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New Jersey couple loses ocean view, gets $1

By Jonathan Stempel

(Reuters) - An elderly New Jersey couple has accepted $1 to settle litigation over the building of sand dunes that blocked the panoramic beachfront and ocean view from their home, the state said on Wednesday.

Governor Chris Christie separately issued an executive order directing Acting Attorney General John Hoffman to begin legal action to acquire roughly 1,000 easements, paving the way for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to build dunes that would help to protect communities devastated by Hurricane Sandy.

Christie also created an Office of Flood Hazard Risk Reduction Measures within the state's Department of Environmental Protection to help acquire necessary property.

The $1 settlement with Harvey and Phyllis Karan was announced after the New Jersey Supreme Court on July 8 had overturned a $375,000 jury award in their favor.

In 2008, the Karans had rejected a $300 offer from the Borough of Harvey Cedars as compensation for their lost land and view when building a 22-foot (6.7-meter) high dune on part of their property to replace a 16-foot (4.9-meter) dune.

They said the construction reduced their property's value by $500,000. But the Supreme Court said the trial jury should also have been allowed to consider whether the benefits of a higher dune offset any loss of property value.

"The impact of that court ruling should now be clear to anyone who thinks they were in line for a big government check," Christie said in a statement. "Sandy changed everything."

New Jersey said Harvey Cedars agreed to reimburse $24,260 to cover the Karans' litigation costs, but not legal fees, and that no post-Sandy cases will be treated similarly.

"Our clients are an elderly couple who were exhausted by years of protracted litigation," Peter Wegener, a lawyer for the Karans, said in a phone interview. "They are somewhat disappointed that the system of justice in a sense let them down, and not up to going through it all over again."

Sandy struck the state's 127-mile (204-km) coastline last October 29. It destroyed or damaged hundreds of thousands of homes, leveled or washed away boardwalks and theme-park rides, and cost an estimated $37 billion statewide.

Harvey Cedars is about 65 miles east of Philadelphia.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Scott Malone)

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