In a May 2012 decision, the Appellate Division issued an opinion (approved for publication) which provides positive news and important guidance for municipalities considering the redevelopment of blighted areas. The case of Dock Street Seafood v. Wildwood, 425 N. J. Super. 590 (App. Div. 2012) involved a claim by a property owner within a redevelopment area that the blight designation and multi-year delay in the redevelopment process constituted an inverse condemnation. Following a two-day trial, conducted before Judge Winkelstein in Atlantic County by Maraziti, Falcon & Healey Partner, Andrew M. Brewer, Esq., a lengthy and detailed trial court opinion rejected the claim of inverse condemnation. That decision was affirmed by the Appellate Division.
The decision upholds the principle articulated in the unreported decision of Rosengarten v. City of Perth Amboy (App. Div. 2005), that a redevelopment designation, coupled with the not uncommon multi-year process to carry out the redevelopment, does not in and of itself constitute inverse condemnation of property in the area.
The Wildwood decision (along with the trial court opinion, which in a rare move also was approved for publication) offers important guidance on how particular elements of a redevelopment plan can offer protection from a claim of inverse condemnation. This recent decision provides a level of comfort to municipal officials and redevelopers that a redevelopment area which is designated properly and a plan that is drafted expertly can withstand challenges by individual property owners unhappy with either the inclusion of their property or the pace of progress.
In sum, the decision provides that when the redevelopment process is planned and carried out correctly, the immediate interests of a single property owner will not trump the legitimate interest of the public in redeveloping blighted areas.
Please contact Andrew Brewer, Esq., at 973-912-6813 if you would like a copy of the decision or if you would like to discuss any aspect of the decision or its implications.