By Donald Wittkowski
It appears that the tiny, shack-like North End Beach Grill perched just steps from the ocean will be losing its gorgeous views of the water.
In a legal fight over valuable beach property, Ocean City has used its power of eminent domain to acquire an easement in front of the restaurant to build up its dune line.
“The city has taken the easement by eminent domain – though we’re still in court to determine compensation value to the owners,” city spokesman Doug Bergen said in a statement. “Once the case is settled, we will proceed with building a dune and planting dune grass.”
The city wanted the easement so that it could fill in a gap in the otherwise continuous barrier of dunes that protects the north end of town. The opening in the dunes is directly in front of the restaurant.
The nearly uninterrupted line of dunes helps to shield the oceanview homes lining Beach Road from storms. Amid the cluster of luxury houses stands the North End Beach Grill, a low-slung white building located amazingly close to the ocean.
Last October, while the city was still trying to acquire the easement, Bergen said the grill’s owners wanted to maintain unobstructed views of the water from the restaurant, which explains the gap in the dune system there. He did not identify the owners.
Bergen gave no indication that the city wants to acquire the restaurant itself, just the easement needed for completion of the dune barrier. Eminent domain gives government the power to seize private property for a public purpose.
As it waits to take final possession of the easement and build the dune, the city has contingency plans to enhance the protective berm next to the restaurant in advance of any major storms, Bergen said.
The legal fight over the easement occurred at the same time that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was undertaking an $11.5 million project last fall to rebuild the storm-battered beaches in the northern tip of the island.
The city’s 50-year agreement with the Army Corps of Engineers for beach replenishment in the north end never included dune construction or maintenance. Separately, that is the city’s responsibility, Bergen said.
The replenishment project added 1.3 million cubic yards of new sand between Seaspray Road and 12th Street, an area that includes Beach Road. New sand also helped to restore the depleted dunes near Fifth and 10th streets.
Besides the aesthetic value of having wide, powdery beaches, the city also benefited from the replenishment project by creating a bigger barrier of sand to protect homes, businesses, the Boardwalk and roads from the ocean’s storm surge.