The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, Division of Local Government Services (DLGS or Division) yesterday issued “Operational Guidance” to the state’s municipal Planning Boards and Zoning Boards of Adjustment to “ensure continuity of Land Use application procedures” while New Jersey’s State of Emergency remains in effect. The guidance document seeks to “ensure due process is afforded hearings and to remind local units to adhere to appropriate social distancing and health measures as they implement this process.”
DLGS states that “it is imperative that local units continue to assure public hearings are conducted timely and without procedural defect,” and reminds local boards of their statutory obligations under the Municipal Land Use Law and the Open Public Meetings Act to hold meetings and meet “prescribed times” mandated to grant or deny approvals. The Operational Guidance specifically recites the timeframes for “Applications Submissions,” “Time for Board to act once the application is deemed complete,” and “Approvals,” and notes that “these timeframes remain in effect.”
DLGS provides several options available to Planning Boards and Zoning Boards of Adjustment to help them to meet their statutory obligations and “to ensure the continuation of public business during this challenging time.” The Division offers specific recommendations to assist Boards and staff in complying with requirements concerning public notice, conducting hearings, facilitating public participation and recording of proceedings. The DLGS Operational Guidance can be found here: https://www.nj.gov/govconnect/news/general/#1.
The Land Use Practice Group attorneys at Sills Cummis & Gross strive to develop strategic workarounds and solutions, and to advance public policy regarding COVID-19. We will continue to provide updates on these issues through this law blog.