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Neptune City, Borough of v. Avon-by-the-Sea, Borough of

Citation: 2 ELR 20519
No. No. A-71, 294 A.2d 47/61 N.J. 296, (N.J., 07/24/1972)

The Borough of Avon-by-the-Sea violates the public trust doctrine in charging non-residents higher fees than residents for the use of its beach area. The land from mean high tide seaward is owned by the state in fee simple. The upland sand area above mean high tide is owned by the municipality, a political subdivision of the state, and is dedicated to public use. The ancient doctrine of public trust has been broadened to include recreational uses. Therefore, since the municipal beach is for the public, and the use to be made of it is within the public right, the beach must be open to all on equal terms. As for the public's right of access to privately owned beach areas, the court does not decide, but mentions that there may be limitations on the legislature's power to convey lands out of the public trust, thereby placing limits on the extent of private ownership. Although the state legislature has empowered the municipalities to charge a fee for beach use, Avon-by-the-Sea's employment of discriminatory fees was not so authorized and is in violation of the public trust. Reversed and remanded.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Robert V. Carton
Carton, Nary, Witt & Arvanitis
66 State Highway
Neptune City, New Jersey

Counsel for Defendants
Thomas J. Spiello
504 Main Street
Avon-by-the-Sea, New Jersey