New Jersey Legislation Protects Marinas and Public Access

On May 3, New Jersey’s Governor signed S1074, which provides for protection of public right of access to certain public trust lands. The Marine Trades Association of New Jersey (MTA/NJ) again ensured that protections for marinas were written into the law.

The issue of public access and its impacts on New Jersey marinas goes back to 2006 when the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), introduced changes to the Coastal Zone Management Rules on Public Access. Under these proposed rules, any marina applying for a Coastal General or Individual Permit would be required to provide deed restricted, permanent perpendicular and linear access including a walkway across the entire waterfront on the property. It had to be accessible to the general public at all times- 24 hours a day and 365 days a year.

Since that legislation was originally introduced, MTA/NJ has been working to change the strict requirements and work with legislators to find common ground on what public access should mean for marinas. With changes in legislators and governors, as well as the vigilance of the trade association, the rule has altered through the years, slowly forming into something more acceptable to the marine industry.

Under the new law, which is similar to the 2012 rule proposal, existing marinas seeking permits will maintain the existing access they provide. If no public access is provided to the waterfront and adjacent shoreline prior to application for a permit or other approval, the NJDEP shall not impose new public access requirements to the waterfront or adjacent shoreline as a condition of the permit or other approval. If it is necessary to impact the existing public access in order to perform maintenance, renovation or needed improvements, equivalent public access shall be provided onsite. Public access will be required for new marina development; however, there are a number of ways to satisfy the requirements taking into consideration the operations of the marina.

According to the MTA/NJ, the reason that this is so important now is this legislation directs the NJDEP to write or rewrite the rules. This language will provide protections for marinas as the NJDEP, under new leadership, moves through the regulatory process again.