The Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, recently affirmed an unpublished decision of the Law Division that reached two conclusions favorable to developers. In that prerogative writ action, a resident asserted numerous challenges to the designation of thirteen properties as an area in need of redevelopment, pursuant to the Local Redevelopment and Housing Law.
The plaintiff asserted two legal arguments that were not site specific: first, the plaintiff argued that the municipality’s designation was improper because the blight conditions were allegedly caused by the owner of the properties; second, the plaintiff argued that the designation was improper because the city could have alternatively — and at lesser burden to the taxpayers — exercised its police powers to require the owner to demolish the existing dilapidated structures. With regard to the former argument, the trial court concluded that whether the developer might benefit as a result of its own neglectful conduct is not relevant to whether the municipality properly exercised its authority to remediate blight within its borders and to secure the benefits of redevelopment. The lower court stated that the propriety of the redevelopment designation is based upon the objectives of and benefits to the municipality, and that those issues depend upon whether blight conditions exist — but not upon a determination as to how the blight conditions came to exist. With regard to the latter argument, the trial court concluded that it is not the province of the judiciary to impose its judgment in place of the judgment of the municipality in choosing among various options that may be available to advance its growth planning objectives or to ameliorate blight conditions. The Appellate Division adopted the reasoning of the trial judge in its affirmance of the trial court’s opinion.
Editor’s note: Sills Cummis & Gross, through Kevin Moore (redevelopment) and Mark Duckstein (real estate litigation), represent the developer in connection with all legal aspects of the project at issue in this matter, including the defense of the prerogative writ action and the related appeal.