. Make sure to

remember the time factor when pricing your shipping costs. If you have

to spend a day stalking liquor stores for the right boxes, make sure

you are charging for it.

Repeat business. Congratulations, you are on your way. Now that you

have your first satisfied customer, you get to start worrying about

repeat business. Mosho says that a good way to realize maximum profit

from this repeat business is to take it away – to your own website.

It’s important for serious sellers to have their own websites, he

says. There people who have bought from you on eBay can see all of the

other related products that you sell.

The website address can be included in or on all of the packages you

send out. This is the best way to grow traffic. While there are a

number of online auction sites worth exploring, eBay is by far the

largest and offers a lot of help getting started. The site offers a

number of free or low cost auction tools as well as online tutorials.

If you really get into it you can even attend live "eBay University"

sessions.

If you have already gotten your feet wet selling off your husband’s

baseball cap collection or some of your wife’s forgotten jewelry, then

you may be ready to bump it up a notch. With a little research you too

can be an E-Bay power seller. Whether part time or full, there may be

a place for you in the ever expanding world of online auctions.

– Patrick Spring

Farm Alliances Bear Fruit

`It’s always an adventure when you shop at the farmer’s market. You

never know what type of vegetables or fruit you will find," says

Lorette Pruden, market manager for the Montgomery Township Farmer’s

Market. "But you are sure to find fresh food, locally grown and sold

by local people."

The Montgomery Township market is sponsored by the New Jersey Council

of Farmers and Communities, a non-profit organization dedicated to

bringing farmers and their products together with local retail

customers. The Montgomery Township Farmers Market is open every

Thursday from June to October, from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the parking

lot of the Princeton North Shopping Center, on Route 206, just north

of the Research Park office center. For more information on the market

call 908-359-9665.

There are 35 council-sponsored markets throughout the state and dozens

of other farmers markets also spring up this time of year, one in

almost every community in the state, says Pruden. The difference

between markets sponsored by the council and some of the other

markets, she says, is the guarantee that at a council-sponsored market

all of the products are grown by New Jersey farmers.

"You won’t find oranges at a council market in any season," she says,

"and you won’t find tomatoes in May and June. You will find whatever

is growing locally and it will be fresh. The Council markets feature

locally-grown products, not something that has been bought and trucked

in from somewhere else."

Pruden became market manager, a part-time paid position, at the

Montgomery Township market about halfway through its first season, in

2003. When not selling produce and serving on the board of directors

of the Council, she has a full-time business as a consultant with

clients ranging from corporations to small businesses and

professionals. She specializes in strategic planning, teamwork, and

personal and professional goal-setting and development.

Pruden was interested in the market because of her own family

background. Her father lives on the family farm where she was raised

in North Carolina, and other family members also farm in that area. "I

understand the needs of the farmers," she says. "They are

businesspeople who need to sell their products and they need support

from the local community just like any other business."

The farmer’s market is an opportunity for farmers to sell their

products at retail prices, rather than wholesale. Not only does it

give them the opportunity to sell some of their products at higher

prices, but it also affords them an opportunity to meet and talk with

their customers. For the small farmer who does not produce enough to

sell wholesale, it is a way to stay in the farming business.

Caroline Phiney, a teacher at the Waldorf School of Princeton as well

as a certified organic farmer, is one example, of the type of farmer

who needs the small, retail market. Phiney farms just a few acres on

Cherry Hill Road in Montgomery Township. She does not produce enough

to sell her products wholesale to large supermarkets. "She is a small,

local businessperson who needs support from the local community," says

Pruden.

In addition to helping farmers find a market, Pruden says she also

wanted her own children and family to "reconnect with our food supply

in a way that doesn’t happen when you are pushing your cart through

the ShopRite.

"Yes, we can now buy strawberries in January, but they’ve been shipped

from South America or somewhere and they just don’t taste the same as

freshly-picked fruit," she says. Finally, she mentions, that the

farmer’s market promotes a sense of community. "Montgomery is like a

lot of townships in this area," she says. "It doesn’t have a central

shopping area or gathering place where people can meet, get together

and get to know each other. The farmer’s market fills that need."

While buying and selling local produce may be what brings people to

the shopping center parking lot on Thursday afternoons, they stay to

talk to old neighbors and meet new friends. "I’ve met more people from

this township in the last four summers than I’ve met in the previous

20 years," says Pruden. "People spend a few minutes shopping, then

stay 30 or 45 more minutes just to talk. Township officials come to

shop, then stay to talk to the people in the community."

Some weeks the market also offers local entertainment as an added

incentive for people to stay, chat, and buy. "It’s a tiny, community

building seed," says Pruden. "People aren’t in a rush at the farmer’s

market. They come with a different mindset."

But running the market also has its challenges, says Pruden. It is

difficult to find the right mix between customers and farmers, she

says. "If there aren’t enough customers, the farmers won’t come. If

there aren’t enough farmers with a variety of products, the customers

won’t come."

The Montgomery Township market "in some ways has been a victim of its

own success," she says. "When we first started four years ago there

weren’t any other markets around." Now neighboring communities have

opened similar markets, and some operate on the weekends, which are

more popular shopping days than Thursdays. Also, more farmers now have

stands on their own properties, where they can sell to local customers

without the bother of loading their products on a truck, driving to

the market, unloading, then repeating the process with the unsold

goods at the end of the day.

Customers who come to the market when it first opens in early June may

also be discouraged by the lack of variety and may not return later in

the summer when more produce is available. She says that the customers

need to understand that the rhythms of the market follow the rhythms

of the natural growing season.

By the end of July, depending of course on rainfall and sunshine,

there should be some fresh corn and some early tomatoes, along with

lots of peaches and blueberries. In August the corn really comes into

its own, as do the state’s justly famous tomatoes – in a wide array of

varieties. As summer draws to an end, apples will begin to appear, and

will continue to be on display right up until December most years.

The market doesn’t just offer produce, however. The Griggstown Quail

Farm produces quail, pheasant, turkey, and other poultry products, and

is a regular at the market. Fresh breads are sold by the Village

Bakery of Lawrenceville and asparagus salsa and Peruvian-style

biscotelli, also made in New Jersey, are sold at the market. Pruden is

now on the prowl for someone who makes fresh cheeses.

"There is some perception that if we sell organic produce and

specialty breads and cheeses we are selling `Yuppie food’ that is

expensive and indulgent," she says. "But we really aren’t." It is

true, however, that some of the market items are more expensive than

similar items at the grocery store. Other items just can’t be found

there. The markets sell a variety of things, both organically grown

and "traditionally" grown produce. Most of the farmers also accept WIC

and senior citizens’ coupons, she says. "That is one of the ways the

state helps farmers."

Even if the prices are higher, Pruden says it is worth it. "Shopping

at the farmers markets supports the continuation of a healthy, local

food supply. It supports community spirit, and it supports local

businesses."

And, really, is a cottony tomato from a faraway state a bargain at any

price? And is there any equal to a just-picked ear of Jersey sweet

corn?

– Karen Hodges Miller

Facebook Comments