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Avalon Involved in Two Lawsuits

By Vince Conti

AVALON – Legal issues were an important consideration at Avalon Borough Council’s Dec. 14 meeting. 
Council voted two resolutions which authorized borough attorneys to proceed on two cases.
In one case, the borough is preparing to defend itself against a lawsuit filed by William Pfirrman of Sarasota, Fla. Pfirrman is seeking compensation from the borough for two lots on the dune at 73rd Street. His lawsuit, filed in Superior Court, claims that the borough improperly took his lot as part of a large dune building effort following the famous 1962 storm that caused massive damage along the county’s shoreline. The legal action used by the borough is called inverse condemnation, the taking of property by a government entity that so alters the property that it is the equivalent of condemnation without compensation.
The borough has defended itself in other cases of inverse condemnation. In Pfirrman’s case, the lots have been zoned conservation and cannot be built on.
At odds is also when and how Pfirrman first received notice that the property had been forfeited, as the borough would see it, or improperly taken, as Pfirrman would see it.
Pfirrman’s suit maintains that he was only notified recently after paying taxes, in response to tax bills from the borough, for years after he believes the borough took the property in 1965.
In the second legal matter, the borough approved moving forward in federal court with a lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Avalon claims that the Fish and Wildlife Service improperly used the Coastal Barrier Resource Act (CBRA) to prevent federal funds from being used to dredge sand from Hereford Inlet to be used in a federally-funded beach fill project.
The borough claims that the interpretation of the CBRA was erroneous and that it had the effect of denying federal monies for a portion of the beach fill project planned for both Avalon and Stone Harbor this year. Funds from the state through Department of Environmental Protection are being used to replace the federal dollars as part of a one-time compromise to get this year’s beach replenishment done. The borough has expressed concern that this “arbitrary” use of CBRA could impact future beach replenishments and is seeking to have the interpretation overturned in court.
Opening on Council
Just days before the council meeting, William Burns announced he would resign his seat on borough council at the end of the year.
Burns was appointed to the seat in 2015 to complete the remaining term of David Ellenberg who left council when he moved out of the borough. Burns was then elected to his seat in November of that year.
Burns indicated that the demands of his contracting and consulting business had grown and are demanding more of his time.
He also noted that the nature of the business growth would put him into contact with borough departments. He said he wanted to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest.
The borough has 30 days in which to appoint a successor to Burns or leave the seat open until the May municipal elections.
James Lutz, a local businessman who ran unsuccessfully for council in the past, used the public comment period to inform council members that he was still interested and hoped to be considered for the vacancy.
To contact Vince Conti, email vconti@cmcherald.com.

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