Two recent trial level decisions have reinforced redevelopment initiatives in both Wildwood and Bloomfield. Culminating years of litigation in two municipalities, Judges have dismissed lawsuits that have sought to cripple redevelopment projects.
■ POST-GALLENTHIN SUPPLEMENT TO BLIGHT DESIGNATION VALIDATED
■ AFFORDABLE HOUSING REASONABLE PROVISION OF REDEVELOPMENT AGREEMENT
■ COURT REINFORCES NEED FOR FINALITY IN LAND USE MATTERS AND
DISMISSES CASE AS HAVING BEEN FILED TOO LATE
After several years of litigation brought by a disgruntled property owner, Judge John C. Kennedy dismissed all allegations set forth in two separate Complaints. The Complaints challenged the factual and legal basis for a determination that a large area of Bloomfield Center satisfied the statutory criteria to be determined to be an area in need of redevelopment, claimed inverse condemnation, disputed a requirement that it must provide affordable housing units as part of a project it sought to construct and demanded punitive damages in the amount of $50 million.
The Court determined that the preparation of a Supplemental Study to address flaws in the original study which were identified in previous litigation, was legal, proper and permissible under the Redevelopment Law. The Court in Lyons v. Camden, 48 N.J. 524 (1967), concluded that it was not necessary to undertake a completely new analysis to address a specific weak element of the original Study as long as the procedural requirements of the statute were followed.
This ruling gives judicial comfort to those municipalities that wish to bolster redevelopment designations that were rendered vulnerable in the aftermath of the Decision of the New Jersey Superior Court in Gallenthin Realty Development, Inc. v. Paulsboro, 191 N.J. 344 (2007).
Addressing another claim that the efforts of the municipality to include in the Redevelopment Agreement a requirement to provide affordable housing units as a component of the market rate condominium project, the Court held that such a provision was reasonable and appropriate.
The Court also dismissed the challenge to the redevelopment designation on the grounds that it was filed out of time, citing the need for finality in land use and planning decisions.
Municipalities, therefore, can forget perceived weaknesses in the Study without revisiting all the issues covered by the prior Study.
Trial Counsel: Joseph J. Maraziti, Jr., Esq.; Anton L. Lendor, Esq.; and Andrew M. Brewer, Esq.
■ INVERSE CONDEMNATION CLAIMS REJECTED
The Court ruled that the actions by the City of Wildwood in adopting a Redevelopment Plan and negotiating with potential redevelopers did not constitute inverse condemnation of property within the Redevelopment Area.
The City of Wildwood declared approximately 25 acres, including a closed municipal landfill, as an area in need of redevelopment, and subsequently adopted a Redevelopment Plan. The Plaintiff’s property was within the Redevelopment Area, and was one of approximately ten properties adjacent to the closed landfill. After several years, the negotiations to designate a redeveloper were unsuccessful due in part to the significant remediation costs and the economic downturn. The Plaintiff claimed that the delay between the blight designation and acquisition of its property, which never occurred, prevented the sale or development of its property and constituted inverse condemnation.
After a two day trial, Judge Winkelstein dismissed the entirety of the Plaintiff’s Complaint. The Court held that the Plaintiff failed to exhaust its administrative remedies in that the Redevelopment Plan allowed for the potential of multiple redevelopers, but the Plaintiff never sought to be designated redeveloper. Additionally, the Court held that the single lost sale that the Plaintiff alleged was caused by the blight designation did not amount to inverse condemnation. The Plaintiff had alleged that the property in question had a fair market value of approximately $2.5 million.
Trial Counsel: Andrew M. Brewer, Esq.