- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 27, 2015

MANVILLE, N.J. (AP) - Gov. Chris Christie said Wednesday more than 300 homes have now been acquired by the state under a post-Superstorm Sandy buyout program, as he blasted other homeowners for refusing to give the state the right to build protective dunes on their properties.

Christie marked the latest milestone of the Blue Acres program with a news conference at the site of a newly-purchased home in Manville that his office said had been flooded repeatedly. The two-year-old program seeks to buy homes from willing sellers in areas that have been plagued by flooding and return the land to open spaces.

The governor’s office says that 309 homes have now been purchased and 716 homes approved for buyouts, with 673 offers made and 468 offers accepted. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has approved more than $100 million for the program, in addition to other federal cash.

During the press conference, Christie celebrated the milestone, but also blasted oceanside homeowners who have opposed his plan to widen beaches and build protective sand dunes along the state’s entire 127-mile coastline.

He said the roughly 300 homeowners who have refused to grant easements allowing the state to proceed with construction of dunes on their property were “extraordinarily selfish and self-centered,” and accused them of caring more about protecting their views than the safety of their neighbors.

Among those who oppose the plan is Lawrence Bathgate, one of the Republican Party’s top national fundraisers and a former Christie ally, who last year called the dune plan “stupid” and wasteful.

“The science and the economics don’t support what they are doing,” he said then. Bathgate did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Christie said the state is now moving forward with long-threatened legal action against the holdouts. Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin said the state had initiated the eminent domain process and that complaints would be filed soon, according to The Record newspaper.

A spokesman for the state attorney general’s office said the state is in the process of completing surveys and appraisals so that offers can be made to homeowners as required by the Eminent Domain Act. If discussions with property owners fail to compel owners to voluntarily provide easements, he said, the state will file condemnation actions.

He said the first condemnation actions will be filed within the next 2 weeks, with more to follow over the coming months.

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