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Case Studies: Beach Fees

Slocum v. Borough of Belmar, 238 N.J. Super 179 (Law Div. 1989)

Case History: Public advocate brought suit against the Borough of Belmar for intentionally discriminating against non-residents by significantly increasing the weekend beach access fees over the weekday fees.

Holding: The plaintiff (public advocate) was successful. The court declared defendant borough's beach admission fees to be arbitrary, discriminatory, and unreasonable. Weekend fees that were much higher than weekday fees discriminated against non-residents who realistically used the beach more frequently on weekends. This increase in weekend fees served no purpose other than to reduce the number of weekend beach goers who responded from outside the borough.

Borough of Neptune v. Borough of Avon-by-the-Sea, 61 N.J. 296 (1972)

Case History: Residents from the Borough of Neptune brought suit against the Borough of Avon-by-the-Sea because they were charged higher beach access fees as non-residents, than they would have been as residents.

Holding: The purpose of the public trust doctrine was to preserve, for the use of all New Jersey residents, the public natural water resources and the lands around them. This includes public accessibility to and use of such lands for recreation. While defendant Borough of Avon-by-the-Sea could legally charge fees for the use of its beaches, it could not discriminate between its residents and nonresidents.

Note: In Borough of Avalon v. New Jersey Dept. of Environmental Pro..., 403 N.J. Super. 590, the court distinguished the holding in this case, specifically with regards to requirements for the DEP to enforce minimum parking spaces and bathroom facilities that a municipality must provide.

Hyland v. Borough of Allenhurst, 78 N.J. 190 (1978)

Case History: Borough of Allenhurst owned and maintained a beach club adjacent to the municipally owned beach. It was built by the Borough in the 1930's and consisted of bathhouses, cabanas, a restaurant, several snack bars, sundecks, chaises and lounges, restrooms and one large and two small swimming pools

Membership in the club is open to nonresidents of Allenhurst as well as to residents, but non-residents are charged higher fees than residents for use of beach club facilities. The beach fee is the same for residents and nonresidents. “As a practical matter, though, one had to be a member of the club in order to use the beach, as an Allenhurst ordinance forbade the appearance on a public street of a person in bathing attire. This ordinance effectively prevented anyone from changing into a bathing suit except at the beach club. The complaint filed by the Attorney General charged the Borough with illegal and discriminatory practices in the maintenance and operation of its beach and beach club.” Hyland v. Borough of Allenhurst, 78 N.J. 190 (1978).

Holding: the court held that where municipal toilet facilities existed adjacent to a public beach area, it was an abuse of municipal power and authority to bar the users of the public beach from access to that basic accommodation. The court did hold that changing facilities are not the same as bathroom facilities.