Skip to content

It Was 24 Years Today,

The State Told Us That We Couldn’t Play.

To Beach Visitors We Couldn’t Sock-it,

And Put The Money In Our Own Pocket.



Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division Monmouth County.
Decided August 29, 1989.




N.J.S.A. 40:61-22.20 sets forth the statutory authority to charge beach user fees. The Public Advocate claims that the statute only includes costs associated with the operation and maintenance of the beachfront. Belmar contends that beach related expenses include all those expenditures which the municipality would not incur if it was not a beachfront community.

The avenue this court must take in resolving this issue is one of statutory interpretation. The primary aim in interpretinga statute is to determine the fundamental purpose for which the legislation was enacted, and where a literal reading will lead to a result not in accordance with the essential goals of the act, the spirit of the law will control the letter. New Jersey Builders, Owners & Managers Ass’n v. Blair,60 N.J. 330288 A.2d 855(1972). Where there is no explicit indication of a special meaning, statutory words are given their ordinary and well understood meaning. Matter of Schedule of Rules for Barnert Memorial Hospital,92 N.J. 31455 A.2d 469 (1983); Levin v. Parsippany-Troy Hills,82 N.J. 174411 A.2d 704 (1980). In this case, the phrase “reasonable fees” requires statutory interpretation.

It is clear that N.J.S.A. 40:61-22.20 was enacted for the purpose of authorizing shore municipalities to charge beach user fees in order to reimburse the municipality for its costs associated with the beachfront. The determination of what costs may be reasonably allocated to the beach badge purchaser is the thrust of this case.

The Court in Avon acknowledged the burdens placed upon oceanfront municipalities and discussed the rationale behind the statute. The Court found that in determining a reasonable fee, municipalities “may consider all additional costs legitimately attributable to the operation and maintenance of the beachfront, including direct beach operational expenses, additional personnel and services required in the entire community, debt service of outstanding obligations incurred for beach improvements and preservation, and a reasonable annual reserve designed to meet expected future capital expenses.” Avon, supra, 61 N.J. at 311, 294 A.2d 47; emphasis supplied.

It is clear that the statute directs its “reasonable fee” standard to the municipality, however, this fee must be reasonable in relation to the municipality’s expenses incurred as a result of the beachfront. That is not to say that Belmar can “fantasize” that it is an inland community and allocate any additional costsabove and beyond its imaginary expenses as an inland community.3

Belmar, as a beachfront municipality, benefits overall from the shore attraction. This is an added benefit, or in some cases, a burden to the municipality that comes with the territory. See Van Ness, supra, 78 174, 393 A.2d 571Avon, supra, 61 N.J. at 299, 294 A.2d 47. The collection of reasonable fees directly related to the beachfront was designed to offset these community burdens. The Legislature understood that there would be an enormous impact on the community spirit, as well as the community finances. Thus, the statute is designed to subsidize the costs related directly to the beachfront.

It is this court’s obligation to determine what constitutes reasonable expenditures in light of N.J.S.A. 40:61-22.20 for the benefit of both the beachgoer and the Belmar community.

Michelle Bowman, an expert in the field of accounting, with a special emphasis on trust accounting, financial reporting and cost allocation, testified on behalf of the Public Advocate. This witness, who supported her testimony with a written report, examined 30 separate items of expenditure relating to beachfront activities and recommended how each of these items should be allocated to the operation of Belmar’s beachfront facility. In support of Belmar’s position, Robert Hulsart, a certified public accountant, registered municipal accountant, and expert auditor in municipal finance, testified that the allocations of beach related expenses devised by the Borough Clerk, Charles Ormsbee, were reasonable under N.J.S.A.40:61-22.20. This court finds Bowman’s allocations to be more credible and reasonable than Belmar’s, and accordingly adopts a majority of the Bowman findings relating to legitimate beachfront expenditures.Additionally, this court finds that Belmar’s allocations are mere speculations, unsupported by any explanation or records. Belmar’s allocations are arbitrary, unreasonable and discriminatory against the beach badge purchaser; the revenues derived are more than are needed to defray the operational costs permitted under the statute.

Accordingly, this court determines that the beach admission fees charged by Belmar under N.J.S.A.40:61-22.20 are unreasonable.

So how can Doherty, Magovern, Nicolay, Keown-Blackburn and Xxxxxx think that the state is going to allow us to build a community center/banquet hall financed with badge revenues?  And where’s lawyer Dupont?

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared.