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January 17, 2008

Judge: Point Beach must maintain lake

BY Tristan J. Schweiger
TOMS RIVER BUREAU

Citizens fight razing of Milltown building, face 'strategic litigation'

POINT PLEASANT BEACH — A state Superior Court judge has ruled the borough has a legal obligation to maintain the Lake of the Lillies.

However, Judge Vincent J. Grasso's decision did not spell out what action the borough needs to take at the lake, which has filled with runoff material over the past few decades. Among Grasso's reasons for not requiring a specific action was the separation of powers outlined in the New Jersey Constitution.

"As such, it would exceed the authority of this court to require or mandate that the Borough appropriate by bond, taxation or other appropriation, the funds for the dredging or remediation of Lake of the Lillies," Grasso wrote in the decision.

The decision, for now, caps off a legal fight between the borough and a citizens' group called Save Lake of the Lillies, which sued the borough in late 2006 in an effort to force the town to dredge the lake.

Both sides said this week that they were satisfied with the ruling.

"I respect the judge's insight, his research, and the well-thought-out decision. It leaves both sides the opportunity for compromise," said Sean D. Gertner, the attorney representing the borough.

Stuart J. Lieberman, the attorney for Save Lake of the Lillies, also welcomed the ruling.

"It makes it clear that the municipality has the obligation to comply with restrictive covenants, and that the restrictive covenants are narrow enough that they can be complied with," Lieberman said.

However, borough officials in the past have said they have every intention of dredging the lake. The problem is funding the project and getting all the necessary approvals in place.